Does your neighbor’s endless bragging about their travels from Tuscany to Taiwan leave you green with envy? Do you feel like you’ve heard enough about your cousin’s RV camping adventures across the country? Do you wish your career let you travel the world in your spare time? If your need for exploration aligns with your desire to share your physical therapy skills, traveling physical therapy could be your calling. After all, a career in travel PT:
- Offers journeys to diverse locales,
- Provides scheduling flexibility,
- Fosters incredible earning potential, and
- Invites you to learn new skills and share the ones you have.
But you can’t just pack up your gear and go without knowing what you’re getting into—right? Before dusting off that luggage you’ve been stowing the dark recesses of your garage or closet, however, take a look at the pros and cons of this trending PT career path to determine if it’s right for you. With any luck, you may be able to venture out sooner than you think!
Pros of Travel PT
You can satiate your wanderlust.
For those who enjoy traveling, this is one of the biggest—and most obvious—perks of a traveling physical therapist job. And, while you may not always make it to Tuscany or Taiwan, plenty of opportunities await stateside. Many traveling PTs have found themselves practicing their craft in smaller off-the-beaten-path towns as much as they have in bigger cities.
You can flex your schedule.
As a travel PT, you—and only you—determine your schedule. Traditional vacation and time-off requests simply don’t exist in this niche. So if you feel like taking a two-month break, you can! If you want to take that summer-long backpacking trip through Europe, have at it! The tradeoff, however, is that when you are on the job, you’ll be at the mercy of your employers’ schedule and clinical expectations. And often, you’ll have to hit the ground running as soon as you arrive at your destination. But, as most traveling PTs will attest, it’s a small price to pay for the overall flexibility the job provides.
There’s amazing earning potential.
According to a story published by the APTA, traveling physical therapy positions can pay between 15% and 20% more than permanent physical therapy jobs. And, ZipRecruiter reports the average traveling physical therapist salary lands at $94,583 per year. Additionally, travel PTs are reimbursed for housing, licensure, and other travel fees—and they are also often provided with health and dental insurance. But, even beyond the perks of better salary and living expense reimbursements, travel therapy can offer tax advantages, too. Qualifying traveling PTs may be eligible for non-taxable per diem budgets for meals and incidentals (as well as lodging stipends in some cases).
You gain access to diverse practice opportunities.
Travel PT experiences run the gamut given that PTs may practice at a workers’ compensation clinic one month and treat patients with traumatic brain injuries in another location the next. Outpatient clinics, schools, nursing homes, and fitness centers all serve as possible practice settings, too. Few work days are ever alike, and traveling PTs have the opportunity to improve their skill sets from exposure to different clinical environments and a range of specialties and niches.
Plus, working in different settings also benefits the teams you work with. It provides you with the opportunity to showcase a variety of skills and tap clinical approaches that may be new to them.
Cons of Travel PT
Licensure can get tricky.
As you know, PTs must have a license for each state they practice in. This can be challenging when your travel schedule has you going to multiple states in a short period of time. Paperwork must be filed, fees paid, etc. In an effort to make the process less burdensome for travel PTs, the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact reduces regulatory barriers that inhibit PTs from practicing in multiple states. However, not all states are part of the PT Compact (yet), so do your due diligence to ensure you’re eligible to practice in any state you travel to. You will need to apply, submit a fee, and potentially include other collateral (e.g., letters of good standing from your other licenses, NPTE, test scores) to secure a license.
Recruiter relationships require careful consideration.
Recruiters are your lifeline to physical therapy traveling jobs. You need them and they need you. But unlike traveling PTs, recruiters are typically paid exclusively on commission. So, how do you know which recruiters to trust? Start by partnering with a reliable vetting source. Nomadicare, for example, is a third-party advocate of traveling workers. Their primary prerogative is to vet recruiters so professional travelers don’t have to.
After doing your homework, try to build solid relationships with at least two to three reliable recruiters to ensure a steady flow of work.
Travel mishaps happen.
As with any form of travel, flights get canceled, weather disrupts driving plans, and other unpredictable events occur. With traveling PTs, it’s not uncommon to have a long commute (sometimes an hour-plus)—especially if you’re in a remote area. Some traveling PTs have also confessed to traveling great distances, only for their intended post cancel last minute (although this is a fairly rare occurrence).
As long as you embrace flexibility and adaptability, however, travel mishaps are less harrowing than you might think. And if you take the right precautions, like ensuring you have a two- or four-week notice built into your contract, you’ll be able to avoid these travel missteps altogether.
Loneliness is a real thing.
It’s not uncommon for travel PTs to feel lonely or untethered—even those who bring their families along for the ride. But, there are methods that help eliminate these sensations. For example, some traveling PTs have found it helpful to join or create support groups on social media—and to attend meetups with fellow travelers. Plus, there’s a considerable chance you’ll be too busy as a traveling PT to feel lonely in the first place!er
While travel PT may not be the career direction for everyone out there, it’s a legitimate alternative to settling down in one location. Who knows? Maybe it’s the perfect career path for you!
If you’re a traveling physical therapist—or interested in becoming one—we’d love to hear from you. Please drop your thoughts and questions below and we will be sure to answer! If you want to speak directly to our WebPT team, you can do that here.