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Alternative Careers for Physical Therapists

A career as a physical therapist may be of interest to those with a desire to help others, but the diagnostic and planning skills physical therapists use to care for patients can be utilized in many other positions. Some of these alternative career options are profiled here.

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Alternative Careers for Physical Therapists

Aspiring physical therapists who want to keep their options open and current practitioners interested in a career change can take their desire to improve people's well-being and translate that into another career in the healthcare sector. A few of the alternatives are highlighted below.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Audiologist $75,980 29%
Chiropractor $67,520 17%
Occupational Therapist $81,910 27%
Exercise Physiologist $47,340 11%
Nutritionist $58,920 (Dieticians & Nutritionists) 16% (Dieticians & Nutritionists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Options for Physical Therapists Interested in Alternative Careers

Audiologist

As a physical therapist, you may be interested in a career as an audiologist because you would also be helping patients manage the complications associated with a disorder or loss of function. Audiologists work with patients experiencing such issues as hearing loss and balance problems by determining the causes and finding the best course of treatment. They do so by conducting patient exams, hearing tests and other diagnostic measures. They utilize these results to develop a treatment plan that could include hearing aid fittings or exercises designed to improve balance. Audiologists work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. As an audiologist, you would need a doctoral degree in audiology and state licensure.

Chiropractor

Physical therapists might enjoy working as chiropractors because of the shared focus on improving patients' mobility and alleviating pain. Chiropractors offer patients relief by conducting exams and utilizing spinal adjustments to correct spine misalignments and other neuromusculolarskeletal issues. As a chiropractor, you could have your own practice or be part of a team practice. You will need to complete a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and obtain state licensure.

Occupational Therapist

Similar to a physical therapist, an occupational therapist helps patients recovering from illness or injury improve their ability to perform daily functions. They work in hospitals, therapist's offices, and skilled nursing facilities. Occupational therapists begin by determining patients' current level of mobility and skill and examining their environment. They then create a treatment plan with individualized goals. Occupational therapists also teach patients exercise movements to help with pain management. This career requires a master's degree and successful completion of the exam given by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists are similar to physical therapists in that they utilize physical activity to improve patients' health, but exercise physiologists typically work with patients experiencing cardiovascular or pulmonary issues. In this career, you would examine patients' medical histories, conduct tests to determine patients' blood pressure, oxygen levels, and overall fitness, and create personalized exercise programs based on these test results. You can work in a hospital or private practice in this career. You will need a bachelor's degree in a related field and may choose to pursue certification through organizations like the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.

Nutritionist

Physical therapists can educate patients on making healthier lifestyle choices, so they may be interested in a career as a nutritionist. A nutritionist provides patients with ways to improve their health through dietary changes. As a nutritionist, you can work in a hospital, nursing facility, or a physician's office. You would conduct patient assessments to determine their specific needs and advise them on proper eating habits for managing a chronic condition or meeting a health goal. You will need a nutrition-related bachelor's degree and typically must earn a license after completing an internship program and meeting exam requirements.

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