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Career Definition for a Health Therapist
Health therapists improve the quality of life of their patients by treating conditions, such as hearing loss, speech and language difficulties, physical disease, injuries affecting movement and other physical and mental conditions that affect a patient's quality of life. Health therapists specialize in fields such as audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy and speech-language pathology, according to the National Institute of Health. Health therapy is practiced in clinics, hospitals, private practice offices, schools, and patients' homes.
|Education||Varies by position, though a master's degree or doctoral degree is the typical requirement; respiratory therapists only need an associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Job Skills||Analytical, communication, observation, problem solving|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$79,480 (all health diagnosing and treating practitioners)|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||16% (all health diagnosing and treating practitioners)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Health therapy jobs as audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists require master's or doctoral degrees in the particular specialty field and completion of a licensing exam. Respiratory therapist positions most frequently require a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy, though an associate's degree is sufficient for some entry-level positions.
Work as a health therapist requires good observation skills for noting the results of tests and responses to treatment. Occupational and physical therapists are frequently on their feet working with patients, requiring sufficient levels of fitness. Health therapists must be good at communicating with their patients, their patients' families, and other health professionals.
Career and Economic Outlook
The job growth for health therapists in general is expected to be faster than average during the 2016-2026 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Audiologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists are projected to be especially in demand. Salaries in the health therapy fields vary, and in 2017 respiratory therapists earned a median annual wage of $59,710, audiologists earned $75,920, speech-language pathologists made $76,610, occupational therapists earned $83,200, and physical therapists earned a median salary of $86,850. In 2017, the BLS reported all health diagnosing and treating practitioners earned a median annual wage of $79,480.
Check out similar occupations that involve helping patients with treatment and therapy, including physical therapy assistant and exercise physiologist.
Physical Therapist Assistant
For those who want to aid in the physical rehabilitation of the sick and injured but do not wish to pursue a graduate degree, becoming a physical therapist assistant could be a good fit. These assistants carry out the treatment plan designed by physical therapists and help patients with exercise routines, stretching and other treatment protocols. They also educate patients about how to use equipment such as crutches, braces and walkers. To gain employment in this field an associate degree from an accredited physical therapy assistant program is generally required, and every state except Hawaii requires licensure by passing an exam. According to the BLS, job opportunities for PT assistants should grow by 31% during the 2016-2026 decade. These professionals received $57,430 in median wages in 2017, as measured by the BLS.
Similar to the duties of a physical therapist, an exercise physiologist uses exercise and other fitness techniques to assist patients in gaining strength and mobility following injury or illness. They also operate medical devices measuring heart health, body fat and other health indicators, and then use the data to create customized fitness programs. A bachelor's degree in a related field of study is the minimum education necessary to gain employment, and several states also require licensing of exercise physiologists. Employment of these professionals is expected to grow 13% from 2016-2026, and the BLS also estimated in 2017 that they earned a median salary of $49,090.