May 20, 2024
Learn about the typical salary range for physical therapists as well as the factors that affect their salaries, such as education and certification requirements, specializations within the field, and demand in different regions. Discover the pros and cons of pursuing a career in physical therapy based on earning potential and gain tips for negotiating salaries and benefits.


Physical therapy is an in-demand field that focuses on helping people recover from injuries or illnesses, manage pain, and improve their overall function and mobility. However, many aspiring physical therapists are curious about how much they can expect to earn and what factors can impact their salary. In this article, we will explore the current state of physical therapy salaries, the factors that can affect earnings, and the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a physical therapist based on earning potential.

Breaking Down the Salary of a Physical Therapist: What You Need to Know

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2020, the median annual wage for physical therapists in the United States was $91,010. The lowest 10 percent of physical therapists earned less than $63,410, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,740.

Salary can vary widely based on a number of factors, including experience level, location, and industry. For example, physical therapists who have been practicing for several years or who have earned advanced degrees may command higher salaries than those who are just entering the field. Likewise, physical therapists who work in urban areas or in certain industries may earn more than their counterparts in rural areas or in other industries.

It’s also worth noting that physical therapy salaries can compare favorably to other healthcare professions. According to BLS data, physical therapists earn more than occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists, but less than chiropractors and dentists.

Exploring the Factors that Affect Physical Therapists’ Salaries

While some factors that impact physical therapy salaries may be out of the control of individual therapists, others can be influenced by education and career choices. For example, pursuing additional certifications, such as specialized credentials in sports or orthopedics, can increase earning potential. Likewise, choosing to work in a high-demand area or with a specific population, such as pediatric or geriatric patients, can also impact salaries.

Another important factor is regional demand. Physical therapists may find that certain areas of the country or specific types of healthcare settings have higher salaries due to strong demand for their services. In addition, physical therapists who are willing to work in underserved areas or with underserved populations may be eligible for loan repayment programs or other financial incentives.

Why Being a Physical Therapist is a Lucrative Career Choice

While salary is just one component of job satisfaction, it is certainly an important one. According to a survey by the American Physical Therapy Association, nearly 70 percent of physical therapists surveyed found their salaries to be “very good” or “excellent.” In addition, physical therapy offers ample opportunities for advancement and growth, such as pursuing specialized certifications or becoming a clinical director or educator.

Perhaps even more importantly, physical therapy can provide a sense of fulfillment and reward that goes beyond salary. Physical therapists often work with patients who are recovering from major injuries or illnesses, helping them regain functionality and independence. This can be incredibly rewarding and motivating for therapists, who often develop strong, long-term relationships with their patients.

Finally, physical therapy can offer solid long-term earning potential. While individual salaries will vary, physical therapists who continue to grow and develop their skills and specializations can command high salaries both over time and in retirement.

Salary Negotiation Tips for Aspiring Physical Therapists

When it comes to negotiating salaries and benefits, many healthcare professionals may feel hesitant or unprepared. However, with the right information and strategies, it is possible to secure a competitive salary and benefits package that reflects one’s skills and experience.

One important strategy for physical therapists is to research and understand typical salary ranges for their region and industry. Websites like Glassdoor and can provide valuable information on what other physical therapists are earning in similar settings. In addition, physical therapists should be prepared to discuss their specific skills and accomplishments, including any specialized certifications, experience with certain types of patients or conditions, or involvement in research or professional organizations.

Other negotiation tactics to consider include presenting data and evidence to support salary requests, being prepared to negotiate non-salary benefits like flexible work schedules or tuition reimbursement, and developing strong relationships with potential employers and mentors who can provide guidance and support during the job search and negotiation process.

The Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Career as a Physical Therapist Based on Earnings Potential

Like any career path, physical therapy has its share of pros and cons when it comes to earning potential. On the one hand, physical therapy offers a competitive salary range, opportunities for growth and specialization, and a sense of personal fulfillment that can be hard to find in other professions. On the other hand, physical therapy can require a significant educational and financial investment, with many therapists carrying student loan debt for years after graduation. In addition, physical therapy can be a physically demanding job that requires long hours and high levels of patient care and interaction.

It’s also worth noting that while physical therapy salaries can be competitive, they may not offer the same earning potential as some other healthcare professions, such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners. Therefore, aspiring physical therapists should weigh the pros and cons carefully and consider their long-term goals and career aspirations.


Overall, physical therapy is a rewarding and challenging career that offers a competitive salary range, opportunities for growth and specialization, and a sense of personal fulfillment that can be hard to find in other professions. While earning potential can vary based on a number of factors, physical therapists who are willing to pursue additional certifications, specialize in high-demand areas, or work in underserved regions can increase their salary and career prospects. Aspiring physical therapists should also be prepared to negotiate salaries and benefits and weigh the pros and cons of the profession carefully before committing to a career in physical therapy.

If you are interested in learning more about physical therapy as a career path or exploring your options for education and certification, consider reaching out to local physical therapy programs or professional organizations for guidance and support.

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