Everything you ever wanted to know about becoming a physical therapist, including: job duties, salary information, training requirements, and career outlook.

Physical Therapist

For the nation's more than 184,000 licensed physical therapists, the American Physical Therapy Association notes good medicine is about more than prescription drugs and surgery. It is also about working with the body to strengthen muscles, reduce pain and restore mobility.

Physical therapists help those with medical problems that limit their ability to move or perform basic functions, including illnesses, conditions and injuries. While some therapists work in hospitals, the APTA reports more than 80 percent practice in other settings such as outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, schools, homes and fitness clinics.

Regardless of the work setting, these health professionals typically do all of the following:

  • Examine patients
  • Develop a treatment plan that would reduce pain while restoring function or movement
  • Oversee therapies, including exercises, functional training, or the use of adaptive devices.
  • Coordinate with other care workers to ensure total care.

Because of the sensitive nature of their work, physical therapists should be patient, nurturing, and have solid communication skills.

Physical therapist salary and career outlook

Physical therapy can be both a personally fulfilling and a financially rewarding career. Here's an idea of what you might expect to make as a physical therapist, and expected job growth in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Physical Therapists228,600$88,88021.9%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

A growing elderly population and medical advancements that improve life expectancy should contribute to this growth. Prospects should be best, however, for those who acquire the right training, which is why it' so important to choose the right physical therapist program for you, online or otherwise.

What are the training requirements?

The BLS reports that aspiring PTs must earn their post-baccalaureate physical therapy degrees from accredited programs. They must also be licensed, which involves passing the National Physical Therapy Examination and fulfilling additional state-specific requirements. Physical therapists must also enroll in continuing education courses to maintain employment, and those who hope to improve their salary and employment potential by earning board certification must undergo additional training.

While the nature of the profession mandates some hands-on training, you can typically complete some physical therapist training online through hybrid programs combining traditional and Web-based learning.


Who are Physical Therapists? American Physical Therapist Association,

Physical Therapist (PT) Careers Overview, American Physical Therapist Association,

Occupational Employment and Wages: Physical Therapists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014,

"COLI Release Highlights: Quarter 3 2014," The Council for Community and Economic Research,

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