Physical therapists, pat yourselves on the back—you made a great career decision. Between the excellent job security and the killer perks, physical therapy is an incredible field to be in right now. Of course, like any profession, PT is not without its drawbacks. And if you encounter more than your fair share of those obstacles back to back, it can often lead to burnout. That’s why it’s so important to step back once in a while and reflect on why PT is still a great industry to be in. With that in mind, here are six reasons why there’s never been a better time to be a PT:
1. Physical therapists have a stellar job outlook.
If you’re looking for a career that’ll be in demand for the long haul—even in a struggling job market or a down economy—then physical therapy just might be the ticket. With baby boomers now hitting retirement age—and with the growing incidence of musculoskeletal illnesses in the United States—the demand for physical therapists is higher than ever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects PT demand to soar by a jaw-dropping 28% between 2016 and 2026—well above the average job growth rate—and add 67,100 more jobs to the field.
2. Physical therapy offers flexibility.
When we talk about flexibility and PT, we’re not just referring to your patients’ range of motion. No matter what your interests are, if you care about health and wellness, there’s a PT niche for you. Whether that be traveling with ballet dancers, helping pediatric patients gain function, or working with patients in their homes, PTs work with a variety of people from all walks of life. They can also choose from a wide array of locations and settings, including:
- private practices,
- outpatient clinics,
- home health agencies,
- employer settings,
- sports and fitness sites, and
- nursing homes.
Therapists can also choose a full-time, part-time, or per diem schedule—a level of flexibility few career paths can afford. Caught the travel bug? As this article from New Grad Physical Therapy states, “Per diem physical therapists can work as little as one day per month in some facilities. You could take a 3 week trip to Italy, then come home and still have a job that pays well.”
3. A PT job keeps you active.
As of 2016, about 40% of American workers spend their workday sitting. Numerous studies have shown the damaging effects that desk jobs have on the human body, including an increased risk of arthritis, diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorders. Physical therapists, on the other hand, are always on the move. Plus, PTs have the unique ability to use their day job to stay fit and healthy. Whether they’re performing planks with their patients or hopping on the clinic treadmill at lunch, opportunities to stay active are always within reach. Not an exercise fiend? That’s okay! Even being on your feet and away from a desk for most of the day keeps your posture healthy and your joints in good shape. And in an era when healthcare spending is higher than ever, there’s never been a more auspicious time to get in a few extra steps at work.
4. Direct access is making PTs more accessible to patients than ever.
Back in days gone by, physical therapists couldn’t so much as evaluate a patient without first receiving a physician’s referral. Fortunately, a lot has changed, and now all 50 states allow patients some form of direct access to PT services. Not only does this present therapists with an opportunity to market themselves as first-line providers, but it also affords them the ability to provide timely, proactive care to patients who otherwise might have waited weeks—or even months—for therapy in the past. And of course, the sooner a PT can address an injury or issue, the better the outcome.
5. The opioid crisis is creating an increased demand for PTs.
According to a recent study conducted by Boston University, low back pain patients who accessed conservative therapies first were “75% to 90% less likely to have short or long-term exposure to opioids.” As WebPT president and co-founder Heidi Jannenga mentions in this post for Evidence in Motion, in light of this data, “our profession is standing in front of a huge opportunity to change the way payers view our services.” In fact, this data has already been the catalyst for change: UnitedHealthcare—one of the largest healthcare payers around—has already implemented policies that make PTs more accessible to patients. But payers aren’t the only ones to whom this data matters: this past October, President Trump signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which is a joint effort between the current administration and private sector and non-profit partners to fight back against the opioid crisis. As part of this initiative, there is a call for increased education on effective opioid alternatives for pain management. And considering how effective physical therapy is for managing chronic pain, the entire profession is standing before a unique opportunity.
6. PTs have immense job satisfaction.
Per the results of our 2018 industry survey, an overwhelming majority of PTs said that they do, in fact, like their jobs. This is pretty consistent with data collected by Forbes, which named physical therapy as one of the 10 “happiest jobs” in both 2011 and 2013. So, why do so many PTs love their jobs? Well, job security and flexibility aside, we think this speaks to the innate caregiving instinct all PTs seem to possess—and the fact that they get to actually work directly with patients and see the positive impact of that work firsthand. And what could be more gratifying than knowing you’re truly making a difference in patients’ lives?
So, congrats, physical therapists! You’ve got one of the best jobs out there—and we hope it’s easy to see why. Did we miss anything? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below!