Physical Therapist Salary: How to Decide If It’s Worth the Debt

Bodily therapists (PT) are extremely expert and well-trained professionals who assist sufferers get well from damage, sickness or incapacity. Because the U.S. inhabitants ages, bodily therapists’ job outlook is powerful. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment for bodily therapists in the USA will develop 18% from 2019 to 2029, a lot quicker than common.

Along with projected job progress, incomes potential within the profession and the common price of training for bodily therapists are necessary elements.

Since 2015, the American Bodily Remedy Affiliation has required bodily therapists to earn a Doctorate of Bodily Remedy (DPT) in an effort to sit for the license examination and obtain certification. And it’s been an accreditation requirement for bodily remedy faculties since 2016. This will add one other three years of faculty.

Extra college, in fact, means extra tuition. And extra tuition normally results in extra scholar loans. Right here’s how a bodily therapist wage stacks up towards scholar loans.

Bodily therapists graduate with extra scholar loans than anticipated

A 2020 APTA survey of PTs and bodily remedy assistants (PTA) discovered that graduates have a mean of $110,000 in scholar debt that’s instantly associated to their PT training. Additional, 9 in 10 bodily therapists have a cumulative debt load of practically $153,000 (excluding mortgage debt).

The issue isn’t remoted to DPT graduates both. The survey discovered that almost 50% of PTAs find yourself with scholar debt, too, with a mean scholar mortgage steadiness of $24,308. These excessive numbers match up with the coed debt totals Scholar Mortgage Planner® consultants have seen from working towards bodily remedy purchasers.

Placing bodily therapist debt into perspective

The typical debt for bachelor’s diploma graduates in the USA is $29,900. For the sake of instance, let’s say you ended up with $110,000 in scholar loans after graduating together with your D.P.T. That will be an additional $80,100 in scholar debt than the nationwide common.

As we’ll see in a second, bodily therapist salaries haven’t been rising as shortly as scholar loans. Brett Kestenbaum, Chief Working Officer of Covalent Careers, a well being care professionals profession improvement firm in San Diego, is nervous this might trigger bodily therapists to start abandoning bodily remedy as a profession path.

He says, “With the debt-to-earnings ratio growing, bodily therapists will probably begin in search of different sources of earnings. This may increasingly trigger a rise in skilled drop-out charges over time.”

How a lot does a bodily therapist make?

The median bodily therapist wage in the USA is round $89,000 (an hourly wage of $43). However how does that examine to the common faculty graduate with out a sophisticated diploma? In line with the BLS, the common wage for a school graduate is true round $73,000 a 12 months.

So, on common, DPTs earn an additional $16,000 in annual earnings. If we assume you’re capable of maintain this earnings as a bodily therapist in your complete 30-year profession, that’s a complete of $480,000 in added wages.

Up to now, that’s a fairly nice return on an additional $80,000 in scholar debt. However there are nonetheless extra elements to think about.


Keep in mind these earnings are going to be taxed in the USA. If we assume a tax charge of 40%, then $192,000 will find yourself in Uncle Sam’s pocket as an alternative of your individual.

That leaves us with an precise distinction of $288,000. So now we’re speaking about you having an additional $288,000 in earnings to repay the additional $80,000 in scholar debt.

Once more, doesn’t appear to be a foul deal on the floor.


What nonetheless hasn’t been taken under consideration but is curiosity price. Many scholar mortgage debtors spend 20 to 25 years paying off their huge loans. And curiosity will proceed to accrue annually they’re not paid off.

Delayed investments

One other factor to think about is the investments (like homeownership or 401k contributions) you would possibly delay due to the restricted money circulate that your scholar mortgage funds trigger.

Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at what scholar mortgage reimbursement appears like for a bodily therapist.

Bodily therapist scholar mortgage reimbursement choices

Let’s say Jared has $100,000 in scholar loans at 6%. His bodily therapist beginning wage is $70,000. Let’s additionally say that Jared just isn’t married and that his earnings will develop at 3% per 12 months.

Now, let’s examine 4 completely different fee choices:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Public Service Mortgage Forgiveness (PSLF)
  • Refinancing right into a 10-year fastened charge at 3.5%

Instantly, you’ll discover PSLF is by far the most suitable choice. This can be a game-changer for many who can qualify. Not solely does PSLF permit debtors to have their loans forgiven 10 years sooner than PAYE, however the forgiven quantity just isn’t taxed.

However what if Jared is unable to seek out employment at a nonprofit hospital or needs to open his personal follow?

Finest bodily therapist reimbursement choices when PSLF is unavailable

On this case, Jared’s subsequent best choice financially could be to refinance into a brand new 10-year non-public scholar mortgage at 3.5%. But when money circulate is Jared’s greatest concern, then his most suitable option could be PAYE.

Firstly of reimbursement, PAYE would liberate practically $700 in Jared’s month-to-month price range over refinancing. But PAYE would additionally price $36,000 lower than REPAYE over the lifetime of the mortgage.

Sure, you’ll pay practically $50,000 extra in whole out-of-pocket funds with PAYE over refinancing. However, do not forget that Jared would have an additional 10 years to make these funds. And within the meantime, his money circulate state of affairs could be much more manageable.

Increased scholar mortgage balances change the dialogue

If Jared owed $250,000 or extra, selecting an income-driven reimbursement plan would turn out to be extra of a no brainer.

At that time, PAYE would price barely greater than refinancing over the lifetime of the mortgage should you may embody tax bomb. However, bear in mind, month-to-month funds could be dramatically decrease all alongside the best way.

Is a bodily therapist wage definitely worth the debt?

In the case of whether or not or not a bodily therapist wage is definitely worth the scholar loans, there are three elements that must be thought-about:

  1. Value of the DPT program
  2. Location of employment
  3. Kind of job

Let’s check out all three elements to see how they alter the worth of training for bodily therapists.

Value of the DPT program

The easiest way to extend the probabilities that your wage might be definitely worth the debt is to lower the price of your bodily remedy training. As with most levels, the price of DPT packages relies upon largely on the place you go to highschool.

There’s an enormous disparity between the common annual tuition of DPT packages at state versus non-public faculties. Take a look at the newest information from CAPTE:

  • Public in-state: $18,514 (vary: $4,028 to $43,185)
  • Public out-of-state: $33,879 (vary: $10,371 to $61,026)
  • Non-public: $36,882 (vary: $21,152 to $72,220)

In the event you’re seeking to start a DPT program, all the time verify to see how a lot it could price to enroll in certainly one of your state faculties. There are a lot of high-quality state faculties that supply DPT levels for lower than $50,000 in whole.

In the event you occur to dwell in a state that doesn’t have a public college with a aggressive DPT program, enrolling in one other state’s college may nonetheless prevent cash over a non-public college.

Location of employment

The place bodily therapists work is one other main issue that may affect whether or not a PT profession is sensible financially. A bodily therapist beginning wage within the best-paying states may very well be increased than what veterans with 10 years of expertise make in lower-paying areas.

These are the highest 5 paying states for bodily therapist jobs, in line with the newest BLS information, together with their annual imply wages:

  • Nevada: $108,550
  • Alaska: $102,650
  • California: $99,920
  • New Jersey: $99,060
  • Connecticut: $98,780

New York, in the meantime, pays a middle-of-the-road imply bodily therapist wage of $90,880. That’s not horrible. However New York can also be the state with the second-highest price of dwelling and has one of many highest state earnings tax charges. Having merely a mean bodily therapist wage coupled with above-average bills is a foul mixture if you wish to repay scholar loans shortly.

Texas, alternatively, has a imply wage for bodily therapists that’s simply barely under New York’s ($89,630) with a price of dwelling that’s a lot higher. And, bear in mind, Texas residents don’t pay any state earnings tax.

The place you select to work as a bodily therapist additionally impacts your potential to personal your individual rehab clinic. Let’s say a bodily therapist in New York has $150,000 in debt. With an earnings of $80,000 to $95,000 and a excessive price of dwelling, saving up sufficient cash to personal an outpatient rehab might be robust.

For these causes, the bodily therapists that obtain probably the most monetary success are prone to be ones with a excessive stage of mobility. In the event you’re presently working towards in a low-pay (or, even worse, a low-pay and high-cost) state, shifting to a greater space may make an enormous distinction in how quickly you’re capable of attain your monetary targets.

Kind of job

The precise job you select inside bodily remedy could make an enormous distinction within the return you obtain out of your scholar loans. For instance, bodily therapists who personal their very own follow may make considerably greater than the nationwide common of $89,440.

Pursuing a bodily therapist specialty

There are presently 10 specialties which might be licensed by the American Board of Bodily Remedy Specialties. These are:

  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary
  • Medical Electrophysiologic
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports activities
  • Girls’s Well being
  • Wound Administration

Changing into board-certified in a specialization may improve your workforce desirability and quantity that employers or sufferers are prepared to pay in your providers.

Taking a journey bodily therapist place

Journey remedy is an alternative choice that’s rising in popularity. Journey therapists normally get their relocation prices lined, and their licensing charges and housing paid for as properly. And to high it off, touring therapists normally obtain significantly better pay!

Changing into a bodily therapist assistant

Whereas bodily therapists are required to attain a doctorate diploma, you solely want an affiliate’s diploma to turn out to be a PTA.

The typical bodily remedy assistant wage is sort of $48,990. Which will appear to be quite a bit much less cash than a bodily therapist makes. However consider we’re speaking about at the very least 5 fewer years of faculty and tuition price.

And don’t overlook that PTAs can begin really getting cash 5 years earlier as properly. Going with the common bodily remedy assistant wage of $48,990, that’s $244,950.

Sure, meaning a PTA may feasibly have already made practically $245,000 by the point a bodily therapist is simply ending their DPT program.

If changing into a PTA required a bachelor’s diploma, that might change this dialogue. However, for now, should you’re obsessed with bodily remedy and need to keep away from massive scholar loans, changing into a bodily remedy assistant is unquestionably value contemplating.

Bodily therapists want a plan for scholar mortgage reimbursement

It’s necessary to level out that funds aren’t the one issue to think about when selecting a occupation. Private satisfaction and a way that you just’re fulfilling your calling are necessary as properly.

Surveys have persistently discovered that almost all bodily therapists nonetheless love their jobs regardless of the tough monetary state of affairs many discovered themselves in. And the longer term progress expectations for the employment of bodily therapists are encouraging.

That mentioned, those that select a bodily remedy occupation want a plan to repay their scholar loans. Even in states the place it doesn’t appear to make sense to be a bodily therapist, you might be able to change that together with your scholar mortgage technique.

Scholar Mortgage Planner® has carried out over 5,000 scholar mortgage consults for purchasers with over $1.28 billion of scholar loans. Scholar Mortgage Planner® consultants will help you determine the optimum path in only one hour. Ebook a scholar mortgage session right now.

Refinance scholar loans, get a bonus in 2021
1 Disclosures
$1,050 BONUS1 For 100k+. $300 bonus for 50k to 99k.1
VISIT LAUREL ROAD Variable 1.64-5.65percent1 Mounted 2.25-5.75percent1

2 Disclosures
$1,050 BONUS2 For 100k+. $300 bonus for 50k to 99k.2
VISIT COMMONBOND Variable 2.49-6.84%%2 Mounted 2.59-6.74percent2

3 Disclosures
$1,000 BONUS3  For 100k or extra. $200 for 50k to $99,9993
VISIT EARNEST Variable 1.88-5.64percent3 Mounted 2.44-5.79percent3

4 Disclosures
$1,000 BONUS4 For 100k+. $300 bonus for 50k to 99k.4
VISIT SPLASH Variable 1.88-6.15percent4 Mounted 2.44-6.62percent4

5 Disclosures
$1,275 BONUS5  For 150k+. Tiered 300 to 575 bonus for 50k to 149k.5
VISIT ELFI Variable 2.39-6.01percent5 Mounted 2.47-5.99percent5

6 Disclosures
$1,000 BONUS6 For $100k or extra. $200 for $50k to $99,9996
VISIT SOFI Variable 2.25-6.59percent6 Mounted 2.49-6.94percent6

7 Disclosures
$1,250 BONUS7  $350 for 50k to 100k7
VISIT CREDIBLE Variable 1.80-8.90percent7 Mounted 2.15-9.15percent7

Unsure what to do together with your scholar loans?

Take our 11 query quiz to get a customized suggestion of whether or not it is best to pursue PSLF, IDR forgiveness, or refinancing (together with the one lender we predict may provide the finest charge).

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