When patients have trouble moving around due to an injury, illness or physical disability, they look for relief from physiotherapists, or physical therapists. These healthcare professionals rely on non-invasive techniques, such as applying heat and exercise, to ease pain and improve mobility. They diagnose problems by reading medical records, observing patient movements and asking questions. They then set up treatment plans that might involve exercise and adaptive equipment. Physiotherapists might specialize in a particular patient group such as children, or a type of activity such as sports. Qualifications typically include earning a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and passing either the National Physical Therapy Examination or a similar state-administered test. Salaries vary by employer and job location.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physiotherapists earned a mean annual income of $79,830 per year as of May 2011. Salaries ranged from less than $54,710 per year for the lowest-paid 10 percent to more than $110,670 per year for the highest paid 10 percent. The median salary, or midway point between the highest and lowest salaries, was $78,270. In 2010, about 29 percent of physiotherapists worked part-time.
Nearly 64,000 out of the total 185,440 physiotherapists employed in the United States in 2011 worked in offices of health practitioners. The average pay here was $78,120 per year. General medical and surgical hospitals had the second highest employment and paid a mean $78,710 yearly. The highest salaries were with management, scientific and technical consulting services at an average of $91,020 per year. Home health care services followed at $89,150.
California had the most jobs for physiotherapists in 2011, with 15,420 practitioners averaging $86,890 per year. New York followed with 13,490 positions at a mean $78,840 yearly. The highest paying state was Nevada, where physiotherapists averaged $97,810 per year. The lowest paying state, North Dakota, paid an average of $61,720. The highest paying metro area was McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, at an average of $122,160 per year.
The BLS expects employment for physiotherapists to increase 39 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than the 14 percent projected growth rate for all occupations. An aging baby boomer population, which will experience many of the conditions treatable by physiotherapists, will drive much of the demand. Opportunities will be excellent in acute hospitals, skilled nursing settings and other areas where the elderly are treated.