As masters of function, physical therapists spend most of their time focusing on treatment routines, rehab timelines, and other activities necessary to relieve symptoms and return a patient to full mobility.
However, most therapists don’t realize just how differently PTs are paid for their services across the U.S., and further, the significant salary variation that exists between members of a single PT practice.
A quick look at the data shows that the average PT salary is $66,462, ranking it 100th out of 478 “Detailed Occupations,” though not every member of a PT practice is paid equally, or even using the same reimbursement model. With over 220,000 practicing physical therapists in the U.S., it can be difficult to understand the full picture of how salaries vary.
To remedy this, we’ve outlined what you need to know about PT salaries below (data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015).
Highest PT Salaries by State:
- Nevada: $121,980
- Alaska: $100,560
- Texas: $96,970
- California: $95,300
- New Jersey: $95,150
As the numbers indicate, PTs who operate in Nevada and Alaska have the highest salaries, presumably because of their state’s remote population and extended travel distances. Often, these factors mean medical professionals are in high-demand and service a wider range of patient demographics, with significantly less competition.
The final three–Texas, California, and New Jersey– are known primarily for having both massive populations and sprawling geographies. PTs in these states have significantly more competitors than Nevada or Alaska, but as the figures show us, the patient pipeline will never run dry for skilled therapists.
To delve further into the issue, we pulled information from this industry newsletter revealing the average salaries of different PT specialties. The data was self-reported by over 500 PTs from almost every state in the country.
Average Salaries Across PT Specialties:
- PT Resident: $45,333
- PT Assistant: $53,630
- Physical Therapist: $75,076
- Management: $94,542
When looking at the stats, it’s eye opening how varied the compensation levels are between the different practice roles. The largest salary jump occurs from a PT Assistant to a licensed Physical Therapist, with a difference of +$22,000. Further, moving from a Staff PT to Management could possibly result in another $20,000 payment bump!
While the sample size is fairly small, it does provide a unique look at the potential for upward mobility that exists between the different positions in a single practice.
The newsletter also reveals two new positions in the PT office that are becoming increasingly common. The PT Aide ($41,600) and Case Manager ($73,000) are both utilized to make sure each patient is efficiently managed from the moment they sign the intake form to the last session completed.
As we move further into value-based care and outcomes-based reimbursements, it seems likely that PT offices will employ more clinicians in these roles to ensure that each patient is completing the full rehab cycle. This begs the question: will the inclusion of additional staff encourage increased reimbursements, or will salaries suffer as more personnel come on board?
However, it’s currently unclear if our traditional payment model will be the main driver of PT salaries as we move further into the 2010’s. An increasing amount of practices are changing how they pay therapists, with many now utilizing a payment model known as “Percent Collections.”
In this model, a certain percentage of “bills collected” are paid to the attending PT upon completion of the billing cycle (sometimes up to 35%!), meaning there are extra incentives to be thorough with detail-oriented tasks that are central to revenue cycle management efforts (RCM).
Regardless of payment model or state, success in the coming years will largely depend on the ability to balance both patient-centric responsibilities and those required to keep the practice wheels spinning. Savvy PTs are already implementing clinic-wide solutions to do so, and if all goes well, our industry could soon enter a period where all therapists are paid commensurately for the valuable treatments they provide each day.
Further Reading on PT Salaries: