Therapy Careers

Physical Therapy

Therapy Career & Resources


Physical therapists help individuals with disabling conditions to restore or improve function, mobility, pain or permanent physical disabilities. Physical therapists work with individuals including accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions to maintain and promote their overall physical condition. Physical therapists test and measure a number of things including a patient's strength and muscle performance, scope of motion, sense of balance, coordination skills, posture, respiration and motor function. They also develop treatment plans by recommending a strategy and determining the projected results. For patients who have been immobilized or lack flexibility, therapists typically recommend exercise as treatment to improve balance, coordination, endurance and strength. They may also use electrical stimulation or massages to relieve pain. Overall, physical therapists can treat a wide range of problems. Some therapists prefer to focus in areas including pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurology and cardiopulmonary physical therapy.

Working Environment

Physical therapists typically practice in a hospital or clinic. Some may work in homes or schools. The job can be physically challenging as most physical therapists find themselves kneeling, lifting or standing for long periods of time. They also may sometimes lift heavy equipment or patients. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most physical therapists work a 40 hour week, while some choose to work these hours during the evening or weekends to accommodate a patient's needs.

Education and Qualification

A master's degree is required for physical therapy careers, though most therapists choose to earn a doctorate degree in physical therapy. Education includes basic and specialized science coursework. Students are also required to receive supervised clinical training. Upon graduation from an accredited physical therapy program, candidates must pass the National Physical Therapist Examination in order to practice. It is also necessary to fulfill any additional requirements of your state's licensing board. Many states require continuing education classes and attendance of workshops to maintain licensure for a physical therapy career.

Physical Therapy Career Articles

Job Outlook

On average, 155,000 jobs were held by physical therapists in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of jobs is greater than the number of practicing therapists because often a therapist will have more than one job in the therapy field. Most physical therapists work in a hospital or facility setting. Employment is expected to increase above the average of all occupations through 2014. Reimbursement limitations may adversely affect the job market for physical therapists in the short term, but over the long term, the demand for physical therapists will increase because the number of people requiring therapy for disabilities continues to grow. The elderly population is growing, and they are susceptible to chronic and debilitating conditions that require physical therapy. The incidence of heart attacks and strokes in middle-aged baby boomers increases the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Furthermore, technological advances are increasing the survival rate of newborns with birth defects and trauma victims that require rehabilitative care.


In 2004, the median annual earnings for physical therapists were $60,180. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between $50,330 and $71,760 was earned by the middle 50 percent. The highest 10 percent earned more than $88,580 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,010, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.