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How Much Does a Physical Therapist Make a Year?

By Susan Guillory · January 25, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How Much Does a Physical Therapist Make a Year?

The median salary for a physical therapy is $97,720, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While that’s seen as a good salary in most parts of the country, money isn’t the only factor to consider if you’re thinking about a career as a physical therapist. You’ll also want to weigh the potential rewards (you can help people feel better) and drawbacks (the work can be physically taxing).

Let’s take a closer look.

What Are Physical Therapists?

A physical therapist (PT) is a wellness provider who specializes in the body’s physical movements. An athlete might see a physical therapist after sustaining an injury. Or a stroke patient might visit one to regain the ability to walk.

It can take about seven or eight years of study to become a PT, including four years of undergraduate study and three years to complete a doctor of physical therapy program.

PTs need to be physically able to support patients who cannot carry their own weight. It also helps if they’re outgoing, since they work with patients all day long. (Prefer a career where you don’t have to deal with people? Consider a job for introverts.)

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How Much Do Starting Physical Therapists Make?

If you’re exploring the profession, you may wonder what a good entry-level salary is for a new physical therapist. Salaries for physical therapists fresh out of school run the gamut from $57,351 to $92,416, with the average salary coming in around $72,897.

The amount you make will likely depend on where you live, where you work, and your assigned tasks. The more experience you gain as a physical therapist, the more money you may be able to make.


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What Is the Average Salary for a Physical Therapist?

Like most fields, physical therapy tends to pay more as you gain more experience. So how much does a physical therapist make a year?

Some PTs get paid by the hour, while others earn an annual salary. You can look at salary vs. hourly incomes to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each.

On average, a physical therapist makes around $46.98 per hour, though that rate can range from $32.65 to $61.94. In terms of salary, a typical physical therapist can earn anywhere from $67,910 to $128,839; the median salary is $97,720.

What is the Average Physical Therapist Salary by State for 2023?

A physical therapist’s pay can vary widely based on where they work. Here’s a look at how much a physical therapist makes per year in each state, from highest to lowest.

State

Average Salary

California $106,493
Alaska $95,954
Washington $88,437
Nevada $85,244
Hawaii $81,840
Massachusetts $79,796
Oregon $78,937
New Jersey $78,760
Minnesota $77,587
Arizona $77,008
Connecticut $76,988
Delaware $76,926
Rhode Island $76,918
Maryland $76,765
Wyoming $76,240
New Hampshire $76,203
Virginia $75,627
Illinois $75,232
Mississippi $75,221
Idaho $74,891
New York $74,295
New Mexico $74,292
Nebraska $74,016
Alabama $73,562
Louisiana $73,531
Texas $72,675
Colorado $72,634
Oklahoma $71,849
Wisconsin $71,769
South Carolina $71,724
Michigan $71,589
Pennsylvania $71,255
North Carolina $70,975
Indiana $70,909
Georgia $70,314
North Dakota $70,298
Maine $70,091
Kansas $69,896
Kentucky $69,892
Utah $69,855
Ohio $69,275
Montana $69,053
Tennessee $68,632
Missouri $68,447
West Virginia $67,957
Iowa $67,671
Florida $67,478
South Dakota $66,170
Vermont $65,309
Arkansas $64,149

Source: Zippia

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Physical Therapist Job Considerations for Pay and Benefits

When you’re figuring out competitive pay for a PT, you’ll want to weigh a number of factors. For starters, where you live and work can greatly impact how much you get paid. Your area of specialty can also play a role in how much you earn. Oncology, pediatrics, sports medicine, orthopedics, and rehabilitation all come with their specific roles, responsibilities, and salary ranges.

You may find that your salary goes up if you oversee other employees. And your income may also change depending on whether you decide to work for someone else or open your own practice.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of Being a Physical Therapist

As with any job, there are benefits and drawbacks to being a physical therapist.

Pros

One big draw to consider is the potential salary, which can be fairly high no matter where you live. You’ll also have the opportunities to help people on the road to recovery after an injury or illness, which can be gratifying.

Another plus? Flexibility. PTs can often choose to work full time or part time. And if you’re open to hitting the road for work, there are jobs available for traveling physical therapists.

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Cons

As anyone who’s ever been to physical therapy before can attest, the work can be physically taxing. You’ll need to be able-bodied so you can help support patients during their visits.

Something else to consider? The job typically involves a great deal of paperwork — think logging detailed notes on each patient, handling administrative work, and corresponding with providers.

And then there are the additional years of school you’ll have to go through before you can start working. The cost of a doctor of physical therapy program varies, but tuition for a three-year program can be around $66,000 for an in-state public institution. If you plan on attending a private program, you could end up paying upwards of $113,000 or more. You’ll need to find a way to either cover these costs on your own or take out a student loan, which you’ll have to repay.

Whether you’re figuring out how to pay for the extra schooling or how to maximize your income, creating a budget is a good place to start. An online spending app can help take the guesswork out of the job.

The Takeaway

A career in physical therapy requires additional schooling, but the potential rewards can be worth it. Not only would you be helping people regain their strength and mobility, you may also enjoy work-life balance and a good salary.

FAQ

What is the highest paying physical therapist job?

On the high end, experienced physical therapists can earn around $128,830 per year.

Do physical therapists make $100k a year?

Yes, some physical therapists can earn $100,000 a year or more, depending on their experience and responsibilities.

How much do physical therapists make starting out?

On average, new physical therapists can expect to earn about $72,897 per year.


Photo credit: iStock/andresr

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