Civilian PT for the Military?

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.

89bogues

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2014
Messages
56
Reaction score
69

Members don't see this ad.
Background: I am prior service Army and currently finishing up my 1st year in PT school. I understand how the military works, but I was an Infantryman, so my knowledge of military PT is based almost solely on what I've read on this forum. I've kind of had my sights set on working for the VA after graduation, but I am also a little curious about being a civilian PT for the military. While there are some informative posts about military PT on this forum, there isn't much info about the civilian side.

For some of you who are military PT's/civilian PT's working for the military:
1.What are some of the pros and cons of military vs civilian vs civilian/military PT's (not sure on the correct terminology for civilian PT's (civilian contractors?)
2. Are civilians treated much differently than military?
3. Do civilians ever hold supervisory roles over other civilian or military PT's, or will military personnel always be in charge?
4. Do civilian PT's have the same base privileges as military?
5. Do civilian PT's work under contract for a certain period of time?
6. Do civilian PT's deploy, and how does that work, options, etc?
7. I understand that military PT's operate a little differently with more autonomy and are less hands on than most civilian PT practices are. Is it the same for civilian PT's working for the military.
8. Do many of these civilians ever cross over to the military, and is it easier having already worked for the military?
9. Are there any branch differences specific to civilian PT's?
10. Just a general what is it like to be a civilian PT for the military?

I know this is a lot of questions, but I would appreciate any insight, advice, or knowledge you may have.

Thanks
 
Last edited:

scrawnyguy

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
597
Reaction score
253
Background: I am prior service Army and currently finishing up my 1st year in PT school. I understand how the military works, but I was an Infantryman, so my knowledge of military PT is based almost solely on what I've read on this forum. I've kind of had my sights set on working for the VA after graduation, but I am also a little curious about being a civilian PT for the military. While there are some informative posts about military PT on this forum, there isn't much info about the civilian side.

For some of you who are military PT's/civilian PT's working for the military:
1.What are some of the pros and cons of military vs civilian vs civilian/military PT's (not sure on the correct terminology for civilian PT's (civilian contractors?)
2. Are civilians treated much differently than military?
3. Do civilians ever hold supervisory roles over other civilian or military PT's, or will military personnel always be in charge?
4. Do civilian PT's have the same base privileges as military?
5. Do civilian PT's work under contract for a certain period of time?
6. Do civilian PT's deploy, and how does that work, options, etc?
7. I understand that military PT's operate a little differently with more autonomy and are less hands on than most civilian PT practices are. Is it the same for civilian PT's working for the military.
8. Do many of these civilians ever cross over to the military, and is it easier having already worked for the military?
9. Are there any branch differences specific to civilian PT's?
10. Just a general what is it like to be a civilian PT for the military?

I know this is a lot of questions, but I would appreciate any insight, advice, or knowledge you may have.

Thanks

I'm by no means an expert, but I will do my best to try and answer based on my limited experience. I spent a good amount of time volunteering at Ft. Carson's PT clinic and I was able to observe civilian and military PTs.

1. Can't speak too much on this. As a military PT you know you'll be PCSing every few years. Civilian PTs get to "homestead" if they like. For some people that's a bonus.

2. For the most part the civilian and military PTs seemed to get treated the same. Of course it seemed like the civilians were all former military PTs or military spouses so they were probably used to the Optempo and military culture in general.

3. At Ft Carson the clinic chief/OIC was military (a Major who I think made the LTC list recently). Actually the prior clinic chief (former LTC) had retired recently and was working there as civilian. I'm sure his GS level was pretty high but he still answered to the military OIC. The military PT Techs did take direction from the civilian PTs, but it was like a normal military supervisor/subordinate relationship, more like your typical PT/PTA relationship.

4. Not 100% sure but I think they get access to most of the services with the exception of BX/PX and commissary.

5. Not sure

6. The former chief I referred to in #3 took an assignment at Okinawa right before I left. He referred to it as a deployment, but it seemed more like a TCS that he requested

7. At Carson all of the PTs seemed to be pretty autonomous. They did lots of evals, not as much hands on stuff (the techs did most of the actual therapy), with the exception of the inpatient PT, which always seemed to be handled the PTs.

8. There were a few current civilians who used to be military, but I didn't see anyone going the other direction. There was a civilian PTA that was trying to apply to Army-Baylor though. From what I've been told the Army gets the vast, vast majority of their PTs from Army-Baylor. The other services take more civilian PTs and let them commission. I would imagine that having some experience working with military would give you an advantage over other applicants.

I know that was pretty general but hopefully it helps at least a little bit.
 

89bogues

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2014
Messages
56
Reaction score
69
Scrawnyguy, thank you very much for taking the time to reply! You are one of the people I'd hoped would reply when I wrote the OP. In fact I thought of sending you a PM, but I figured I would get more perspectives by posting a thread, as I know that there are at least a few more military PT's/people familiar with military PT who post here, while also informing others who might be interested in working as a civilian for the military.
 
Last edited:

89bogues

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2014
Messages
56
Reaction score
69
Another question I have is: what is the GS ceiling for civilian PT's in the military, 12,13,14?
 
Last edited:

starrsgirl

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Oct 5, 2010
Messages
1,022
Reaction score
561
I definitely want to follow this post and answers....I feel like I don't know much, but I will share what I can.

1.What are some of the pros and cons of military vs civilian vs civilian/military PT's (not sure on the correct terminology for civilian PT's (civilian contractors?)
Some thoughts that come to mind. The military PTs will also need to keep up professional training as required. In the Air Force, this means going to various courses, leadership training, and generally keeping up with the military knowledge. A potential con is that you can get tasked with a lot of extras in the military that the GS employees are usually exempt from (unless someone thought to specifically write it in their job description). You will have some extra duties besides your job and you will usually be tasked with the direct leadership role of the techs who work in the clinic (although this isn't always the case....they can go under the civilian, it just depends).

2. Are civilians treated much differently than military?
In terms of working with co workers and other people in the office, I don't think there's a lot of difference. There is certainly a difference in leadership. As a civilian, you get to be a casual co worker, as a military PT, you are treated like a officer and have a more formal relationship with the techs in the clinic. You can still be work friends, but again, a more formal relationship. "yes, sir/ma'am" and sometimes things happen just because you told someone to do it and you outrank them(that would be a poor example of leadership, but it still happens).

3. Do civilians ever hold supervisory roles over other civilian or military PT's, or will military personnel always be in charge?
Not sure on this one, at the clinic I observed, all the PTs (mix of civilian and military) answer to a non-PT boss. The civilian PT technically serves as the clinic director because he is in place and doesn't move, but the other PTs are not under him. This may vary by place.

4. Do civilian PT's have the same base privileges as military?
Mostly yes, you can use the gym, you can fill up your car. You cannot live in base housing, you cannot shop tax free at the PX/commissary

5. Do civilian PT's work under contract for a certain period of time?
Civilian PTs can either be GS workers or they can be contract workers. In the clinic I was at, the PT was a GS worker and was "permanent " essentially. But the PTAs were contracted out to a company and there were often awkward hang periods while a contract was renegotiated and such. I know PTs are sometimes the same which might be difficult if the contract wasn't renewed with that company.

6. Do civilian PT's deploy, and how does that work, options, etc?
Not to my knowledge


7. I understand that military PT's operate a little differently with more autonomy and are less hands on than most civilian PT practices are. Is it the same for civilian PT's working for the military.
Yes, the civilian PTs and military do the same job.

8. Do many of these civilians ever cross over to the military, and is it easier having already worked for the military?
Yes and yes! Many of the GS PTs I've met were former active duty PTs who retired into those GS positions. Likewise, younger contract PTs or GS PTs are often picked up for active duty after they have some years of experience. Not sure how much prior military experience helps, but I will let you know! ;)

9. Are there any branch differences specific to civilian PT's?
No clue.

10. Just a general what is it like to be a civilian PT for the military?
Not a great answer for this either.


As for your other question, I was a bit surprised by the GS level. One PT I know is a GS-11. He retired as an O-4 (military PT) and then went to a civilian side and is an 11. I've heard GS-12 is common and it's nearly impossible to move higher than that as a PT. I have no way to verify that besides a few convos with people.

I would love to hear from anyone else on this post! I hope to go active duty, but I would also love to get a civilian job as a GS. One important tidbit that I learned from some contacts at the Federal APTA section is that they highly prefer to hire someone with an OCS and significant experience in ortho. That's a bit of a bummer for a soon to be new grad, but I'm trying to do what I can.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

scrawnyguy

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
597
Reaction score
253
I definitely want to follow this post and answers....I feel like I don't know much, but I will share what I can.

1.What are some of the pros and cons of military vs civilian vs civilian/military PT's (not sure on the correct terminology for civilian PT's (civilian contractors?)
Some thoughts that come to mind. The military PTs will also need to keep up professional training as required. In the Air Force, this means going to various courses, leadership training, and generally keeping up with the military knowledge. A potential con is that you can get tasked with a lot of extras in the military that the GS employees are usually exempt from (unless someone thought to specifically write it in their job description). You will have some extra duties besides your job and you will usually be tasked with the direct leadership role of the techs who work in the clinic (although this isn't always the case....they can go under the civilian, it just depends).

2. Are civilians treated much differently than military?
In terms of working with co workers and other people in the office, I don't think there's a lot of difference. There is certainly a difference in leadership. As a civilian, you get to be a casual co worker, as a military PT, you are treated like a officer and have a more formal relationship with the techs in the clinic. You can still be work friends, but again, a more formal relationship. "yes, sir/ma'am" and sometimes things happen just because you told someone to do it and you outrank them(that would be a poor example of leadership, but it still happens).

3. Do civilians ever hold supervisory roles over other civilian or military PT's, or will military personnel always be in charge?
Not sure on this one, at the clinic I observed, all the PTs (mix of civilian and military) answer to a non-PT boss. The civilian PT technically serves as the clinic director because he is in place and doesn't move, but the other PTs are not under him. This may vary by place.

4. Do civilian PT's have the same base privileges as military?
Mostly yes, you can use the gym, you can fill up your car. You cannot live in base housing, you cannot shop tax free at the PX/commissary

5. Do civilian PT's work under contract for a certain period of time?
Civilian PTs can either be GS workers or they can be contract workers. In the clinic I was at, the PT was a GS worker and was "permanent " essentially. But the PTAs were contracted out to a company and there were often awkward hang periods while a contract was renegotiated and such. I know PTs are sometimes the same which might be difficult if the contract wasn't renewed with that company.

6. Do civilian PT's deploy, and how does that work, options, etc?
Not to my knowledge


7. I understand that military PT's operate a little differently with more autonomy and are less hands on than most civilian PT practices are. Is it the same for civilian PT's working for the military.
Yes, the civilian PTs and military do the same job.

8. Do many of these civilians ever cross over to the military, and is it easier having already worked for the military?
Yes and yes! Many of the GS PTs I've met were former active duty PTs who retired into those GS positions. Likewise, younger contract PTs or GS PTs are often picked up for active duty after they have some years of experience. Not sure how much prior military experience helps, but I will let you know! ;)

9. Are there any branch differences specific to civilian PT's?
No clue.

10. Just a general what is it like to be a civilian PT for the military?
Not a great answer for this either.


As for your other question, I was a bit surprised by the GS level. One PT I know is a GS-11. He retired as an O-4 (military PT) and then went to a civilian side and is an 11. I've heard GS-12 is common and it's nearly impossible to move higher than that as a PT. I have no way to verify that besides a few convos with people.

I would love to hear from anyone else on this post! I hope to go active duty, but I would also love to get a civilian job as a GS. One important tidbit that I learned from some contacts at the Federal APTA section is that they highly prefer to hire someone with an OCS and significant experience in ortho. That's a bit of a bummer for a soon to be new grad, but I'm trying to do what I can.

Good point on #1. All of the "soldiering" stuff that goes along with being a military PT can definitely put on a lot on your plate. Mandatory physical fitness, weapons qual, mandatory training like SHARP and IA, etc. not to mention other military schools that you have to attend for career progression. I'm not sure yet whether that is a pro or a con. That stuff means time away from taking care of patients, but on the other hand it could be a nice break.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Azimuthal

Full Member
10+ Year Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2012
Messages
1,526
Reaction score
734
I won't repeat all the information provided, they're really good. A plus of being military PT is all the benefits of additional training (per availability and billeting), such as supply chain, leadership, medical administration, research, etc. Perks of being an O or a GS, is that you're also eligible to attend programs that can benefit your long term career within the armed forces or civilian. Example: eligibility to attend the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA. Check out their program offerings. <3
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

scrawnyguy

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
597
Reaction score
253
I won't repeat all the information provided, they're really good. A plus of being military PT is all the benefits of additional training (per availability and billeting), such as supply chain, leadership, medical administration, research, etc. Perks of being an O or a GS, is that you're also eligible to attend programs that can benefit your long term career within the armed forces or civilian. Example: eligibility to attend the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA. Check out their program offerings. <3

Another great point. This is one of the big reasons I chose the military route. If you work your cards right you can definitely leave the with some awesome training and credentials. That was something I didn't capitalize on when I was enlisted. This time around I'm not going to make that mistake.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

89bogues

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2014
Messages
56
Reaction score
69
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your replies! You all definitely clarified a few things, and have given me a better perspective on being a civilian PT in the military. I hope to observe at, and then maybe set up a clinical rotation with the local AFB to get an even better look in the future.
 
Last edited:

TheEarDoc

Audiologist
10+ Year Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2010
Messages
815
Reaction score
250
GS 12 is probably the highest you will ever be in the civilian sector as a DPT unless you become a chief of a rehab department which would get you a bump to GS13 level.
Audiology is in the same boat. I can work in the VA 20+ years and unless I take a chief gig I am never leave the GS12 level.
 

Future65B

New Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2018
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
I know this is an older thread but I thought I would take the opportunity to find people that may have some helpful insight. I have applied to Air Force and Army as a Physical therapist this past year. I received a non selected from the Air Force and am currently on OML for the Army. I am just curious as to the chances of getting a slot as a new grad, I have been practicing for almost a year. Being part of the military has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember but it seems like the process now, at 26 as a physical therapist, is harder than when I was fresh out of high school or college. I can think of no better way to use my talents than for the men and women that fight for us and our freedoms. I know this is true even more so as one of the cons indicated in this thread for military training actually makes me excited. So back to my question, is there anything in particular that the selection board is looking for? What type of leadership experience would be best for me to gain for my application if I am not selected off the OML list this year? Any other suggestions would be appreciated as well.
 
Top