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Career Profile: Physical Therapists

Assess, plan, organize, and participate in rehabilitative programs that improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength, and improve or correct disabling conditions resulting from disease or injury.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 239,200 people employed as physical therapists in the United States. The median annual salary is $91,000. Entry level employees earn approximately $63,530 per year and senior employees earn approximately $126,780 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Plan, prepare, or carry out individually designed programs of physical treatment to maintain, improve, or restore physical functioning, alleviate pain, or prevent physical dysfunction in patients.
  • Perform and document an initial exam, evaluating data to identify problems and determine a diagnosis prior to intervention.
  • Refer clients to community resources or services.
  • Construct, maintain, or repair medical supportive devices.
  • Evaluate, fit, or adjust prosthetic or orthotic devices or recommend modification to orthotist.
  • Teach physical therapy students or those in other health professions.
  • Conduct or support research and apply research findings to practice.
  • Participate in community or community agency activities or help to formulate public policy.
  • Direct group rehabilitation activities.
  • Evaluate effects of treatment at various stages and adjust treatments to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Confer with the patient, medical practitioners, or appropriate others to plan, implement, or assess the intervention program.
  • Administer manual exercises, massage, or traction to help relieve pain, increase patient strength, or decrease or prevent deformity or crippling.
  • Obtain patients' informed consent to proposed interventions.
  • Test and measure patient's strength, motor development and function, sensory perception, functional capacity, or respiratory or circulatory efficiency and record data.
  • Direct, supervise, assess, and communicate with supportive personnel.
  • Review physician's referral and patient's medical records to help determine diagnosis and physical therapy treatment required.
  • Identify and document goals, anticipated progress, and plans for reevaluation.
  • Provide information to the patient about the proposed intervention, its material risks and expected benefits, and any reasonable alternatives.
  • Provide educational information about physical therapy or physical therapists, injury prevention, ergonomics, or ways to promote health.
  • Inform patients and refer to appropriate practitioners when diagnosis reveals findings outside physical therapy.
  • Discharge patient from physical therapy when goals or projected outcomes have been attained and provide for appropriate follow-up care or referrals.
  • Administer treatment involving application of physical agents, using equipment, moist packs, ultraviolet or infrared lamps, or ultrasound machines.
  • Record prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in patient's chart or enter information into computer.
  • Instruct patient and family in treatment procedures to be continued at home.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
239,200
Annual Openings:
15,600
Increase in Openings by 2030:
21%
Annual Salary Range:
$63,530 - $126,780
Education Requirements:
Master's degree or higher