Spotlights

Job Description

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Help people recover from injuries
  • See progress through treatment
  • Working with both body and mind
  • Connecting with people daily
  • Good salary

"Continued learning of my field of interest (human anatomy and function), and in depth connection with individuals needing help to regain function of their bodies" Tommy Wong, Physical Therapist and Naval Officer, US Navy

2018 Employment
247,700
2028 Projected Employment
301,900
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

They help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Physical therapists typically do the following:

  • Review patients’ medical history and any referrals or notes from doctors, surgeons, or other healthcare workers
  • Diagnose patients’ functions and movements by observing them stand or walk and by listening to their concerns, among other methods
  • Develop individualized plans of care for patients, outlining the patients’ goals and the expected outcomes of the plans
  • Use exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy, and equipment to ease patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and facilitate health and wellness
  • Evaluate and record a patient’s progress, modifying a plan of care and trying new treatments as needed
  • Educate patients and their families about what to expect from the recovery process and how best to cope with challenges throughout the process
  • Physical therapists provide care to people of all ages who have functional problems resulting from back and neck injuries; sprains, strains, and fractures; arthritis; amputations; neurological disorders, such as stroke or cerebral palsy; injuries related to work and sports; and other conditions.

The work of physical therapists varies by type of patient. For example, a patient working to recover mobility lost after a stroke needs different care from a patient who is recovering from a sports injury. Some physical therapists specialize in one type of care, such as orthopedics or geriatrics. Many physical therapists also help patients to maintain or improve mobility by developing fitness and wellness programs that encourage healthier and more active lifestyles.

Physical therapists work as part of a healthcare team, overseeing the work of physical therapist assistants and aides and consulting with physicians and surgeons and other specialists.

"I see patients everyday for their injuries and pain. I take anywhere from 30-90 minutes with each person, and sometimes I am juggling multiple people simultaneously. I coordinate with colleagues so everyone is taken care of, and I take care of other non-clinical tasks that involve smooth operation of the clinic, such as reviewing the performance of other staff and attending trainings." Tommy Wong, Physical Therapist and Naval Officer, US Navy

Day in the Life

Click here for a physical therapist’s day in the life.

Skills Needed
  • Compassion
  • Detail oriented
  • Dexterity - use hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercise
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Physical stamina
Different Types of Organizations
  • Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists
  • Hospitals
  • Home healthcare services    
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Self-employed workers
Expectations
  • On feet often to set up equipment and help treat patients
  • Must lift and move patients 
  • May work weekends and nights
Current Trends

Demand for physical therapy will come in part from the large number of aging baby boomers, who are staying more active later in life than their counterparts of previous generations. Older people are more likely to experience heart attacks, strokes, and mobility-related injuries that require physical therapy for rehabilitation.

In addition, a number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. More physical therapists will be needed to help these patients maintain their mobility and manage the effects of chronic conditions.

Advances in medical technology have increased the use of outpatient surgery to treat a variety of injuries and illnesses. Medical and technological developments also are expected to permit a greater percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating additional demand for rehabilitative care. Physical therapists will continue to play an important role in helping these patients recover more quickly from surgery.

What kind of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…
  • Enjoy helping people
  • Into science and biology
  • Played sports and was active
Education Needed
What to do in HS and college
  • Take college prep classes in high school, including biology, chemistry, math, English, and communications. Study hard to earn good grades so you can get accepted into a suitable college program
  • Shadow or interview a working PT
  • Volunteer or intern in healthcare settings where you can learn about patient care
  • Consider BS/DPT bridge programs if you are sure you want to be a PT!
  • Read or watch interviews with PTs and learn about the various areas of specialization
  • Learn about the specific licensure requirements for the state you plan to work in
  • Stay out of trouble so you can pass the background check!
Things to look for in a program

"Passing rate of licensing board, curriculum solely directed at PTs or mixed with other programs (MDs, dentists, etc), quality of internship programs...:" Tommy Wong, Physical Therapist and Naval Officer, US Navy

Typical Roadmap
Physical Therapist Gladeo Roadmap
Landing the Job
Advanced Roles

Manager

  • A leader with an entrepreneurial spirit, and years of experience treating patients.
  • Responsibilities include:  Supervise, train, and hire staff; oversee day-to-day operations; clinical activities, communication, budgeting, and resource allocation; and ensure clinic compliance. 

Director

  • Responsibilities include HR, operational, and financial duties. 

Owner

  • Be your own boss and run your own private practice. 

Professor at DPT Program
 

How to Climb the Ladder

"PT is a new and growing field, and the science is always improving and changing. PTs have failed for not staying innovative. The information is out there, and if one is truly passionate about the field, then success will come from the pursuit of learning more." Tommy Wong, Physical Therapist and Naval Officer, US Navy

Newsfeed

Jobs by
Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Courses and Tools