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Physical Therapists
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Description: what do they do?
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.
Also known as:
Per Diem Physical Therapist, Physical Therapist (PT), Chief Physical Therapist, Physical Therapist, Director of Rehabilitation, Home Care Physical Therapist, Registered Physical Therapist (RPT), Pediatric Physical Therapist, Outpatient Physical Therapist, Staff Physical Therapist (Staff PT), Rehabilitation Services Director

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center.

Career video
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    Transcript: People recovering from accidents or disease, or who just want to stay active as they age, call on the skills of a physical therapist to help them manage their pain... grow stronger... and become more mobile. Physical therapists, also called PTs, work with people of all ages who have pain or limitations from a variety of sources, including injuries, amputations, strokes, or illness. PTs design an individualized plan for each patient using exercises, stretching, massage, and hands-on therapy. They also teach patients to use equipment like canes or prosthetics. PTs always review a patients’ medical history before making a plan, then track patients' progress during the course of treatment. Educating patients and their families about what to expect from the recovery process is a critical part of this job. Physical therapists work on a team of health care professionals, and oversee the work of physical therapy aides and assistants. They work in clinics, hospitals, home health care, and nursing homes, and may specialize in areas like pediatrics or sports medicine. Lifting and moving people and heavy objects are all part of the day’s work. To enter this career, you will need a Doctorate of Physical Therapy, and a state-issued license. This field provides the deeply satisfying experience of helping people to regain abilities they have lost, manage pain, and live their lives more fully.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are very likely in the future.

This occupation is:
  • Expected to grow much faster than average
  • Projected to have a large number of job openings


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET’s Bright Outlook occupations. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
US
N/A
2014 Employment
N/A
2024 Employment
N/A
Percent change
N/A
Annual projected job openings
United States
210,900
2014 Employment
282,700
2024 Employment
34%
Percent change
12,830
Annual projected job openings
N/A: We do not have employment projections in this state for this occupation.

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2014, the number expected to be employed in 2024, and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions including a 5.2 percent unemployment rate in 2024 and labor productivity growth of 1.8 percent annually over the 10 years. While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central: Long Term Projections, through 2024.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Employment Projections: 2014–24.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Physical Therapists in United States
LocationUSUnited States
10%N/A$58,190
25%N/A$70,680
MedianN/A$85,400
75%N/A$100,880
90%N/A$122,130


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, 2016 data. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Education and experience: to get started
People starting in this career usually have:
  • Doctoral or professional degree
  • No work experience
  • No on-the-job training

Programs that can prepare you:

    What does this information tell me?

    This shows you the typical level of education, work experience, and on-the-job training that most people have when they start in this career. Note that these are not requirements for entering this field, but the information can help you understand how qualified you might be.

    Interested in starting in this career? You can search for education programs in your local area by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find apprenticeship sponsors" you'll find information that can help you locate apprenticeship opportunities in your state:

    • If there are businesses that have sponsored apprenticeships in this field in the past, you'll find their name and contact information.
    • If there are related occupations that might have apprenticeship opportunities, you'll find links to that information.
    • You'll also see contact information for state and federal agencies that oversee apprenticeship programs.

    What is the source of this information?

    Apprenticeship information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships, and from CareerOneStop. Learn more at Apprenticeship Finder Help.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Develop medical treatment plans.
  • Record patient medical histories.
  • Examine patients to assess general physical condition.
  • Analyze patient data to determine patient needs or treatment goals.
  • Monitor patient progress or responses to treatments.
  • Evaluate patient outcomes to determine effectiveness of treatments.
  • Establish treatment goals.
  • Enter patient or treatment data into computers.
  • Process healthcare paperwork.
  • Test patient heart or lung functioning.
  • Refer patients to other healthcare practitioners or health resources.
  • Train patients, family members, or caregivers in techniques for managing disabilities or illnesses.
  • Treat patients using physical therapy techniques.
  • Supervise medical support personnel.
  • Communicate detailed medical information to patients or family members.
  • Explain medical procedures or test results to patients or family members.
  • Collaborate with healthcare professionals to plan or provide treatment.
  • Communicate health and wellness information to the public.
  • Operate diagnostic or therapeutic medical instruments or equipment.
  • Train medical providers.
  • Advise medical personnel regarding healthcare issues.
  • Adjust prostheses or other assistive devices.
  • Conduct research to increase knowledge about medical issues.
  • Direct healthcare delivery programs.
  • Fabricate medical devices.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Biology - Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • 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.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Skills
People in this career often have these skills:
  • Reading Comprehension - Reading work-related information.
  • Critical Thinking - Thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem.
  • Speaking - Talking to others.
  • Monitoring - Keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Understanding people's reactions.
  • Active Listening - Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.
  • Service Orientation - Looking for ways to help people.
  • Writing - Writing things for co-workers or customers.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one.
  • Time Management - Managing your time and the time of other people.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it.
  • Coordination - Changing what is done based on other people's actions.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list the work-related skills most commonly required for jobs in the career.

    This list can help you understand how well your current skills fit this career. It can also help you plan your education or professional development.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Skills descriptors.

Abilities
People in this career often have talent in:
  • Oral Comprehension - Listening and understanding what people say.
  • Written Comprehension - Reading and understanding what is written.
  • Oral Expression - Communicating by speaking.
  • Written Expression - Communicating by writing.
  • Deductive Reasoning - Using rules to solve problems.
  • Inductive Reasoning - Making general rules or coming up with answers from lots of detailed information.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Noticing when problems happen.
  • Speech Clarity - Speaking clearly.
  • Speech Recognition - Recognizing spoken words.
  • Information Ordering - Ordering or arranging things.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list of personal qualities that might influence work and are most commonly required for success in this career.

    This list can help you understand if your natural strengths and abilities are a good fit for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Abilities descriptors.

Interests
  • Social - Occupations with Social interests frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. Most involve helping or providing service to others.
  • Investigative - Occupations with Investigative interests frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. They often involve research and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Realistic - Occupations with Realistic interests frequently involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical 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.
  • Evaluate effects of treatment at various stages and adjust treatments to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Identify and document goals, anticipated progress, and plans for reevaluation.
  • Record prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in patient's chart or enter information into computer.
  • 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.
  • Review physician's referral and patient's medical records to help determine diagnosis and physical therapy treatment required.
  • Discharge patient from physical therapy when goals or projected outcomes have been attained and provide for appropriate follow-up care or referrals.
  • Instruct patient and family in treatment procedures to be continued at home.
  • Administer manual exercises, massage, or traction to help relieve pain, increase patient strength, or decrease or prevent deformity or crippling.
  • Direct, supervise, assess, and communicate with supportive personnel.
  • Inform patients and refer to appropriate practitioners when diagnosis reveals findings outside physical therapy.
  • Provide information to the patient about the proposed intervention, its material risks and expected benefits, and any reasonable alternatives.
  • Confer with the patient, medical practitioners, or appropriate others to plan, implement, or assess the intervention program.
  • Provide educational information about physical therapy or physical therapists, injury prevention, ergonomics, or ways to promote health.
  • Administer treatment involving application of physical agents, using equipment, moist packs, ultraviolet or infrared lamps, or ultrasound machines.
  • Teach physical therapy students or those in other health professions.
  • Refer clients to community resources or services.
  • Evaluate, fit, or adjust prosthetic or orthotic devices or recommend modification to orthotist.
  • Conduct or support research and apply research findings to practice.
  • Direct group rehabilitation activities.
  • Construct, maintain, or repair medical supportive devices.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.