Physical therapists are movement experts, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Working one on one with a patient, they use exercise, stretching and other techniques to help patients relieve pain and promote or regain mobility. Physical therapists receive education at the doctoral level and must have licenses. Many hold a specialty certification. Salaries vary according to location, work setting and other factors. Benefits depend upon the employer -- self-employed physical therapists, for example, don’t receive benefits. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual salary for a physical therapist was $82,180 in 2013.
Salary Ranges and Averages
The salary range for physical therapists varies according to the source. The BLS reported a salary range of $56,280 to $113,340 a year in 2013, with a midpoint of $81,030. In a 2013 survey, Advance Healthcare Network for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine found the average salary for physical therapists in 2013 was $82,930. Most of the survey respondents earned between $65,000 and $99,999 a year, and 13 percent earned $100,000 or more. Although the majority of respondents held the title of physical therapist, the survey included some physical therapy assistants and fitness trainers.
Specialization and Salaries
Specialization affected salaries in 2013, according to Advance Healthcare Network for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine. The lowest average specialty salary was $72,314 a year, for women’s health. In pediatrics, physical therapists earned an average of $73,036 a year. Specialists in geriatrics earned an average of $76,689 annually. Cardiovascular and pulmonary specialists earned an average of $79,427 a year, while neurology specialists earned $79,947. The survey combined sports and orthopedics, and reported an average salary of $80,810.
Location and Work Setting
Location and work setting had a big impact on physical therapists' salaries in 2013, according to the BLS. North Dakota was the lowest-paying state, with an average annual salary of $67,880. In the highest-paying state of Nevada, physical therapists earned an average of $115,220 a year. The two major employers were offices of other health practitioners -- which included physical therapists in private practice -- and general medical and surgical hospitals. The average annual salaries in those work settings were $80,060 and $81,410, respectively. But the top-paying work setting was in other schools and instruction, where the average salary was $92,500 a year.
Physical Therapists' Benefits
Although the APTA reports 21 percent of physical therapists own or are partners in a physical therapy practice, the majority work for an employer. Self-employed physical therapists can set up their own IRA accounts and have other intangible advantages such as being able to set their own hours. The BLS reports that benefits for workers as a whole varied according to the size of the employer and whether an individual worked part time. For example, employer-sponsored health care was the most common employee benefit in 2014, followed closely by retirement benefits. Paid sick leave was another common benefit. Some organizations also offer life insurance, paid vacation and paid holidays.
- American Physical Therapy Association: Benefits of a Physical Therapist Career
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physical Therapists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 29-1123 Physical Therapists
- Advance Healthcare Network for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine: 2013 Salary Survey Results
- American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties: Home Page
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employee Benefits in the United States –March 2014
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