Physical Therapy Job Outlook Even Brighter with this Strategy

physical therapy outlook

There are few occupations today more deserving of the bragging rights enjoyed by a physical therapist. For starters, the career maintains prominent rankings on the Best Jobs for Top Growth list from CNN Money as well as the 50 Best Careers list by US News. In addition, physical therapists are spending their workdays employed in one of the happiest jobs imaginable! And that's just the beginning.

A quick peek at the crystal career ball indicates that outpatient therapists can count on a whopping 30%-plus job growth over the next 10 years, which is higher than average when compared to other occupations. In today's market and well into the future, those looking for a position as a physical therapist, physical therapy assistant, or physical therapist aide would seemingly have good reason to feel optimistic. But will finding work be a foregone conclusion?

A closer look at the projected job growth for physical therapists reveals that new jobs will be added more in some healthcare industry segments than in others. In other words, the promising job growth will not occur across every healthcare segment. Physical therapists, therefore, who follow these growth trends and use the projections as leverage when seeking employment are more likely to capitalize on their occupation's sunny outlook. A strategy for achieving this can be devised from details offered by the crystal career ball.

The following chart illustrates the total number of currently employed physical therapists (blue columns) across six healthcare segments in comparison to projected increases (red columns) by 2018. They are listed in order by the number of currently employed physical therapists.

According to the chart, there are currently more physical therapists (67,100) employed in offices providing physical, occupational and/or speech therapy than in any other healthcare segment. Even more prominent and worth noting, however, is the indication that this segment also projects to see the most job growth (54%) for physical therapists. The first conclusion drawn by reading the chart is that job openings are, and will be for the remainder of the decade, most abundant in therapy offices. The projections for the other healthcare segments, however, draw conclusions that may be less obvious.

While public and private hospitals may currently employ upward of 58,000 physical therapists, this healthcare segment is expected to see less than 12% job growth for physical therapists through 2018. That shies in comparison to the projected 47% job growth in the home health care segment, which currently employs an estimated 21,000 physical therapists. Similarly, while there are nearly twice as many self-employed physical therapists as those who work in offices of physicians today, the former projects at only 5% job growth through 2018 compared to the 34% job growth projected for the latter.

To put it another way, while a great number of physical therapists are currently working at hospitals and through self-employment, those two healthcare segments are expected to add fewer new jobs through 2018 compared to the more favorable projections being made for home health care services, offices of physicians, and nursing care facilities.

The table on the left highlights the percentage of job growth anticipated for physical therapists across the six healthcare segments. This time, they are listed in order by the projected percentage of job growth.

It's worth pointing out that, with the exception of offices of therapists, the order of information here is entirely different from information presented in the previous chart. These differences illustrate that what we see as common today may not hold true in years ahead.

Tracking projected job growth trends can be an effective strategy for anyone working toward a new career in physical therapy in the coming years, especially student physical therapists. Certain vitalized segments of the healthcare industry could present unique opportunities for rehabilitation technicians or physiotherapists. Furthermore, for experienced physical therapists eager to pursue advancement opportunities, identifying the healthcare settings with the greatest demand may increase the odds of success.

The data paints a compelling picture for the physical therapy profession. There is no reason not to enjoy the upsides of being trained in a high-demand career. With an aging population creating an increased need for rehabilitative services well into the future, physical therapists should feel rightfully optimistic about their job growth potential. The anticipated 30%-plus increase in jobs will provide many great opportunities for therapists, but job seekers with knowledge of where the most growth is happening will certainly have the advantage. It's not a question of whether there will be jobs available; it's a question of how physical therapists obtain the greatest reward from a career that has so much to offer.

If you're a physical therapist currently looking for work, put the strategy in this article to the test. Can you find additional job openings within healthcare segments you hadn't thought to search before? What trends do you notice?

Contributed to by Kim Evans

blog comments powered by Disqus