What does a Physical Therapist do?

Physical therapists plan and execute rehabilitation programs to help patients return to a higher level of physical function after an accident or surgery. They will often also help to manage or lessen the pain experienced by someone stricken with a degenerative condition or terminal disease. Physical therapists help patients through a combination of physical activity, reflexology, massage and muscular and skeletal manipulation.

With an aging population the job outlook for physical therapists looks strong. So how do you become a physical therapist? Most have pursued a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and all have obtained a state issued license to practice. Like many other professional licenses, a license to practice physical therapy usually requires continued education in the field to maintain certification.

What responsibilities are common for Physical Therapist jobs?
  • Perform initial and ongoing physical therapy evaluations according to APTA standards of practice as well as state standards.
  • Develop Plan of Treatment for each patient based on initial and ongoing
  • evaluations including short and long term goals, collaboration demands of other staff members, and required patient and caregiver involvement.
  • Implement Plan of Treatment on a consistent schedule and adjust this schedule and plan according to patient progress.
  • Document patient progress according to approved medical documentation and facility documentation procedures.
  • Evaluate mobility, strength and current level of patient function, while setting goals to improve in these areas that are scaled to patient abilities and realistically attainable.
  • Report patient progress to patient, patient caregivers and loved ones, facility staff and healthcare professionals involved in ongoing treatment/care of patients.
  • Develop a plan for patients following completion of their Plan of Treatment with appropriate in-home care services.
  • Maintain professional and technical knowledge through attending educational workshops; reviewing professional publications, etc.
  • Assist other facility staff members as needed to provide care and create a clean, orderly and effective environment for rehabilitation and physical therapy.
What are the typical qualifications for Physical Therapist jobs?
  • Proven record of matching patient needs to treatment plans and proven record of implementing these plans safely and effectively.
  • Strong experience administering a wide range of physical therapy techniques not limited to: giving massages; applying physical agents; initiating traction; utilizing hydrotherapy tanks and whirlpool baths, ultraviolet / infrared lamps, and ultrasound machines.
  • Experience assisting and directing treatments given by aides, technicians, and assistants.
  • Knowledge of responsible use of facility equipment, best practices for equipment use and preventative maintenance procedures.
  • Experience with recommending assistive equipment to patients and outpatient or home health follow-up programs.
  • Experience with a wide range of patient age groups and injuries.
  • Knowledge of Occupational Therapy and an understanding of when these techniques can benefit patients.
  • A strong sense of empathy, a compassionate outlook on PT and the ability to motivate patients into pushing their limits in a responsible, safe way.
  • We are looking for someone with at least 2 years of experience providing physical therapy to patients in a fully equipped PT facility and who has the following qualifications:
    • BS or Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from a physical therapy program approved by the American Physical Therapy Association
    • Current Physical Therapy license for state of operation.
    • Current Basic Life Support (BLS) certification (with AED).
EducationBachelor's Degree
Work/Life Balance
3.5 ★
Total Pay--
Career Opportunity
3.5 ★
Avg. Experience8+ years

How much does a Physical Therapist make near United States?

$93,615 /yr
Total Pay

Base Pay


Additional Pay


 / yr
Most Likely Range
Possible Range
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Physical Therapist Career Path

Learn how to become a Physical Therapist, what skills and education you need to succeed, and what level of pay to expect at each step on your career path.

Physical Therapist
Senior Physical Therapist
Physical Therapist

Years of Experience Distribution

0 - 1
2 - 4
5 - 7
Not including years spent in education and/or training

Physical Therapist Insights

Read what Physical Therapist professionals have to say about their job experiences and view top companies for this career.
Lee HealthLee Health
Physical Therapist
Jul 13, 2022

“Not sure if the pay improved but back in 2021 when I left it was low.”

Ivy Rehab NetworkIvy Rehab Network
Physical Therapist
Sep 12, 2022

“Overall it was a good place to work with typical 30 minute treats and hour evals.”

FOX RehabilitationFOX Rehabilitation
Physical Therapist
Sep 23, 2022

“Everyone is friendly and ready to support you in the best way possible as you begin and continue your career with fox.”

University HospitalsUniversity Hospitals
Physical Therapist
May 8, 2021

“The facility is newer (built within the last 5 years) so that's nice.”

Prior Level Home Health
Physical Therapist
Jul 25, 2023

“It is a small business so there is not always enough patients to fill my schedule.”

US Department of Veterans AffairsUS Department of Veterans Affairs
Physical Therapist Assistant
Nov 28, 2021

“Depending on you potion or department there is very little room for growth unless you change your career path.”

Physical Rehabilitation NetworkPhysical Rehabilitation Network
Physical Therapist Assistant
May 3, 2023

“My starting salary was fair considering I was promoted to PT from PTA during covid I didn’t negotiate.”

Senior Solutions Home HealthSenior Solutions Home Health
Physical Therapy
Aug 17, 2021

“You make your own schedule which is really flexible and nice.”

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Physical Therapist Interviews

Frequently asked questions about the role and responsibilities of physical therapists

The typical day of a physical therapist involves working with injured and disabled people to rehabilitate them and help them regain more physical functionality and independence. A physical therapist encourages the patient and helps them with exercises to restore form and fitness. Physical therapy is about redefining the patient's capabilities.

Yes, physical therapy can be a very fulfilling career. Physical therapists have a meaningful impact on patients' lives. They are an asset to hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. Many physical therapists form close relationships with their patients and serve as a communication point between the patients and their supervising physicians.

Physical therapists are compensated well for their work. The average annual salary of a physical therapist is more than $93,615. The more experience you have, the higher the salary you can earn. Employers additionally reward individuals who are willing to travel to their patients.

Working as a physical therapist can be difficult because not all patients get better. Sometimes professionals have to work with permanently disabled individuals who have reached a plateau. Many patients get frustrated and take out their frustrations on physical therapists. In these situations, physical therapists must maintain patience and compassion.

Related Careers

Physical Therapy Aide
25% skills overlap
25% skills overlap
Occupational Therapist
63% skills overlap
Outpatient Therapist
13% skills overlap

Physical Therapist Jobs