Four Physical Therapist Job Options

Whether you are a new Physical Therapist, looking for your first job, or an experienced Physical Therapist, contemplating a career move; the job search process is complicated.

In an effort to simplify this process for our physical therapist job search applicants, this article is dedicated to helping them understand four physical therapist career options and the advantages of each option. The following therapist employment options also apply to Physical Therapist Assistants, Occupational Therapists and their Assistants, and Speech Language Pathologists.

Although there are multiple settings where therapists can practice, most Physical Therapist jobs fall into one of the four following categories determined by employer type:  Staff Physical Therapists, School-Employed Physical Therapists, Contract Physical Therapists, or Self-Employed Physical Therapists.

Staff Physical Therapists work for an employer who provides physical rehabilitation services.  This employer may be a large, regional healthcare provider, or a small, independently-owned outpatient clinic.  Most therapists spend 100% of their time in inpatient care.  A few staff therapists divide their time between patient care and management or work full-time managing rehabilitation departments.

Therapists who choose this form of employment give the following reasons for their decision:
– Stability and commitment to a community or an organization.
– Opportunity to develop specialized clinical skills.
– Potential for promotion within an organization.

Schools are a large employer of Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy Professionals. The pediatric school therapist has a unique role as part teacher, part clinician. The goal of a school therapist is not only to provide therapy services but also to enable their patients to adapt and thrive in the school environment.

In contrast to pediatric school therapist positions, colleges employ Physical Therapists who enjoy the academic aspects of research and teaching as professors. Physical Therapists who go on for advanced degrees can work in community colleges as professors of Physical Therapy Assistant Programs, or in universities as Physical Therapy Department Instructors.

Therapists who choose to work in elementary schools often give the following reasons for their decision:
– Enjoyment in working with children.
– Passion for helping children with special needs develop to their fullest potential.
– Work/Life Balance (a work schedule that coordinates well with family life.)

Therapists who choose to go on for advanced degrees and work as a professor often give the following reasons for their decision:
– Enjoyment in learning and teaching.
– Passion for conducting research on a specific topic.
– Desire to invest in the profession by preparing the next generation of therapists.
– Academic Schedule.

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Contract Physical Therapists work for healthcare staffing agencies. These agencies contract out their employees to help rehabilitation providers cover their short term leave of absences (such as maternity leaves) and/or provide supplemental staff until a facility can find a permanent employee of their own. Most contract therapists commit to working at a facility for 13 weeks at a time. Some contract therapists live at home, and the healthcare agency keeps them busy floating from facility to facility or serving various departments within a large rehabilitation provider. Other contract therapists travel to a location where they live in temporary housing and work while exploring another part of the country.

Therapists who choose to work for a healthcare staffing agency give the following reasons for their decision:
– Increased Earning Potential
– Desire to gain experience in a variety of practice settings
– Flexibility – ability to take long vacations between placements
– Focus on patient care – free from management concerns
– Desire to travel and experience life in different parts of the country

Self Employed Physical Therapists either freelance as independent contractors or start a clinic that provides rehabilitation services.  In order to be self-employed, these therapists must learn and practice marketing and business management skills, as well as therapy skills. Most self-employed therapists start out as a staff or contract therapist to establish the relationships and reputation that they need to open their own clinic. Many Physical Therapists prefer to put their time and energy into specialized studies or academic pursuits, rather than endure the stress of managing a company and employing other therapists.

However, those therapists who own and manage clinics give the following reasons for their decision:
– Opportunity to be a business owner.
– Independence. The desire to control the decisions and circumstances that affect patient care.
– Desire to provide unique rehabilitation services that are not available from other healthcare providers in their community.

Here at myPTsolutions, we hope that understanding these Physical Therapist Job Search Options will help you determine which jobs line up with your dreams and goals. We want to help you navigate your career path with confidence.

Whether it’s helping you find out about a new job posting for a permanent placement, giving you an opportunity to connect with a travel assignment, or helping you find a contract therapist who can provide your staffing coverage, we’re here to help.  Contact one of our recruiters today.

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