Working While In Physical Therapy School: A Students Guide

Many students have been told the line “you cannot work while in physical therapy school.” For some, that may not phase you, but for others that sounds impossible. Some students do not have an option not to work so they can put food on their tables, and others are financially woke enough to realize the coming pain of repaying student loans.

In either case you have clicked on this article to find out exactly how you will go about working while in PT school and if it is even possible. As someone who worked full-time and went to school full-time during the entirety of undergrad and DPT school I want to share this information with you to help you make a living during school.

Can You Work During PT School?

Working while you are a student in physical therapy school is possible. You will need to find a job that is very flexible with your schedule and compensates enough to make it worth your time. You also will have to take your particular program into account when deciding how much to work and when the best times to work will be.

You will want to carefully look through your class schedule and see where you can squeeze in some work. Look for things like trends in start and stop times, classes that tend to require less time out of class for study, how your stress levels fluctuate with class, etc.

Also think about your previous work experience and if you could imagine life with both work and school. If you cannot even picture it, it probably isn’t for you.

Fitbux took a survey from current students and how they feel about working during school. Within their data they found that 94% of students feel you cannot work full time at all while in PT school. At the same time they found 61% of the students surveyed said that they could work part-time throughout the duration of their programs. While I would rarely recommend working full-time (never say never) this is promising information for anyone considering if it will be possible to take on a part-time job.

In my experience, I worked all 3 years of my DPT program as I was not willing to take on any more debt than was absolutely necessary. I managed to pay all of my housing, food, insurance, etc and only took loans for tuition itself. I have no regrets at all as it saved me THOUSANDS of dollars, but it isn’t for the weak. I had the advantage of owning my own personal training business so I made my own schedule and charged as much as I needed.

The last key component to working while a PT student is having very clear expectations. We will touch on this some more in the next section.

What To Expect When You Are A Working PT Student

You must set realistic expectations about what your lifestyle will be like during school if you want to get the most out of your experience. This requires having your priorities in order first. In school you have three main pillars of priority you must consider. Grades, personal life, and work.

The unfortunate fact is that grades/school is already going to take an unequal distribution of that venn diagram. So you must choose to either sacrifice your ability to make money or your personal life.

No one can decide which to pick. There is logic to each side.

On one end you are only young once so you should take advantage of all your free time to socialize and create experiences.

On the other side you are most likely taking on a massive debt and covering at-least your living expenses can save you potentially 10’s of thousands of dollars.

You have to identify your personal values and chose the option that best aligns with them.

In my personal experience I was living with my fiancé at the time (had all the party at home…) and I had a great opportunity to make a very good living while in school. I am naturally an introvert so making more friends was not a big concern of mine and i’m such a dork I spend all my free time in the gym anyway so the choice was obvious. I saved a lot of money and even invested 10’s of thousands of dollars that I knew would pay me back in the future substantially.

Every one is different so chose what is best for you. Imagine the future and if you would be more satisfied paying your debt off sooner or having a solid base of friends from school to share memories with. While it is possible to do both you must think reasonably.

How To Make Money As A PT Student

You can make money in numerous ways as a student, but the key is to find the option that has the highest ratio of pay to time, in conjunction to being super flexible. Meaning you want a job that will pay you the most money in the shortest amount of time with the ability to work almost whenever you want. Here is a list of potential jobs to consider.

  • Personal training– My own bias made it to number one right? I know, but seriously it is an awesome opportunity. Not only do you make your own schedule, but if you’re independent you charge your own rate and keep most of the money if not all. Any personal trainer with any skill to offer charges $65 per hour minimum (Baltimore, MD rates) which is better than any entry level job you will find out there.
  • Ride-sharing- (grubhub, doordash, uber, etc.) These are great jobs if you own a car. You can average $25+ per hour if you hustle and play the game correctly. The best part is you answer to no one and have the freedom to work as much or as little as you could ever want. Great job to juggle hectic exam weeks and lazy free weeks.
  • Freelancing- Take whatever skill you have and put it out there. Good at photography, social media, writing blogs, fixing toilets? You name it if you can market yourself you can sell it and charge what you need for your bills

There are many options out there do no limit yourself to these examples they are just some of the first ones to come to mind. If you have the will there is a way, just look for it.

The one thing to remember is a minimum wage job working a couple hours here and there might not be worth your time. Missing either time to study, sleep, or create lifelong experiences is not work a measly $10/hr. You won’t put a dent in your expenses, the most it could benefit you is affording a beer on the weekend with a friend.

Is It Worth It To Work During PT School?

Lastly, if you haven’t figured it out already working while in PT school isn’t all skittles and rainbows. There will be some tough times. Students have a hard time without working, suffering from extreme anxiety and burnout. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, but it is something that can be done if you have the personality for it and the drive. Here are some words of advice.

Do not put work over school.

At the end of the day you are in school to be a Doctor of Physical Therapy. It makes no sense to spend all the time and money in school and leave with nothing to show for it. while high grades do not make a good clinician you still need to leave with the required critical thinking skills to be competent. It would be very embarrassing to fail out of school because you worked too much at burger king.

Take ‘you’ time.

Your physical and mental health trumps all in my opinion. If you are not physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually intact you can not expect to help someone else through a tough time. You will be working with people experiencing the worst parts of their life and that is not something to take lightly. You need to be strong for them to be able to provide the care they need when it is all said and done.


This is a choice only you can make. No matter which option you chose make to most out of the situation. I hope this information helps you make a decision that is right for your individual situation. if it does share with a friend and have a awesome time in school.

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