If you have ever undergone surgery or broken a bone, you probably got physical therapy during recovery. Physical therapists work with patients of all ages to diagnose and treat injuries or medical issues that prevent people from performing everyday activities. While physical therapy can be a rewarding career, it also poses a variety of challenges. Consider the disadvantages before you pursue a career in physical therapy.
It takes at least six years to complete the minimum education required to become a physical therapist. People seeking a career in physical therapy must earn a Master’s Degree and then pass a written exam to get licensed as a certified physical therapist. Six years of college tuition will cost you a lot of money and time. Most students in a physical therapy degree program have to volunteer at a local hospital or private practice to gain work experience. In addition, most states make continuing education courses mandatory for licensed physical therapists to continue working in the field.
Physical therapists often work with people who are recovering from serious injuries incurred from sports, car accidents or falls. Most patients have severely limited mobility and may even need to learn how to walk again. You need to be physically strong and able to stand for long periods of time while working with debilitated patients. Physical therapists also have to move heavy equipment and be able to support the full weight of their patients as they perform recovery exercises.
Just like any other career in the medical profession, physical therapy calls for long work days. In an interview by the National Institute of Health, physical therapist Matthew Scherer admits he has to spend many hours away from home and his family due to the demands of his career. As a physical therapist, you have to be willing to fully commit your time and resources to every patient. In fact, many physical therapists have to work evenings and weekends to accommodate their patients’ schedules.
Most physical therapists have to work in an environment where people are sick or in pain. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that hospitals and private practices employed 60 percent of physical therapists in 2008. Providing therapy for people recovering from strokes, injuries or amputations can be emotionally draining. Physical therapists have to provide emotional support for patients during treatment exercises that can be both painful and difficult to perform.
2016 Salary Information for Physical Therapists
Physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $85,400 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physical therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $70,680, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $100,880, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 239,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physical therapists.