18 Pros and Cons of Being a Physical Therapist

Physical Therapist

Physical therapy is a rewarding and exciting career – one that helps others and provides a very nice income.

However, like every other field, there are some downsides to consider.

If you’re considering becoming a physical therapist, it’s essential that you take all the advantages and disadvantages into account before making a final decision.

Below, you’ll find the top pros and cons to help you through this process and ensure you make the best choice for your life.

Pros of Being a Physical Therapist

You can gain many benefits from being a physical therapist, including those listed below.

1. You Get to Help People Improve Their Lives

People don’t typically come to physical therapists when everything is going well.

Instead, the majority will come when they’ve lost control of muscles, lost the use of limbs, have sustained an injury, or are living in constant pain.

As a physical therapist, you have a valuable opportunity to step in and help them address those physical limitations.

Even better, you can help them build their confidence and overcome many emotional challenges by addressing those physical problems.

2. The Pay is Pretty Awesome

Being able to help people is wonderful – getting paid well for it is even better.

Physical therapists tend to make anywhere between $88,501 and $103,301.

This can vary, of course, depending on your level of education, experience, where you live, and the setting you practice in.

The bottom line, though, is that even those just entering the field can put a nice chunk of change in their pockets.

3. You Can Specialize In Your Field

Physical therapy is a general field, but there are plenty of areas to specialize in.

For instance, you can work with athletes, children, or neurology patients – just to name a few.

This is great because it gives you the chance to work in an area you are passionate about.

It can also increase your pay and make you more desirable to employers and patients.

4. Physical Therapists Are In-Demand

Investing time, energy, and money in becoming a career is only a good idea if that field will be around in the future.

That’s not something you have to worry about when it comes to physical therapy.

There is an estimated job growth of at least 20 percent by the year 2030 – a growth that will likely continue and increase afterward.

5. You Can Work in a Variety of Settings

One of the great things about being a physical therapist is that you have many options when it comes to choosing an employer.

You can choose to work in hospitals, schools, athletic departments, home health, hospices, government facilities, rehabilitation clinics, outpatient clinics, and more.

Some physical therapists even work in research facilities to find better and more enhanced ways to treat patients.

6. You Can Even Work for Yourself

As a physical therapist, you can always work on staff somewhere, but you also have the ability to work for yourself.

You can choose to set up your own practice and have patients come to you.

You can also set up a traveling service, where you go where you are needed.

Some physical therapists work with patients in their homes, which eases the overhead costs of running a business.

In short, your opportunities are wide open.

7. You Have the Opportunity to Control Your Schedule

If you’ve ever wanted a job that allows you to be in control of your own calendar, physical therapy is a good field.

Thanks to all of the opportunities you’ll have at your fingertips, you can choose when you work.

This gives you the opportunity to make the money you need during the hours you’re available and still make it to your child’s dance recital and dinner each night.

8. Your Body Will Get Stronger

Physical therapy is not just physical for the patient – it’s physical for the therapist, too.

Every day you work, you’ll be working your muscles and keeping the blood pumping through your body, which can improve the function and health of your organs.

It won’t take long to find that your body has turned into a finely tuned machine and that you’re healthier than before.

9. Your Education and Experience Can Be Handy in Your Own Life

Most PTs find themselves naturally making healthier choices, thanks to the knowledge they pick up in school and work.

Additionally, they learn how to both prevent and treat injuries – knowledge that they can use to put to work in their daily lives.

And they can use all of this to help their own family and friends.

Cons of Being a Physical Therapist

Be sure you consider the following disadvantages when making your career decision.

1. You’ll Need a Pretty Extensive Education

Physical therapy is not a field you can dive into with basic education.

The first thing you’ll have to do is complete a Bachelor’s degree – preferably in health sciences – which will typically take about four years.

Then, you’ll need a Doctorate of Physical Therapy – or DPT – which can take an additional three to four years.

In short, you are looking at attending school for about seven to eight years.

2. And That Education Can Cost a Pretty Penny

It’s not cheap to attend college – especially for nearly a decade.

Most physical therapists run up a tuition price tag of about $120,000 or more during school – and that’s not counting any additional expenses.

Grants, scholarships, and student loans can help knock this amount down, but you might need to pay some out of pocket.

So, while physical therapists do make a good living, a hefty portion usually goes toward paying back loans for a bit.

3. Then You’ll Have to Get Licensed

You have to get licensed to work as a physical therapist, which means first passing the NPTE or National Physical Therapy Examination.

This exam can be tough, so you’ll want to study and prepare as much as possible.

And once you pass the exam and become licensed, you’ll need to renew your license based on state requirements.

This is completely doable, but it’s something you’ll need to keep up with to make sure you are able to keep practicing.

4. And Typically Have to Complete a Residency

Physical therapists need to complete a residency that’s usually about three years.

This isn’t all bad, as you get some in-depth, hands-on experience in the field – something you’ll be able to take with you.

The bad thing is that you’re talking about three more years of not making a full salary since physical therapy residents make a portion of what staff members make.

Again, it can be worth it but definitely something to consider.

5. Certification Is Also Important

Being certified isn’t really required by law, so you can skip this step in many cases.

However, some employers look for applicants who are certified, so it can help you be a more desirable candidate for employment.

Unfortunately, certification requires that you pass an exam and can cost you at least $700.

On the one hand, if you’re diving into this field, you might as well go all the way.

On the other hand, you’re adding more time and expenses.

6. Once You Start Working, It Can Be Tough 

After you’ve completed everything above, you can finally start your career – a back-breaking one.

Physical therapists spend their days on their feet and helping lift patients – some of whom are really heavy.

It can certainly make you a stronger person, but it can also quickly lead to injuries and a great deal of pain and suffering.

In other words, you might have to put your education and experience to work healing your own body.

7. Not All Patients Are Receptive 

The patients you work with are usually overcoming physical challenges and facing limitations.

Some have lost the use of their limbs or can no longer get themselves around – and they’re not happy about it.

Truthfully, though, who would be happy with losing their independence?

In short, physical therapists don’t only have to work with physical issues – they also have the emotions of each patient to face.

8. The Paperwork Can Be a Bear

Once your patient leaves, you have a whole different type of stress to deal with – paperwork.

Remember that you are working with patients, meaning that their other care providers and insurance carriers all require certain documentation.

Filling out this documentation properly is essential for the insurer to pay for the cost of services, as well as ensure that your patient’s medical team can continue proper care.

This paperwork can take a lot of time and detail.

9. You Might Burn Out Before You’re Ready to Retire

With such a physically – and often emotionally – a demanding job, it’s not a surprise that many physical therapists tend to burn out.

Some of the things that PTs are faced with can take their toll.

If you decide to become a PT, work on paying off any loans quickly and start stacking your cash.

That way – if you do decide to leave before retirement – you’re financially stable enough to make that choice.

Pros and Cons of Being a Physical Therapist – Summary Table

Pros of Being a Physical TherapistCons of Being a Physical Therapist
1. You Get to Help People Improve Their Lives1. You’ll Need a Pretty Extensive Education
2. The Pay is Pretty Awesome2. And That Education Can Cost a Pretty Penny
3. You Can Specialize In Your Field3. Then You’ll Have to Get Licensed
4. Physical Therapists Are In-Demand4. And Typically Have to Complete a Residency
5. You Can Work in a Variety of Settings5. Certification Is Also Important
6. You Can Even Work for Yourself6. Once You Start Working, It Can Be Tough 
7. You Have the Opportunity to Control Your Schedule7. Not All Patients Are Receptive 
8. Your Body Will Get Stronger8. The Paperwork Can Be a Bear
9. Your Education and Experience Can Be Handy in Your Own Life9. You Might Burn Out Before You’re Ready to Retire

Should You Become a Physical Therapist?

After reading these pros and cons, you might still be wondering if becoming a physical therapist is a good idea.

If you’re willing to invest nearly a decade and over $100,000 in a fruitful career, physical therapy is worth it.

If, however, you’re looking for a career to dive into more quickly and aren’t interested in working with others so closely, it’s wise to consider another field.

Jamie Willis
Latest posts by Jamie Willis (see all)