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Career profile Physical Therapist

Also known as Acute Care PT (Acute Care Physical Therapist), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Home Care Physical Therapist (Home Care PT), Inpatient Physical Therapist (Inpatient PT), Outpatient Physical Therapist (Outpatient PT), Pediatric Physical Therapist (Pediatric PT), Registered Physical Therapist (RPT), Therapist

Physical Therapist

Also known as Acute Care PT (Acute Care Physical Therapist), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Home Care Physical Therapist (Home Care PT)

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
Pay Range
$63,530 - $126,780 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Medicine and Dentistry
Core tasks
  • Plan, prepare, or carry out individually designed programs of physical treatment to maintain, improve, or restore physical functioning, alleviate pain, or prevent physical dysfunction in patients.
  • Perform and document an initial exam, evaluating data to identify problems and determine a diagnosis prior to intervention.
  • Record prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in patient's chart or enter information into computer.
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What does a Physical Therapist do?

Physical Therapists assess, plan, organize, and participate in rehabilitative programs that improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength, and improve or correct disabling conditions resulting from disease or injury.

What kind of tasks does a Physical Therapist perform regularly?

Physical Therapists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Plan, prepare, or carry out individually designed programs of physical treatment to maintain, improve, or restore physical functioning, alleviate pain, or prevent physical dysfunction in patients.
  • Perform and document an initial exam, evaluating data to identify problems and determine a diagnosis prior to intervention.
  • Record prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in patient's chart or enter information into computer.
  • Instruct patient and family in treatment procedures to be continued at home.
  • Evaluate effects of treatment at various stages and adjust treatments to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Confer with the patient, medical practitioners, or appropriate others to plan, implement, or assess the intervention program.
  • Administer manual exercises, massage, or traction to help relieve pain, increase patient strength, or decrease or prevent deformity or crippling.
  • Obtain patients' informed consent to proposed interventions.
  • Test and measure patient's strength, motor development and function, sensory perception, functional capacity, or respiratory or circulatory efficiency and record data.
  • Direct, supervise, assess, and communicate with supportive personnel.
  • Review physician's referral and patient's medical records to help determine diagnosis and physical therapy treatment required.
  • Identify and document goals, anticipated progress, and plans for reevaluation.
  • Provide information to the patient about the proposed intervention, its material risks and expected benefits, and any reasonable alternatives.
  • Provide educational information about physical therapy or physical therapists, injury prevention, ergonomics, or ways to promote health.
  • Inform patients and refer to appropriate practitioners when diagnosis reveals findings outside physical therapy.
  • Discharge patient from physical therapy when goals or projected outcomes have been attained and provide for appropriate follow-up care or referrals.
  • Administer treatment involving application of physical agents, using equipment, moist packs, ultraviolet or infrared lamps, or ultrasound machines.
  • Refer clients to community resources or services.
  • Construct, maintain, or repair medical supportive devices.
  • Evaluate, fit, or adjust prosthetic or orthotic devices or recommend modification to orthotist.
  • Teach physical therapy students or those in other health professions.
  • Conduct or support research and apply research findings to practice.
  • Participate in community or community agency activities or help to formulate public policy.

The above responsibilities are specific to Physical Therapists. More generally, Physical Therapists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

What is a Physical Therapist salary?

The median salary for a Physical Therapist is $91,010, and the average salary is $91,680. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Physical Therapist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Physical Therapists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Physical Therapists earn less than $63,530 per year, 25% earn less than $75,360, 75% earn less than $106,060, and 90% earn less than $126,780.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Physical Therapists is expected to change by 20.5%, and there should be roughly 15,600 open positions for Physical Therapists every year.

Median annual salary
$91,010
Typical salary range
$63,530 - $126,780
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
20.5%

What personality traits are common among Physical Therapists?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Physical Therapist are usually higher in their Social, Investigative, and Realistic interests.

Physical Therapists typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Physical Therapists typically have strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Lastly, Physical Therapists typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Physical Therapist tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Physical Therapists very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Physical Therapists strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Physical Therapists strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Physical Therapists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as concern for others, integrity, and social orientation.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Physical Therapists, ranked by importance:

Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Social Orientation
Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Physical Therapists need?

Many Physical Therapists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Physical Therapists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Physical Therapists

  • 0.4% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 1.0% completed high school or secondary school
  • 0.9% completed some college coursework
  • 2.9% earned a Associate's degree
  • 28.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 23.0% earned a Master's degree
  • 43.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Physical Therapists

Physical Therapists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, therapy and counseling, or medicine and dentistry knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Physical Therapists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Psychology
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Important Abilities needed by Physical Therapists

Physical Therapists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Physical Therapists need abilities such as oral comprehension, written comprehension, and oral expression in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Physical Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.

Critical Skills needed by Physical Therapists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Physical Therapists frequently use skills like reading comprehension, active listening, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Physical Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.