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The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

The average salary of a physical therapist is $84,020 per year.

If you’ve ever undergone physical therapy you know how important the work of physical therapists is. The job of a physical therapist is one that requires high levels of skill and training, as well as compassion and emotional intelligence. Let’s take a closer look at the profession and examine the average salary of a physical therapist. 

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The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist: The Basics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a physical therapist is $84,020 per year, $40.40 per hour. That’s based on 2015 data. There were  210,900 physical therapists in the country as of 2014, but that number is expected to grow rapidly.

The job outlook for physical therapists (the percent by which the field will grow between 2014 and 2024) is 34%, according to BLS projections. That’s much faster than the average rate of growth for all professions (7%). It’s also faster than the job outlook for other in-demand medical professions. The job outlook for nurses is for 16% growth between 2014 and 2024. The job outlook for dentists is for 18% growth.

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Where Physical Therapists Earn the Most

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

National-level data on the average salary of a physical therapist obscures regional variation. So where do physical therapists make the most? According to BLS data, the top-paying state for physical therapists is Nevada, where physical therapists earn an annual mean wage of $121,980. Other high-paying states for physical therapists are Alaska ($100,560), Texas ($96,970), California ($95,300) and New Jersey ($95,150).

The top-paying metro area for physical therapists is Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV, where physical therapists earn an annual mean wage of $135,390. Other high-paying metro areas for physical therapists are Merced, CA ($130,220); Napa, CA ($125,970); Brownsville-Harlingen, TX ($124,700) and Laredo, TX ($119,310).

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Becoming a Physical Therapist

The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist

To enter the physical therapy profession, physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. States also require physical therapists to be licensed to practice their profession.

Physical therapists who are committed to a particular specialty within the field can apply for board certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). The ABPTS offers board-certification in nine physical therapy specialty areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Oncology, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Sports and Women’s Health.

Attaining the credentials necessary for a career in physical therapy is an expensive undertaking. Like other degrees, physical therapy degrees have increased in cost in recent years, leading to higher levels of student debt among physical therapists.

The American Physical Therapy Association lists the costs of a DPT degree. Public in-state tuition for physical therapy averages $14,427, but ranges from $3,387 to $45,340. Public out-of-state tuition averages $29,157, but ranges from $8,425 to $65,156. Finally, private tuition averages $31,716, but ranges from $19,500 to $94,020.

Bottom Line

If helping people heal, eliminate pain and improve their mobility appeals to you, becoming a physical therapist might be the right career move for you. The education and training required of physical therapists is rigorous, but the salaries that physical therapists earn are high and the job outlook is very strong. As the population of the U.S. ages, physical therapists will be in greater demand than ever. The recent opiate crisis is also likely to refocus attention on non-pharmaceutical methods of pain management such as physical therapy. In short, becoming a physical therapist is a solid career move.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/kzenon, ©iStock.com/kali9

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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