Physical therapists are empathetic by nature. As such, most didn’t get into the PT profession to make bank. That being said, empathy doesn’t pay the bills. Luckily, the impact you make on your patients’ lives actually does. You get paid to treat patients. Now, how much you get paid—i.e., the salary you receive from your place of employment—to treat those patients depends on a lot of factors. Let’s examine:

Defensible Documentation Toolkit - Regular BannerDefensible Documentation Toolkit - Small Banner

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, say, 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, 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 ($124,060), according to a 2013 US News Salary Outlook. 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 PhysicalTherapySalary.org, and the second lowest ($68,900), according to healthcarewages.org.

Curious as to salary rates by state? Check out this 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. “Entry-level physical therapists made an average of $66,545 in 2011, whereas PTs with 16 or more years of experience earned an average salary of $84,656. A therapist who falls somewhere between these two extremes...should expect to earn a salary somewhere near the national median of $79,860,” explains Brooke Andrus in this 2013 blog postThis interactive chart on PayScale.com—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? As detailed in this recent WebPT blog post, physical therapy students must now obtain doctorate-level degrees in order to practice, which essentially levels the playing field for all entry-level 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 this 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. In fact, according to TherapyJobs.com, only 25% of therapists with DPTs believe ‘the advanced degree has increased their earnings.’” Moral of the story: Currently, years of experience trumps 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. According to Onward Healthcare, “travel therapy jobs pay higher salaries to professionals due to the elevated needs of the [hiring] facility.” How much higher? According to this chart, there are some instances where annual salaries for traveling therapists and assistants are nearly double those associated with permanent positions. Of course, PTs interested in travel work must take into account the cost of living in various locations. Furthermore, as this article explains, travel salaries also strongly depend on contract length, the number of contracts in a year, and the specific details of your individual contract. That being said, “Travel PTs that work with agencies enjoy many intangibles, including free private housing, medical, dental, and life insurance, malpractice insurance, travel & licensure reimbursement, a 401(k), and continued employment services,” explains Onward Healthcare.

4. Practice Setting

Another factor that contributes to salary rates for physical therapists: where you treat. According to PayScale.com, home health, long-term care, home care, and geriatric facilities are the highest paying PT areas. US News confirms this in its 2013 Salary Outlook: “The highest wages go to physical therapists working in schools, home health care or nursing care facilities.” And on average, those annual wages are $96,810, $94,600, and $88,890 respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Keep in mind that the above list of factors isn’t inclusive. In fact, your salary outlook is a lot like a snowflake: wholly unique. After all, your application, interview skills, clinical style, networking abilities, and professional relationships all can 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.


Now, if you’re wondering if you’re over- or underpaid in your current position, there are plenty of salary wizards and comparison calculators out there. But, again, all of those calculations are based on industry data and do not account for the snowflake nuances. Still, knowing industry averages for your level of education, experience, location, and setting certainly help during salary negotiations, so do your research and arm yourself with data appropriately. But remember, while money is nice, it isn’t everything. 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, team fit, management, treatment setting and patient population, schedule flexibility, learning opportunities, and potential for career growth in lieu of dollar symbols.

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.

Please enable JavaScript to submit form.
  • Everything I Wish I’d Known Before Opening My PT Practice Image

    articleJul 30, 2018 | 18 min. read

    Everything I Wish I’d Known Before Opening My PT Practice

    A little more than three years ago, Kaci Monroe realized her dream of opening her own physical therapy private practice (to learn more about Kaci’s entrepreneurial journey, check out this blog post ). Since then, she’s grown her small, Bigfork, Montana-based clinic into a very successful—and very busy—operation. So busy, in fact, that she decided to open a second location this past year. Oh, and she also remodeled a house, had a baby, and sped her way …

  • 4 Surprising Factors Potential PT Hires Want in a Job Image

    articleApr 25, 2018 | 5 min. read

    4 Surprising Factors Potential PT Hires Want in a Job

    When you’re looking to hire a new physical therapist, you clearly want to find the best one possible: someone who is competent, committed to lifelong learning, conscientious, and caring. During the the search process, you probably pore over average salaries in your area , doing everything you can to ensure you’re providing a competitive payment and benefit package . After all, most PTs want the best possible compensation, right? Well, that’s partially true. With the cost of …

  • 4 Reasons Your Staff Therapists are Unmotivated Image

    articleJun 7, 2018 | 5 min. read

    4 Reasons Your Staff Therapists are Unmotivated

    Treating patients is equal parts challenging and rewarding, which is one of the reasons physical therapy is such a fulfilling profession . But if you’re noticing that your therapists’ motivation is lagging a bit, it’s important to understand why. Here are four reasons why physical therapists’ motivation can decrease, as well as steps you can take to make things better.   Their compensation is based solely on productivity. The Problem Nobody likes being reduced to a billing …

  • 5 Ways to Bring Your Company Culture to Life Image

    articleJan 22, 2014 | 5 min. read

    5 Ways to Bring Your Company Culture to Life

    Too often, company culture is like a bad romance; it starts out hot but later fizzles when other distractions get in the way. Like any lasting relationship, though, an enduring company culture requires a continuous investment of time, effort, and attention. Sure, it’s important to identify and record your cultural values , but words without action are just letters on a page. Culture—at least the kind you want—doesn’t just happen on it’s own. It’s up to you …

  • Employee Engagement: Your Most Important Business Initiative Image

    articleJul 5, 2018 | 5 min. read

    Employee Engagement: Your Most Important Business Initiative

    What single business initiative can make your employees want to work harder for you, while inspiring them to be happier than ever with their jobs? Hint: The answer is not more money . The answer is increasing employee engagement . This is possibly the single most important part of an owner or manager’s duties. To tackle this job, we must start with creating unparalleled company culture . Wikipedia defines company culture as “the character of the organization; …

  • The 2018 Rehab Therapy Salary Report Image

    downloadAug 24, 2018

    The 2018 Rehab Therapy Salary Report

    While all the information we obtained in our 2018 annual industry survey was incredibly useful, the information regarding salary has been—as you might imagine—highly sought-after. After all, who doesn’t want to ensure they’re maximizing their earning potential? Thus, we decided to take all the data we collected about individual provider earnings and compile it into this stand-alone rehab therapy salary report. Enter your email below, and we’ll send you The 2018 Rehab Therapy Salary Report today, so …

  • The No-Stress Formula to Successful Hiring Image

    articleJan 25, 2016 | 2 min. read

    The No-Stress Formula to Successful Hiring

    Does the pressure of filling an open job position have you sweating bullets? Matching a candidate’s skills and abilities to a particular role is no easy feat, but my hiring process strategy can help you shed some of the stress. Physical therapists have a process for just about everything—except hiring. And not having a comprehensive hiring process can be costly for your practice—not only in terms of money, but also with respect to morale. After all, there’s …

  • articleJun 11, 2013 | 6 min. read

    6 Ways to Retain Top-Tier Talent

    You’ve whipped your clinic into shape, beefed up your benefits package, gotten your head in the game, and asked the right questions. Now, you’ve got a rockstar team made up of some very top-tier talent . So how do you keep ‘em happy and committed to your clinic? Here are six ways to retain top talent: Give your employees a purpose. Gone are the days when all employees cared about was a paycheck. Today’s employees want to …

  • 5 Tips for Maximizing your Travel PT Lifestyle Image

    articleSep 29, 2016 | 7 min. read

    5 Tips for Maximizing your Travel PT Lifestyle

    Life as a traveling therapist has numerous perks: the freedom to live in various places across the country, multiple clinic settings to choose from, and of course, higher pay. But the most exciting benefit is the ability to take full control over your career and design the work-life balance you’ve always hoped for. Over the last few years, my wife and I (both therapists) have made it our goal to live in places others only visit on …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.