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4 Factors Affecting Your Physical Therapist Salary

Whether you're job hunting or negotiating the pay of your position, there are several factors you should take into account when it comes to PT salaries.

Whether you're job hunting or negotiating the pay of your position, there are several factors you should take into account when it comes to PT salaries.

Charlotte Bohnett
5 min read
March 18, 2024
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Physical therapists are empathetic by nature. You probably didn’t get into the PT profession to make bank; you did it because you wanted to help others heal. Unfortunately, empathy alone doesn’t pay the bills — but the impact you make on your patients’ lives is worth a lot—It’s certainly worth more than most payers are paying out today, but that’s another matter. You get paid to treat patients. Now, how much you get paid—i.e., the physical therapist salary you receive from your place of employment—to treat those patients depends on a lot of factors. 

How Much Does a PT Make?

Before jumping into the factors affecting physical therapist salary, let’s delve into the current statistics on the physical therapy profession. As per the source US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently 229,740 employed PTs in the country with a national average wage of $97,960 (or $47.10 per hour). If you’re reading this and saying, “Wow that’s a lot more than I make,” keep in mind that these four factors have a huge impact on your specific salary.

1. Location, Location, Location

As expected, where you work factors into how much you make. After all, the cost of living is far higher in New York and San Fransisco than El Paso and Des Moines. It isn’t just the cost of living, though, that influences salary rates in a particular location. Supply and demand also play a part. For example, according to this demand map from the BLS, physical therapists are in higher demand in southern Nevada. Perhaps that’s why Las Vegas has one of the highest average annual salaries for PTs in the country, according to BLS data. Conversely, according to Wanted Analytics, Missoula, Montana, has some of the “best overall conditions and [is] where you are likely to find candidates faster and more easily.” However, the state of Montana has the third lowest average annual salary in the country ($71,880), according to

Curious as to salary rates by state? Check out the physical therapist salary table, which provides hourly, weekly, monthly, and annual breakdowns.

2. Experience vs. Education

As with most professions, a person’s years of experience can influence his or her dollar value in the PT field. This interactive chart on—which breaks down the median of all compensation (including tips, bonus, and overtime) by years of experience—shows that:

  • Entry-level PTs (0-5 years experience) make a median salary of $65,000
  • Mid-career PTs (5-10 years) make a median salary of $74,000
  • Experienced PTs (10-20 years) make a median salary of $81,000
  • Late-career PTs (>20 years) make a median salary of $83,000

Now, what about education? The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is required to practice for entry-level clinicians, and as we’ve discussed in another blog post about transitional DPT (tDPT) programs, it essentially levels the playing field for all clinicians. Thus, education isn’t a significant factor when it comes to salary. But what about practicing therapists who have bachelor’s or master’s degrees? As the article explains, you shouldn’t let the potential for a higher salary be the determining factor as to whether you obtain a transitional DPT: “Insurers don’t adjust reimbursement rates according to the clinician’s educational level, which means PT practices have no concrete financial incentive to offer higher salaries to doctoral degree-holders. The moral of the story: Currently, years of experience trump the level of education.

3. Willingness to Travel

Want to get away for a while? Not the type to put down roots? Then traveling PT might be for you, and the pay is certainly tantalizing. There is no shortage of physical therapist jobs in the travel sector and, as we outline in the blog post, Is Becoming a Traveling Physical Therapist For You, there are many financial and tax benefits to travel PT. Of course, PTs interested in travel work must take into account the cost of living in various locations. Furthermore, travel salaries also strongly depend on contract length, the number of contracts in a year, and the specific details of your contract. 

4. Practice Setting

Another factor that contributes to salary rates for physical therapists: is where you treat. According to, home care and skilled nursing facilities are the highest-paying PT areas. And on average, those annual wages are $113, 970 and $103,590 respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Do All These Factors Fit Into the Physical Therapist Salary?

Keep in mind that the above list of factors isn’t inclusive. Your salary outlook is a lot like a snowflake: wholly unique. After all, your application, interview skills, clinical style, networking abilities, and professional relationships can all influence whether you land a job and whether that job will pay higher or lower than the medians and averages for your experience level, location, and setting.

Still, knowing industry averages for your level of education, experience, location, and setting certainly helps during salary negotiations. Do your research and arm yourself with data appropriately. And remember, the physical therapist salary is only one piece of the greater compensation puzzle. There are a lot of other benefits that can make or break an employment opportunity, so never discount the value of company culture, benefits packages, a great team fit, management, treatment setting and patient population, schedule flexibility, learning opportunities, and potential for career growth in lieu of dollar symbols.


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