Advancement Opportunities for Physical Therapists

Jan 02, 2019

Physical therapists work with patients to provide physical rehabilitation. Some may wish to use their experience to pursue managerial positions; or further their education to work as a specialized physical therapist or a physician.

Career Growth Opportunities for Physical Therapists

Physical therapists play an important role in increasing mobility and decreasing pain for patients who suffer from chronic or acute conditions. They might use modalities such as exercise or stretching to assist with these conditions, and some physical therapists specialize in working with specific populations. After working as a physical therapist, some may wish to advance to other positions in rehabilitation, either in a managerial or clinical role. Some examples are provided below.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)** Education or Experience
Certified Hand Therapist $78,733 28% (all physical therapists) Experience as physical therapist and examination
Physical Therapy Manager $81,358 41% (medical and health services managers in offices providing physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and audiology care) Experience as a physical therapist
Rehabilitation Services Director $96,865 0% (medical and health services managers in community and vocational rehabilitation) Experience as physical therapist
Orthopedic Surgeon $356,858 14% (all surgeons) Medical degree and residency

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Certified Hand Specialist

Physical therapists may wish to specialize in a specific area of physical therapy. One option to consider would be becoming a certified hand specialist. Hand therapists focus on the rehabilitation of the hand, wrist, and shoulder area. The certified hand therapist must assess the difficulty faced by the patient and provide appropriate therapy to improve function. The therapist must collaborate with other medical professionals. To become a certified hand therapist, the practitioner must have three years of clinical experience as a physical therapist or occupational therapist, have completed 4,000 hours of hand therapy, and passed an examination.

Physical Therapy Manager

Physical therapists may enjoy both client-centered work and the business side of a physical therapy practice. These professionals may enjoy furthering their career as a physical therapy manager. Physical therapy managers supervise the clinical work of physical therapists. In complex cases, physical therapy managers may consult as to the best course of practice. They are responsible for hiring and training of new staff members. Experience as a physical therapist and an understanding of management principles would be required for this position.

Rehabilitation Services Director

Physical therapists collaborate closely with other professionals in order to ensure the best care for their patients. Those who can do so effectively may wish to pursue a career as a rehabilitation services director. These managers help to create treatment plans covering a wide range of therapies, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling. They then oversee the therapists who are performing these services. Some rehabilitation services directors also provide direct therapy in their area of specialty. Directors provide the clearances required to release a patient back to their home. To become a rehabilitation services director, extensive experience in a therapeutic field is required, as well as knowledge of management techniques.

Orthopedic Surgeon

Physical therapists have extensive experience working with patients to improve their mobility. Some may wish to do this in a more specialized way by becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic surgeons diagnose conditions of the musculoskeletal system. They then perform surgery to improve the outlook for these conditions. After surgery, orthopedic surgeons monitor a patient's recovery. To become an orthopedic surgeon, a candidate must attend medical school. After medical school, a residency in orthopedics is required. Some orthopedic surgeons go on to specialize in one area of the musculoskeletal system, such as hands or spine.

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