Is Physical Therapy A Good Career?

Physical therapy is a career that tends to create very happy employees and business owners. While there are many great things such as job satisfaction and work life balance, there are some key factors to consider to see if it is right for you. We have compiled information from trusted sources and actual therapists to help you get the answers you are searching for when it comes to your career as a physical therapist.

Physical therapy can be a great career for the right person. It is a good fit for individuals looking for a fulfilling career in the medical field helping others. Physical therapist look at the patient from a more holistic approach as opposed to just pharmacy and surgery you will see with classic medical doctors.

Physical therapy careers also boast a tremendous amount of career diversity, with opportunities everywhere from nursing homes to NFL teams. A career in physical therapy will provide the financial means to live a comfortable lifestyle with the average salary across the entire U.S. approaching 6 figures and expectations rarely exceeding a 40 hours work week.

Like all things in life there are many ups and downs when it comes to a career in physical therapy. Some of these downs could be productivity requirements, amount of school costs, or unrealistic expectations of the career. These factors should be considered heavily when deciding whether or not to pursue this field as a career.

In this article we will break down some of these big factors when it comes to deciding if physical therapy will be a good career choice for you.

Physical Therapists Salary

Average pay for physical therapists across the Unites States is $91010/year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a very impressive salary for most Americans with the average salary of Americans being $52,520 in 2021.

Want to know where you can get paid higher than the average?

Which States Pay Physical Therapist the most

Here is a list of the states that pay the highest salaries for physical therapists.

  • Nevada $108,580
  • California $104,500
  • Alaska $101,190
  • New Jersey $100,740
  • Connecticut $100,580

On the other side of this coin you have to take into account all the factors that go into the salary of a physical therapist such as the debt to income ratio, time to acquire the degree and compare it to similar degrees.

Debt-Income-Ratio For Physical Therapist Vs Other Degrees

This is a useful thing to think about when determining how much stress you might take on when getting a degree. Not only is debt-income-ratio a number useful to compare how much relative debt you will incur, it is a number that banks use to determine if they will give you a loan for a house or not with 36% being what they want according to investopedia. So if you plan on buying a home after grad school it is something you will want to consider as this can delay your ability to buy right out of school.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association the average therapist takes on $142,489 debt to make that salary. This gives us a ratio of 156%! In order to determine how good or bad this is we must compare this to other neighboring degrees in healthcare. Let’s take a look.

The most obvious comparison would be a medical doctor (M.D.). A medical doctor averages a salary of $208,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and takes on a massive $241,600 according to education data. This gives us a ratio of 116%.

Here is a list of some others:

  • Dietician 45.6%
  • Exercise physiologist 57%
  • Nurse practitioner 40.2-121%*
  • Occupational Therapist 173.9%*

* data varies with no reliable primary source

These are just a couple but something you want to consider before making the leap. Just because it may have an unfavorable ratio you shouldn’t throw out the idea of becoming a therapist. There are loan repayment options, scholarships, and even ways you can decrease your debt while in school you should consider first.

Job Satisfaction For Physical Therapists

With the big money struggle out of the way lets talk about how happy physical therapists are with their career choices.

From anecdotal data there is a divide of therapists who absolutly love their job and would never change a thing to others who aren’t so happy with how things are going.

For those who love it they commonly cite that the satisfaction of helping others in less fortunate situations by alleviating their pain and disability is an extremely satisfying part of their day.

Most therapists have a comfortable work life balance if it is something that they prioritize. It is possible however to get caught in the rat race and work yourself out of a life, but it is very possible to balance work and personal life in a meaningful way if you really prioritize it.

On the other end with constant pressure from everchanging insurance company policies several roadblocks are being thrown at therapists. One of which is documentation requirements, they are constantly needing to become more meticulous with documentation increasing the amount of unpaid time spent on a computer as opposed to being with actual people.

Another issue is the constant battle between therapists and insurance companies with constant dwindling of reimbursement for services. This leads therapists to feel like insurance is dictating the care provided not the medical team and the patient.


Physical therapy is one of the most diverse healthcare fields out there. There are dozens of fields and niche populations you can work with making it perfect for almost anyone. Here is a list of some of the possible environments and populations you can work in/with:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Amputee’s
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Stroke
  • Orthopedics
  • Sports
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Oncology
  • Geriatrics
  • Pediatrics

The list goes on and on.

With so much variety even within a single center you get an opportunity to use creativity and problem solving everyday which proves to be very mentally stimulating for people who enjoy staying on their toes.

Stress Levels of Physical Therapists

Overall stress levels for therapists are pretty low as compared to other professions such as nursing or being a medical doctor. The life changing decisions these professions need to make are typically not made by a therapists.

A therapists job is to help the patient adapt to whatever physical and mental changes are happening to them at that moment and help the patient make decisions that will make their lives better. This lends itself to much lower stress overall.

It is not all skittles and rainbows however, physical therapy is still a position that requires intense critical decision making skills. You can be in situations that can be life or death and must be prepared to make a decision that will effect that patient forever.

Lastly, depending on where you work it isn’t uncommon for a therapist to be in a position that requires very high productivity standards. This is something that causes many therapists to quit the profession all together. If you are in a situation like this find a place that values both its employees and patients and doesn’t expect unrealistic standards.

Future Job Outlook For Physical Therapists

Needless to say, physical therapists are going to be in demand for a long time from now. We have skills that cannot be replaced by a machine or piece of software and thus will be of value for some time to come.

According to the job market for therapists will grow about 21% from 2020-30 leaving plenty of opportunity for new therapists every year.


Only you can decide if this is the career for you. The best thing to do is look at your values, the lifestyle you want to live, and your personal situation and decide if you are willing to take the good with the bad. Either way be sure you are making an informed decision about getting a degree that will change you life forever. Good luck!

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