MCPHS physical therapy student monitoring a running patient's progress through her laptop
Academics | 5/30/2024

Career Options for Physical Therapists

MCPHS physical therapy student monitoring a running patient's progress through her laptop

Demand for physical therapists is on the rise, and so are career opportunities for them. Explore the traditional and non-traditional places a PT can practice.

With an aging population that is living longer in addition to younger generations living more active and healthier lives, the demand for physical therapists will continue to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the potential job growth for physical therapy is 22 percent by 2028—much faster than the average for all occupations. Earning an annual median salary of $87,930, physical therapists are ranked #11 on the Best Healthcare Job list and #21 on the 100 Best Jobs list by U.S. News and World Report.

If you have considered a career in physical therapy, check out these exciting career paths that fall outside what may be considered more traditional PT settings.

Acute Care: PTs who have a focus in acute care are found in hospitals working with patients who have been admitted for a short-term illness, surgery, accident, or trauma. In this setting, PTs will work with an individual so that they are able to be safely discharged.

Rehabilitation Hospital: Occasionally, a patient must be sent to a rehabilitation hospital or facility for a longer recovery. In this setting, a PT will provide an intense therapy program of three or more hours a day to improve the person's ability to care for themself.

Sub-Acute Rehabilitation: In this scenario, a patient is admitted to a hospital or facility that provides medical or rehabilitation care but needs a less intense rehab. A PT who works in a sub-acute facility will provide up to three hours of therapy to a patient in a day.

Skilled Nursing Facility: Facilities that provide long-term nursing care, rehabilitation, and other services for a variety of patients often employ physical therapists to help with a number of mobility-related health issues such as falls, strength, balance and ambulation.

Outpatient Clinic: - Many PTs choose to work in private settings that offer outpatient services. In this setting, patients are often referred to a PT to help with musculoskeletal or neuromuscular injuries or impairments.

Government: PTs are employed by federal agencies, including the Veteran's Health Administration (VHA), Department of Defense, and Indian Health Service (IHS) to provide services to civilians and military personnel.

School/Preschool: Students on an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, are often eligible for physical therapy to help improve things like balance while sitting in class, walking between classrooms or to the bus, and navigating playground equipment.

Sports/Fitness: Sports and fitness training facilities often employ PTs to work with athletes to help prevent injury and promote a healthy lifestyle. Professional sports organizations may also employ PTs to work with their team.

Home Health: PTs who provide care in the patient's place of residence can work with a range of patients from senior citizens who need rehab after a fall, to pediatric patients with developmental disabilities and other conditions.

Hospice: PTs who work as part of the hospice team help patients to maintain functional abilities for as long as possible and manage pain in the last phases of an incurable disease.

Travel: As a traveling physical therapist, you can work anywhere throughout the country, typically on 13-week assignments. This setting allows you to explore different locations, and work with some of the top hospitals, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities.

Women's Health: As a physical therapist that focuses on women's health, you will address pelvic floor disorders such as incontinence, and also provide therapy related to osteoporosis, post-mastectomy care, and fitness and wellness.

Animal Therapy: A newer career path in physical therapy is to provide rehabilitative care to animals who have had surgery, been injured, or suffer from chronic pain. Physical therapy can speed an animal's recovery and improve its quality of life.

Education: If you have an interest in teaching, you should consider becoming a clinical instructor in your work setting, continuing education courses to practicing clinicians or teach a course in a DPT or PTA program at a college or university..

Researcher: PTs conduct research to improve patient/client care outcomes and support the body of knowledge in the field physical therapy, including research in concussions, strokes, spinal cord injuries, limb loss, and more.

Tech Startup/Entrepreneur: As technology continues to advance, new startups developing products to assist with rehabilitation are often looking to hire PTs to help with research, product design, sales and marketing, training and customer support.

Rehab Liaison/Intake Coordinator: Rehab liaisons or intake coordinators are responsible for helping to fill beds in a rehabilitation facility. While these roles often require some sales and marketing skills, you may also be working with insurance companies, analyzing data, and educating patients on the benefits of inpatient rehab.

Healthcare Recruiter: As a healthcare recruiter you help organizations find the right practitioners for the roles they are seeking to fill.

Telehealth: A telehealth PT is one who provides physical therapy services over a digital platform through live video, remote patient monitoring, or mobile healthcare delivery.

Utilization Review: In this role, a PT works for a payer organization and reviews the services provided by a physical therapist to determine if they fall under the coverage of the plan in question.

Influencer/Blogger: Some PTs have taken their clinical knowledge and applied it to a health or wellness lifestyle brand through social media or blogging sites.


Learn more about how physical therapists are essential to modern care teams from Dr. Cheryl Babin of the MCPHS PT program.