Professional Association

American Physical Therapy Association

General Duties:

A physical therapist is a health care professional primarily concerned with the patient’s movement and physical function. Physical therapists typically perform examinations to diagnose each individual patient, develops a plan for the patient to maintain/restore/improve physical function, help the patient work through the plan, and educate the patient (sometimes patients’ family) about injury prevention.

The patients that they work with can also come from a variety of backgrounds. For example, physical therapists can work with patients with chronic illnesses, neurological disorders, prosthetics, cardiovascular disease or athletes, etc.

What environment(s) and/or settings is this profession employed?

A physical therapist can work in a large range of different settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, homes, schools, or a sports/fitness environment.

What are the skills/qualities needed to be successful in this field?

Attention to detail and reasoning skills are extremely important because a physical therapists needs to be attentive to details in order to accurately diagnose a patient’s problem. Interpersonal skills and communication are also critical, because a physical therapist needs to communicate issues in a manner that the patient can understand. Additionally, a physical therapist needs to also be resourceful and flexible because of the wide range of patients that they work with – every single patient could end up needing different adjustments to their recovery plan. Not to mention that physical therapy is a very active job, so a good physical therapist must have physical stamina to perform his/her job.

What is the employment outlook? 

Despite the cost of becoming one, the demand for physical therapists is expected to grow rapidly over the next 10 years (22% growth from 2018-2028, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) because of the gaining population of the United States.

What is the average salary/earnings for this profession? What is the average indebtedness of professionals entering the field? 

On average, physical therapists earn about $70,000-100,000/year. As of 2018, Massachusetts has the 9th highest mean wage out of all 50 US states with the average physical therapist in the state earning $91,750/year. Because of the educational requirements, most physical therapists enter the field with average debt between $90,000 and $100,000.

Other healthcare professionals someone in this career may interact and/or collaborate with:

Physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, physicians, athletic trainers.

What kind of educational training/qualifications does entry into this career require? 

To be a physical therapist in the United States, one must graduate from an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy program, which is usually 3 years for anyone who has a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, one must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) to be a licensed physical therapist.

Professional Interviewed:

Jerry Chen (陳俊年) is a physical therapist in Taipei, Taiwan.

How did they become interested in this field?

Initially, Mr. Chen was interested in medicine rather than physical therapy – however, he was unable to enroll in a medicine program after graduating from high school. He decided to enter a physical therapy program and started to gain interest in this field while he was taking anatomy-based laboratory classes because of the kinds of insights he was learning about the human body.

What do they like about what they do?

Mr. Chen says that one of the best things about his job is that he is always learning something new because physical therapy is a developing field. He also enjoys the friendly learning environment in the field of physical therapy.

How do they think their field will change in the next 10 years?

Like the US, Taiwan has an aging population that would increase the demand for physical therapists. Additionally, much of the older population in Taiwan is not very exposed to the common practice of exercise, so in that sense physical therapy would also be in high demand in Taiwan.

What is their advice for those interested in this career?

In Mr. Chen’s own experience, he found interest in physical therapy by trying something that he initially had no interest in, so he thinks it is certainly worth it to try new things. He also said that certain skills are critical to being a good physical therapist, especially communication skills. A good physical therapist can not only provide the correct treatment to his/her patients, but also help the patient understand the problem and the treatment plan as well as educating the patient about proactive methods of injury prevention/recovery.