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Four Things You Need to Know About PT Salary

Whether you are thinking about becoming a PT, or already are one, discover the ins and outs of the physical therapist salary here.

Brooke Andrus
5 min read
March 4, 2024
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You probably didn’t get into the therapy business to become rich. You likely did it because you enjoy helping and healing people—and that’s the way it should be. Even if money isn’t your primary motivation, it should still be somewhere on your radar. So, here are a few things to keep in mind as you contemplate the physical therapist salary.

1. Experience, geography, and industry matter.

As with most professions, a physical therapist salary can vary widely based on a therapist’s number of years in the industry. However, a therapist who falls somewhere in the middle of the pack—not fresh out of PT school, but not quite a seasoned vet, either—should expect to earn a salary somewhere near the national mean (according to 2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that number is $97,960). 

It’s important to take these figures with a grain of salt because additional factors such as geographic location and type of therapy facility also affect salary. For example, the average PT salary in the nation's top-paying state, California, is $114,230; by contrast, the average salary in the lowest-paying territory, Puerto Rico, is $48,820. In terms of top-paying industries, the deceivingly-named “Outpatient Care Centers” take the top spot at $118,800 annually. That name can be deceiving because “outpatient care centers” do not represent the outpatient physical therapy clinics in the private practice sector but more accurately reflect ambulatory care centers that are often part of a hospital network. The data is a bit more complex for private practices, but they tend to more closely fall under the Offices of Other Health Practitioners, which make $91,320 annually.

Geographical location and market saturation can also play a role. In Vermont, the state with the highest concentration of PTs, the mean annual salary is $88,310, and the location quotient is 1.58. Conversely, California has a smaller concentration of PTs, and the location quotient is 0.88, which accounts for the higher salary. We also can’t forget the impact that cost of living can have on salaries, where states like California and New York outweigh their counterparts in the Midwest or South.

2. PT Salary doesn't always trump hourly.

As the old saying goes, time is money. And if you’re consistently logging extra hours as a salaried employee, you’re getting less money for your time—that’s just simple math. For this reason, some therapists prefer a clock-in-clock-out pay format (if you’re wondering what the mean hourly wage is for physical therapists across the nation, it’s $43.35). Employers can benefit from this kind of structure, too: research shows that hourly wage earners report higher levels of job satisfaction than those working on salary—and happier employees typically are more productive employees.

3. A DPT doesn’t necessarily equal more dough.

Are you a practicing PT playing around with the idea of entering a post-professional doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program? You might want to think twice if salary is your top motivation for earning a more advanced degree. Just hop on a Reddit or Facebook chat and there is no shortage of complaints and rabbit holes to go down on this subject (just beware the trolls). Unfortunately, there are several headwinds in the way of advanced degrees (like DPTs) making more than the BS or Masters in PT—starting with health insurance payments. The better barometer for increased pay continues to be a therapist’s number of years in clinical practice, which plays a much larger role in determining salary than their educational level.

4. Traveling PTs can make bank.

Travel physical therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve got the itch to get out and do some exploring, then it might be worth considering. Travel therapy positions usually pay an hourly wage that is significantly higher compared to permanent positions. Plus, these jobs typically come with added benefits like paid housing, transportation, and food. Speaking of paid housing, Steve Stockhausen, PT, OCS, recommends that traveling PTs always take the full housing stipend—as opposed to letting a recruiting agency find them a place to live. According to Stockhausen, with a little leg work, you’ll find a great spot that fits your lifestyle and costs less than the stipend, enabling you to keep the difference. Plus, that money is “tax-free and often makes up the lion’s share of your weekly paycheck,” he said. Beyond that non-salary benefit, some contracts even include health and dental insurance, although you’ll need to consider that as an additional cost if you’re looking at a compensation package that does not offer insurance benefits.

Want More Information on Physical Therapist Salary?

These tips are just a sampling of things to consider as you think about compensation in the physical therapy industry. In our blog post 4 Factors Affecting Your Physical Therapist Salary, we go in-depth on factors impacting your potential pay. For the most in-depth look at physical therapist salary, we have a free downloadable Physical Therapist Salary guide with more details on setting, geography, and more.

And, if you need a little more reading and resources regarding PT salaries, the WebPT Blog has resources for negotiating a PT job offer—be that right out of school or just switching jobs—or for approaching your manager when looking for a PT salary increase. While you’re there, take a moment to check out why WebPT is the leader in Practice Experience Management (PXM) offering a software partnership that promises to engage patients, drive patient and provider satisfaction, and level up your business.

Download your PT Salary Guide now.

Enter your email address below, and we’ll send you a free breakdown of national PT salary data, including averages for each state and lists of the top-paying regions and clinical settings.


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