What Does A Physical Therapist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Physical Therapists

Physical Therapists 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.

Salary
$91680
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Physical Therapists 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.

  • 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.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Physical Therapists 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. They record prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in a patient’s chart or enter information into a computer.

A typical day for a Physical Therapist will also include:

  • Evaluate effects of treatment at various stages and adjust treatments to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Administer manual exercises, massage, or traction to help relieve pain, increase patient strength, or decrease or prevent deformity or crippling.
  • Confer with the patient, medical practitioners, or appropriate others to plan, implement, or assess the intervention program.
  • Direct, supervise, assess, and communicate with supportive personnel.
  • Identify and document goals, anticipated progress, and plans for reevaluation.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Physical Therapists also discharge patients from physical therapy when goals or projected outcomes have been attained and provide for appropriate follow-up care or referrals. They may also evaluate, fit, or adjust prosthetic or orthotic devices or recommend modification to orthotist.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Physical Therapists refer clients to community resources or services. They might also construct, maintain, or repair medical supportive devices.

In addition, they inform patients and refer to appropriate practitioners when diagnosis reveals findings outside physical therapy.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them perform and document an initial exam, evaluating data to identify problems and determine a diagnosis prior to intervention.

To some Physical Therapists, it is also their responsibility to review physician’s referral and patient’s medical records to help determine the diagnosis and physical therapy treatment required.

Featured Schools


What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

79% said they were satisfied with their job and 90% said they found their job meaningful.


My name is Dr. Ashley Estanislao and as a physical therapist, am an expert in exercise and movement. I received my Doctorate in Physical Therapy and Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology. What does your typical day at work look like? It really depends on what setting you are in. I have worked in both … Read More


Life of Oneness

The clientele I work with as a physical therapist and healer are individuals recovering from physical and/or emotional pain. Their conditions or symptoms are usually the result of an initial, physical world event that has also come to manifest emotionally. Sometimes the underlying stress is a psychological or spiritual one. So my typical day consists … Read More


I’ve worked as a physical therapist for 5 years in a clinical setting. The typical work day of a physical therapist will vary depending on the setting. In general, though, you will have a schedule of patients that you evaluate and treat. You will also have some time dedicated to documenting your care and ensuring … Read More


Thrive Physical Therapy & Myofascial Release

A typical day for me includes 5-6 clients that I see for 1 hour each and then 1-2 hours of administrative time (documentation, website maintenance, blog posts, social media, etc.). I see patients with more chronic than acute problems–less post-surgical and sprained ankles and more long-term low back or neck pain, difficulty walking, pain with … Read More


Keep the Adventure Alive

I am a mobile physical therapist which means I travel to people’s homes and treat them there. I see patients in my local community here in Sandy, Utah. My typical day usually includes seeing 3-4 patients, most of which are dealing with knee osteoarthritis. I drive to their homes and we complete the sessions usually … Read More


Private practice in a physiotherapy clinic

I am a physical therapist based in sunny Singapore. I presently work in a private practice in a physiotherapy clinic. My work load is with musculoskeletal patients and my style of working is mainly with manual therapy and exercises. In a typical day, I will be seeing patients for all sorts of issues ranging from … Read More


Pros

Suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

One of the fastest-growing careers.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

How much do they make

Average salary

$91680 per year

Average hourly wage

$44 per hour

Entry-level Physical Therapists with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $63,530 to $75,360 per year or $31 to $36 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $126,780 $61
Senior (Top 25%) $106,060 $51
Median $91,010 $44
Junior (Bottom 25%) $75,360 $36
No experience (Bottom 10%) $63,530 $31

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Physical Therapists based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Spectator Sports $108520 $52.17
Outpatient Care Centers $105600 $50.77
Individual and Family Services $101240 $48.67
Child Day Care Services $99910 $48.03
Office Administrative Services $98510 $47.36
Home Health Care Services $98430 $47.32
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $97390 $46.82
Local Government $97220 $46.74
Scientific Research and Development Services $96410 $46.35
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services $96020 $46.16

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Physical Therapists work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Physical Therapists including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 78210 $87170 $41.91
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 55790 $93160 $44.79
Home Health Care Services 25460 $98430 $47.32
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) 12190 $97390 $46.82
Offices of Physicians 12110 $91400 $43.94
Specialty Hospitals 9080 $92030 $44.25
Elementary and Secondary Schools 5910 $82970 $39.89
Outpatient Care Centers 5750 $105600 $50.77
Individual and Family Services 2720 $101240 $48.67
Employment Services 2630 $87970 $42.29

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
35%

40 hours
54%

More than 40 hours
11%

Working schedule

88%

12%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
41%

Every day
36%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
35%

Every day
57%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
19%

Every day
80%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
6%

Once a year
77%

Once a month
14%

Once a week
0%

Every day
3%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
25%

Slightly competitive
21%

Moderately competitive
36%

Highly competitive
10%

Extremely competitive
9%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
0%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
12%

Every day
88%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
89%

Once a year or more
9%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
2%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
82%

Once a year or more
5%

Once a month or more
10%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
2%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
96%

Once a year or more
1%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
3%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
6%

Bachelor’s Degree
8%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
38%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
47%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

Physical Therapy/Therapist

A program that prepares individuals to evaluate, examine, diagnose, and alleviate physical functional impairments and limitations caused by injury or disease through the design and implementation of therapeutic interventions to promote fitness and health. Includes instruction in anatomy, behavioral sciences, biology, biomechanics, biophysical agents, care plan development and documentation, cellular histology, clinical evaluation and measurement, clinical reasoning, communication, exercise physiology, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, pathology, physiology, professional standards and ethics, rehabilitation psychology, and therapeutic exercise.

Kinesiotherapy/Kinesiotherapist

A program that prepares individuals, under the direction of physicians, to treat the effects of disease, injury, and congenital disorders through therapeutic exercise and education. Includes instruction in human anatomy, human physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, therapeutic exercise and adapted physical education, human growth and development, motor learning and performance, testing and measurement, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, psychology, rehabilitation procedures, patient assessment and management, and professional standards and ethics.

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
30%

1 month
5%

1 to 3 months
7%

3 to 6 months
11%

6 months to 1 year
22%

1 to 2 years
23%

2 to 4 years
1%

4 to 6 years
1%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
15%

1 month
42%

1 to 3 months
23%

3 to 6 months
1%

6 months to 1 year
18%

1 to 2 years
0%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

The Builder
62%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
81%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
33%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
100%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
38%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
43%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

They also like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
81%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
76%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
81%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
95%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
67%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
76%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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