Physical therapists are in the business of reducing pain and improving people’s lives through manual rehabilitative therapy. A physiotherapist career is a rewarding one with countless perks and benefits with a few potential challenges to consider. In this article, we will go over the top pros and cons of being a physical therapist to help determine if physiotherapy is the right career for you.
A Recap of Physical Therapy
Before diving into the challenges and benefits of being a physical therapist, let’s quickly recap what physiotherapy is. Physical therapists are medical professionals who work with patients that have suffered traumatic injuries or have physical disabilities to restore mobility, improve balance, and reduce chronic pain. They do so through a variety of hands-on approaches, including:
- Joint mobilization and manipulation
- Functional massage
- Acupuncture and kinesiology taping
- Guided exercises
- Aquatic therapy (hydrotherapy)
- Heat and cold therapy
- Posture and gait training
Pros and Cons of Being a Physical Therapist
If you’re considering a career in physical therapy, you want to know the pros and cons beforehand. So here are four advantages and four disadvantages of becoming a PT.
What are some Pros?
These are a few of the many reasons why you’ll love becoming a physical therapist:
Physical therapy is one of the fastest-growing careers in the medical field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a whopping 21% employment growth between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the average profession. PT is also considered one of the most enjoyable careers: according to US News & World Report, physiotherapy positions are rated as the 10th best jobs in healthcare and the 28th most rewarding jobs across all fields.
Great Earning Potential
As one of the most sought-after professions, physiotherapy is also very well paid. In 2020, the median physical therapist salary was a little over $91,000. The lowest-paid 25% made an average of $73,350. Physiotherapists also have plenty of opportunities to increase their earnings by pursuing specializations, such as:
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary
Variety of Working Environments
One of the greatest things about being a physical therapist is that you can put your skills to work in a variety of settings beyond a hospital or a private practice. These places include but are not limited to:
- Gyms/fitness centers
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Sports organizations
- Corporate settings
- Military facilities
- Nursing homes
- Patient’s homes
Get Paid to Travel
Great news! If you love meeting new people and exploring new places, a career in physical therapy allows you to take your skills on the road so you can see the country while helping people from all walks of life. As a traveling PT, you have the flexibility to determine your schedule and take on the assignments that interest you the most. And there’s also the impressive earning potential: a recent survey found that traveling physical therapist positions pay between 15 and 20% more than permanent PT jobs.
What are some Cons?
There are, of course, some disadvantages to keep in mind when considering a career in physical therapy.
Physical therapists often deal with vulnerable patients who are working to overcome significant health obstacles. For example, the patient might have been through a traumatic accident or a prolonged illness. Connecting with individuals in this way through the treatment process can often place a significant emotional strain on the physical therapist. The patient might also be in pain while trying to complete their physical therapy, placing additional strain on the relationship between you and the patient.
Significant Physical Demands
A physical therapist is often tasked with physically supporting the patient as they complete their therapy. As a PT, you can be required to lift patients out of their beds and help support them as they walk or perform floor exercises during their treatment. Therapists are on their feet throughout the treatment phase, guiding the patient to achieve their physical health objectives. And this can often mean they are tired and sore after a long working day.
Long working hours come with the territory for physical therapy jobs. Like most medical care industries, the job of the physical therapist isn’t usually completed on a 9-to-5 basis. Depending on your place of work, you may have to begin work early in the morning to treat patients according to the patient’s unique schedules. And maybe then stay late at night to complete the paperwork required. Those going into the physical therapy profession should be aware that their work is ongoing and physically tiring.
Extensive Educational Requirements
In addition to the day-to-day challenges of physical therapy jobs, it’s also important to consider the requirements of the role in the context of the care industry. Because research in the physical therapy field is ongoing, new developments are being made in the way treatments are completed. And this often means that physical therapists have to undergo new training and certifications to use the latest systems and apply the latest techniques in their practice.
It’s also worth mentioning that the road to becoming a physical therapist is quite long and requires extensive education. To start a career as a PT, you’ll need to:
- Earn a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as exercise science, biology, health science, chemistry, anatomy, or psychology.
- Complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program
- Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)
- Get licensed to practice
- Complete a residency program earn a specialization in your area of choice (optional)
- Get board certified (optional)
Alternatively, a simpler and faster path is to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA). PTA programs are shorter and slightly less competitive, so it’s easier to get accepted. They also have the added benefit of not requiring you to attain a bachelor’s degree. The biggest difference between being a PT and a PTA is that PTs are responsible for diagnosing and designing patient treatment plans. In contrast, PTAs are only allowed to implement (but not create) said plans.
TheraEx Takes the Stress Out of the Job Search
Physical therapy is a richly rewarding industry for healthcare professionals who are passionate about helping people of all ages overcome physical disabilities and become more independent. It allows you to help patients get back to optimal condition and minimize discomfort through a variety of tools and techniques.
The field of physical therapy is immensely challenging and yet highly rewarding for motivated individuals. If you’re considering a career in the industry and are ready to take on the many responsibilities and challenges that come with the position, speak to our team now about the opportunities available to you.