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What is a Physiatrist?

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Secure a Financial Future as You Increase Patient Comfort and Functioning

Physiatrists are medical specialists who focus on treating disabling conditions that affect the brain, spine, nerves, bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments. They increase functioning for patients with disabilities and help prevent deterioration due to chronic conditions. If you are the kind of person who finds meaning in helping others live their best life, this could be the career for you. Like other medical specialties, the salary is big enough to help secure a solid financial future for you and your children. Odd hours make reliable childcare or family support a must.

Job Description

Physiatrists emphasize nonsurgical methods of treating pain and other negative effects of injury or illness. They use diagnostic imaging techniques to assess what is happening in the body, prescribe treatments like physical therapy or medication, design treatment plans and work on teams with other medical professionals. They spend their days meeting with patients in the office or hospital setting. Often patients are in great pain and discomfort, so compassion and a good bedside manner are major assets. Work can involve heavy lifting, long hours on your feet, and unpredictable or rotating shifts, especially in the hospital environment. Keeping immaculate paperwork and medical records, as well as holding patient confidentiality, are important for providing excellent care.

Education Requirements

Physiatrists spend several years preparing for their profession, so strong academic skills and a love of learning are helpful. First, you must earn your bachelor's degree, preferably with a focus in the sciences and math, or through a pre-med program. After your undergraduate education, you will attend a four-year medical school program and then a specialty residency for a few more years. Once you sit for the medical licensing exam in your state of residence, you will be a licensed physician. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation offers an additional exam to become board certified in the field. Some physiatrists earn additional specialty experience in areas such as musculoskeletal care, sports injuries, pain medicine or pediatrics.

Physiatrists earn a median annual salary of $274,000 as of 2021, which means that half earn more than this, while the other half earns less. This is higher than the national median salary for all physicians, which was $208,000 as of 2020. The top 10 percent of physiatrists earn more than $334,000, while the bottom 10 percent earns less than $224,137.


Physiatrists work in hospitals, clinics, private practice, physical rehabilitation centers, home health and many other settings. They typically work as part of larger treatment teams and coordinate with other specialists, physical therapists, nurses and other medical professionals. Hospital and inpatient rehabilitation centers offer the most variable hours, with overnight and on-call shifts being common. Those who work in private practice have more control over their hours, which tends to be more family-friendly when you have little ones at home.

Geographic State and Metropolitan Salary Map for Physicians

Years of Experience

Physiatrists earn a generous income, which makes sense after several years of education and residency. Salary tends to increase with time and experience and one projection looks like this:

  • 1-2 years: $207,706-$220,080
  • 3-4 years: $208,658-$221,032
  • 5-6 years: $209,292-$221,667
  • 7-9 years: $211,196-$223,253
  • 10-14 years: $215,321-$227,868
  • 15-19 years: $219,445-$232,868
  • 20 or more years: $221,032-$234,791

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for all physicians and surgeons, including physiatrists, is expected to increase an impressive 13 percent over the next decade, much faster than for other industries. Increased demand is due to a growing and aging population that needs specialty care to address debilitating conditions. Physiatrists directly address many issues experienced by older patients and should have good prospects for residencies and new positions in the field.


Anne Kinsey is an entrepreneur and business pioneer, who has ranked in the top 1% of the direct sales industry, growing a large team and earning the title of Senior Team Manager during her time with Jamberry. She is the nonprofit founder and executive director of Love Powered Life, as well as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and freelance writer who has written for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bizfluent, the Houston Chronicle and Our Everyday Life. Anne works from her home office in rural North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and three children.

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