earning power

A physical therapist’s salary may be higher in some states than others, however, in reality, a combination of salary and cost of living (housing, food, transportation, taxes) determines the real value of a therapist’s earnings. Although a physical therapist’s salary may be lower than a colleague’s salary from a different state, they may enjoy a greater purchasing power due to their location and other cost of living factors. When negotiating pay, physical therapists need to understand both the salary and cost of living data in their employer’s location.

Top 5 Physical Therapist salaries in the United States by location

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the top five states for physical therapist salary earnings are as follows:

  1. Nevada ($95,100)
  2. Alaska ($93,100)
  3. California ($90,100)
  4. New Jersey (89,020)
  5. Texas ($87,450)

However, when these physical therapist salaries are adjusted for a cost of living, things really get turned around.

The following changes take place in these state’s rankings:

  • Alaska drops from #2 to #14
  • California drops down from #3 to #30
  • New Jersey moves down from #4 to #36
  • Texas changes from #5 to #6
  • Only Nevada remains in the same position where it started, at #1.

So, where should you live if you want to get the most bang for your buck as a physical therapist?

Well, Nevada, obviously. After adjustments for cost of living, a therapist’s earnings are worth $1,814 more than the $95,100 listed as the state average.  However, after Nevada, the results are surprising. When combining cost of living and salary averages, the following states have the highest earning power for physical therapists:

  1. Nevada ($96,914)
  2. Mississippi ($94,162)
  3. Alabama ($94,222)
  4. Kentucky ($92,748)
  5. West Virginia ($90,655)

How Does My State Rank?

The Career Research Center of Rasmussen College has created a calculator that compares salary averages from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics with an average salary of that same state after making adjustments for cost of living.  No matter where you live, you can compare your salary with Census Bureau earnings data by using their calculator. Take a look and see what you might “really” be making in several states across the country.

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Finding Your Purchasing Power

The Bureau of Economic Analysis also allows you to compare what they call your “Real Personal Income” (RPI) for all the states.  RPI displays your purchasing power in a state by factoring in not only the present cost of living, but also how likely it is to change over time with inflation.  This site reports these numbers for all occupations in general, not just for physical therapy, but this resource, combined with Rasmussen’s, can be extremely helpful when simply considering salary for areas across the state.

Salary is Only the Beginning

Salary is just one piece of the puzzle in deciding whether or not to accept a job.  When comparing job offers or recruiting new talent, expanding your research will help you make a better decision.  Instead of thinking of the highest dollar value as the best job offer, broaden your thinking to include the multitude of factors that make up a competitive compensation package.  Take time to evaluate the following factors, as well as salary, in your next job offer: cost of living, commute time, flexibility, continuing education, benefits, and company culture.

Find the Right Job in the Right Place

Looking for a new job? We specialize in connecting therapists with jobs that they love. Contact PT Solutions for more information about jobs in your area of interest.​

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