According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2014, the mean annual salary for a PT in the United States was $82,180.  Physical Therapists have one of the higher healthcare earning potentials, compared to many other healthcare professions; such as nurses, occupational therapists, or speech language pathologists.  The law of supply and demand plays a large role in determining salary expectations. A Physical Therapist’s earnings are affected by several factors, including geographic location, facility type, level of experience and willingness to travel. You can use all four as bargaining chips when negotiating your salary or a rate increase.

Geographic location

Geography affects salary in two ways. If your location has a shortage of therapists or a high cost of living, your earnings will be higher than average. The five states that command the highest salaries for physical therapists are, in order, Nevada (average annual salary of $115, 220), Alaska ($96,800), California ($91,330), Texas ($90,890) and New Jersey ($90,750). (You can learn look up the pay rate for your state by using our salary wizard.)  The highest physical therapist wages are paid in non-metropolitan areas. If you accept a position in a rural location in one of these states, you can expect to earn more per year than your colleagues in other regions.  On the other hand, if you choose to live near Denver, Colorado you will have to compete for a job with all the other therapists who want to live there as well, and will earn one of the lower salaries in the country ($73,190).

Facility type

Another factor that affects how much you’ll earn as a PT is the type of facility or setting in which you’re employed. Home healthcare PTs are among the highest earners ($91,190 annual average salary as of May 2013), followed by those who work in skilled nursing facilities ($87,250), specialty hospitals – excluding psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals ($82,730), and general medical and surgical hospitals ($81,410). The majority of physical therapists choose to work in Outpatient Settings. The competition for out patient positions enables those settings to offer slightly lower salaries.

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Level of experience

Depending on where you are in your career, it may be time for a pay upgrade. This article from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists entry-level PT positions somewhere around $66,545, with income increasing to an average of $84,656 for PTs with 16 years of experience or more. Remember, this all depends on the state and type of facility in which you work. So an experienced PT in Nevada or Alaska, for example, could earn even more.

Willingness to travel

If you feel like seeing the country or even the world, you can make an exceptional living as a travel physical therapist. Travel therapists provide temporary staffing coverage for healthcare providers who haven’t been able to fill their needs, often because of their rural location or the short-term nature of their opening.  Since many travel PTs earn hourly wages – rather than a salary – travel therapists have the potential to earn more than their stationary colleagues, especially if they find themselves logging extra hours. Although earnings are affected by contract length and the number of travel positions you work in a year, travel therapists are also able to save through other perks, such as paid housing and transportation reimbursements.

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