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PT Salaries - It's not that bad, is it?

Muscles00GT

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    I had a hard time thinking of a justifiable title for this thread, but here's my question. Why does it seem a good majority of people frown down upon the salary of a PT? Of course it's nice to make more, but I've been doing quite a bit of research on average salaries for those with a DPT. I understand starting salaries and whatnot vary from location to location, but it seems to me that the average starting salary for a DPT in the Philadelphia area is around $65,000-$70,000. I've even seen some jobs start as high as $80,000. Now I understand this isn't exactly the salary of a MD/DO, but it's not that bad. Granted it's going to take a LOT of time to pay back loans and such, but one can live pretty comfortably with such a salary. I don't come from a family of wealth, so these types of figures aren't poor at all by my standards. I don't know if it's just me, but can you put a price on doing something that you love? The PT profession is only going to grow, so there is only room for improvement. I have friends that are all recent graduates from engineers to chemists and they are all miserable, even though they make decent money. Of course it would be nice to make more, but is coming out with a DPT doing something you love, starting at approx. $65-70k really that horrible?
     

    Akiramay

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      I'm with you on this one. I think that a PT's salary is great! My mom has been a teacher for over 30 years and makes around 55,000. I think teachers are severely underpaid. So for me, I think the PT salary is very fitting. And of course, it is about doing what you love. That's why I wouldn't care how much I made. As long as I'm happy working, that's the better payment.
       

      JESUITM

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        Muscles: I've gathered similar numbers on salary. And if you aim to become a director or perhaps co-owner/owner in a PT/Rehab clinic, you could really do well. I would suggest you make good friends with OTs and one day have a group practice together. ;-)

        Further, if you do a few hours here and there a week, the hourly wage can equal another $5000-$10,000 a year. Additionally, I've come across many with $7000-$10,000 sign-on bonuses. Not too shabby for a rewarding, relaxed, and autonomous medical career.
         
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        Muscles00GT

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          Great points. I came across some statistics the other day which stated the PT job is expected to grow nearly 26% through 2014. That's one heck of an increase. Moreover, I think the fact that most schools are transitioning to the DPT program will give PT's more respect and combined with the growth of the occupation, will only help PT's in the future.
           

          callmecrazy

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            Despite all the complaining I've seen around here, I do think the PT salary is great. I'm making a measly amount working in research right now, and I'm still living quite comfortably. A PT salary will feel like winning the lottery. Yes, PT students have debt to pay back when they finish, but choosing the right school, getting assistantships where you can, and managing your money well in the first year or two out of school will put you on track to be out of debt quickly. Continuing to "live like a college student" even after you finish DPT school isn't such a bad idea either. What's a few more years of ramen noodles if it means getting out of debt for the future?

            Maybe some people consider $60k to be pocket change, but to me, that's a pretty good living (and that could be considered a low figure). If your spouse makes $40k, you are into the 6-figures. That put's your household income above 83% if Americans. Doesn't sound too bad to me.
             
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            uneditedtales

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              From what I understand, it feels like with all programs being changed to doctorate degrees, the cost of education is a lot higher now. If you end up in debt for approx $80 -100k for grad school, its hard to pay that off with single family income of 55k. Also, PT salary differs according to location. I know, some of my friends who just started working in Manhattan are making approx $62k (entry level PT), whereas others working in the suburbs (in NY) are making as low as $53k. Just a thought.

              http://editedtales.blogspot.com/
               

              ONstudentPT

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                Here is a good example. A PT less then one year out of school making 37/hour 43 hours a week plus doing about 5 hours of homecare a week at 50/hour on the side = 48 hours of work a week and over 88k a year. True story. Not too shaby especially if you were able to get your PT education under 20k.
                 

                jrc

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                  It's nice to hear some positive takes on PT's salaries. Everyone's opinion about salary is valid but certainly relative to one's experience/such. Coming from a performing artist's perspective, not only is the PT salary quite good but the job security is even better. I hate to say it, but as a dancer and movement teacher for the past 6 years, I've never broken 20 grand - even while living in a couple big cities. Doing work you love is of primary importance, but it's so much more doable over the long term when the prospects are nice.
                   

                  pttrac

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                    I agree that the salaries are not all that bad. I think some people on here compare it to other fields and that is not fair. It really is based on supply/demand and your geographic location.

                    I live in the Los Angeles area and PT salaries are great compared to other parts of the country, but the cost of living here is higher as well. I also factor in that my spouse will be making close to what I make when she is done in school so I have her income to supplement mine and help with loans :) Lucky for her. Her employer is paying for her school, so we don't have to worry about her loans, but not everyone is that fortunate. We also plan to be DINKS (Double Income No Kids) for awhile, so that will help our situation.

                    Compared to other professions, I do think the life of a PT is much more relaxed and enjoyable. I know this is not talked about much on here, but there are also clinical rotation programs that are post-doc that will probably help a PT become more desirable and increase salary. Programs such as OCS, NCS, etc... that are offered in schools, hospitals, and clinics. I hope to obtain such certification to help me become a more educated and qualified PT.
                     

                    DOctorJay

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                      the salary isn't really the problem. PTs are paid pretty well. the problem is the cost of the education and the length of training. you can go to PT school and end up with significant debt after a 3 year DPT program. you could also choose to go to PA school for 2 years, end up with much less debt, and make probably around $20K more per year. the fields are very different and your own work preference is very important to consider so make sure you spend time in the field you are considering and that it's what you want to be doing. if you can't imagine doing anything other than PT, then of course that's a great choice for you and you will be able to live well. in terms of opportunity cost however, PA beats out PT.
                       

                      Cyres

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                        Are therapists paid well?

                        I realize reimbursement from payers varies depending on a number of factors (setting, state/region, etc.) and that the figures/situation at my hospital are not exactly applicable everywhere. However, I’m presenting this as food for thought.

                        Let’s first look at the stereotypical new therapist:
                        1) Young professional, 25-27 years old.
                        2) Has previously had no means of true income.
                        3) Just finished 6-8 years of college (depending undergrad, joint undergrad/PT schooling, MPT/DPT education, etc) and has debt in student loans ranging from $100,000-200,000+ that they have to start paying now.

                        Anyone who has been in this position (young, in debt, never paid) knows that this is more or less a cocktail of desperation to find employment as soon as possible.

                        Let’s say a new graduate is, based on their “experience”, offered a wage (salary) equal to $28.85/hr ($60,000/year).

                        [They may be urged by their school to pursue a residency for one of the clinical practice specialties (e.g. OCS, SCS, GCS, etc). My PT school offered it conjoined with the last clinical -- after the typical final clinical length the student would take the boards, stay on for a year treating under the supervision of the senior PTs while earning ½ entry level pay, and at the end they would take the specialist exam. For this scenario cut the example down to $14.43/hr (~$30,000/year)]

                        Regardless, for the reasons listed above, the new grad more or less jumps on the offered wage/salary. And if the value of benefits are added in, let’s say another $5/hr, the therapist is earning at $33.85/hr (~70,000k). That’s a lot of money for someone who has never had a stable income.

                        Now let’s look at reimbursement for the care they will provide. Again, I said numbers will vary these are just what they are at my setting.

                        Medicaid aside the average reimbursement rate per unit (13-15 minutes) of intervention (therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular re-education, manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, etc) is $27. Examinations at (30ish minutes) reimburse at $75.

                        The “work year” has 260 days, 2,080 hours, and 8,320 possible units at maximum productivity (4units/hr).

                        Let’s say the therapist averages ~2 examinations a day (500/year). That = $75 * 500 = $37,500. With 1,830 hours or 7,320 possible unites remaining for treatment = 7320 * $27 = $197,640.

                        Therapist’s yearly worth = $197,640 + $37,500 = $235,140

                        Now delve a bit into that gray area of units and double/triple booking. We’ll keep it at double for simplicity’s sake. If double booked with “Medicare patients” always use Group TherEx and stick to 4unit/hr. If they aren’t “Medicare patients” then 6-8 units/hr is, and I quote two rehabilitation directors, “Expected”.

                        Again using the above 500 examinations/year guideline one is left with 1,830 hours but at 6 units/hr treatments = $296,460, at 8 units/hr treatments = $395,280

                        So therapist’s worth = $113.05/hr ($235,140/year) – $208.07/hour ($432,780/year)

                        When we go back to the entry-level therapist making $33.85/hr (~70,000/year) it’s rather clear that a significant discrepancy exists. And I’m sure this discrepancy is prevalent for professionals across the spectrum in health care.

                        So are therapist’s paid well? Sure, it’s not a bad living. Is it commensurate with the level of education and/or reimbursement for the care rendered? Not really. Could they be paid better? Absolutely.

                        New therapists / future new therapist do not eagerly accept that initial offer, always negotiate for more. Keep in mind that you’re experience has no bearing on the reimbursement for the care you provide. Look into traveling, locum therapist make nearly double, and there is a shortage of therapists -- my hospital has been short two PTs for a year. And private practice is an option once you’ve got the savings to open one.

                        Finally, consider this board, consider the number of people shying from a career in PT because “it doesn’t appear worth it” in terms of costs to benefits. Fewer people are willing to put forth the effort to become therapist while the baby boomers, the largest population in the US, are just now entering an age when they’ll need a physical therapist the most. Supply and demand determines worth, that’s a maxim of economics.
                         
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                        bigdan

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                          Nice discussion, group.

                          One area that I believe all healthcare education seems to falter on, in one way or another, is the business aspect. I remember, when I was in undergrad school for my degree in occupational therapy, an Administration course, but none of this semester long course went into the detail that Cyres was able to offer in the 3 - 5 minutes it took to digest his/her post. PLEASE do your best to keep up on how healthcare is paid for, and what your role will be in that compensation - with the mind to always ask "Is what I'm getting fair?".

                          On the side of devil's advocacy, it is important to remember a few things when deciding whether to work as an employee or an independent contractor/owning a practice:

                          1) You will NEVER make as much as the company you're working for. That single premise trumps all.
                          2) Working for a company allows you to not worry about stuff that the company must worry about. This includes overhead, advertising, malpractice, health insurance, other benefits, etc.

                          So if we work at the low end of the calculations Cyres provided, a PT may earn the company $235,140/yr, working for 70K. So the company is making around $165,000 on the therapist. My last hospital job used a 20% benefit margin, so that the hospital paid around an extra 20% of the employee's salary in benefits - so that's another 14K. Now the hospital's about $151,000 up, off of your work, but it just dropped its profit about 8% simply by paying your benefits for you. That equipment you use, that Theraband and brace that you give out - it ain't free. The company pays that. The patients walking through the door might be enticed by some of the new advertising that is going on - that's not coming out of the therapist salary though. Let's say you're a new grad - you just busted your ass for 5 or 6 years. You want those 3 - 5 weeks of vacation, right? How much billing is going on during that period that you're lovin' life on the beach? Gonna stay home with that nasty cough? You are getting paid for those sick days, right? What about the billers that are sending out all those charges that you've generated? The fella sweeping the floor? They aren't earning a single cent for the company, but you've gotta cover their salaries and benefits. And your senior co-workers that are earning all that good coin...that's gonna be you some day, right? But they can only bill THE EXACT SAME amount as you - Medicare doesn't pay more for a more experienced provider. So that extra pay has to come from somewhere...there's a lot of places that are dipping into that "surplus" that you've earned the company.

                          The situation is more complicated in an acute care hospital, where the inpatient rehab is essential, but is NOT billable as an extra charge, but rather is included in the Diagnostic Related Group fee paid to the hospital to cover everything that occurs in that hospital stay. And a lot of departments are always a loss for the hospital (at my hospital, surgery and anesthesiology were what kept us in the black) - so you've gotta do some cost shifting to keep the hospital afloat.

                          Two sides to each coin, from where I sit. These kinds of things are what I feel keeps PTs from getting a ton more money. If you can, however, become that company owner, and you understand compensation and how to control costs, you can earn some great money.

                          dc
                           

                          DPT2DO

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                            I'm a DPT, am about to gross 68000 this year, 1.5 yrs exp, quite comfortable 40 hrs/wk at an outpatient ortho private practice. I enjoy it but there isn't as much autonomy as is portrayed, for me anyways. I'm headin back to school (DO) but not for the dough. I want more scope, more say over a patients care.
                             

                            ericdopt

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                              I'm a DPT, am about to gross 68000 this year, 1.5 yrs exp, quite comfortable 40 hrs/wk at an outpatient ortho private practice. I enjoy it but there isn't as much autonomy as is portrayed, for me anyways. I'm headin back to school (DO) but not for the dough. I want more scope, more say over a patients care.

                              Good luck with school. I did it and love what I do now. I wouldn't change a thing. PT has been very good to me and still think it is a rewarding career. But...I needed more and am very happy with my decision.
                               

                              PTbecomingDDS

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                                I'm a DPT, am about to gross 68000 this year, 1.5 yrs exp, quite comfortable 40 hrs/wk at an outpatient ortho private practice. I enjoy it but there isn't as much autonomy as is portrayed, for me anyways. I'm headin back to school (DO) but not for the dough. I want more scope, more say over a patients care.

                                I have been practicing for 6 years. I was a clinic director and my salary fell into the average pay for a director. But depending on where you practice, you are not fully autonomous. You will at most times been under a MD/DO. For me, I want more autonomy, more responsibility, and more hands on care...that is why I am going back to school for dentistry.

                                I was surprised to see that the SDN perception poll regarding a DPT's salary was overwhelmingly in the 80,000-100,000 range. This might be true when calculating benefits like health, continuing ed., and vacation and with you practicing in an underserved region in the mid-west or in area where the cost of living is extremely high. But, as a clinic director in Denver, CO, I can honestly tell you that a new graduate (DPT or not) would only be offered in the low to mid 60,000 including the cost of benefits. So, if you are considering PT with the expectation of earning 80,000 – 100,000, you might be disappointed (unless you work as a home health PT, in a nursing home, and/or work greater than 40 hours a week which I would never would want to do).

                                One should also take into consideration that even it is true the baby boomers are getting older medicare is reimbursing less to the point that it might not be financially viable to treat this population unless they have secondary insurance. Hopefully, things will change and PT will be back to what it was in the 80’s/early 90’s with better reimbursement. But with a bad economy and more of push for nationalized health care, reimbursement will most likely continue to be slashed.
                                 

                                Elbrus

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                                  I was surprised to see that the SDN perception poll regarding a DPT's salary was overwhelmingly in the 80,000-100,000 range. This might be true when calculating benefits like health, continuing ed., and vacation and with you practicing in an underserved region in the mid-west or in area where the cost of living is extremely high. But, as a clinic director in Denver, CO, I can honestly tell you that a new graduate (DPT or not) would only be offered in the low to mid 60,000 including the cost of benefits. So, if you are considering PT with the expectation of earning 80,000 – 100,000, you might be disappointed (unless you work as a home health PT, in a nursing home, and/or work greater than 40 hours a week which I would never would want to do).

                                  Agreed--Denver & CO in general are one of the lowest paying areas in the country. Many PTs living in the region and the fact there is NO continuing education requirement to maintain a license in Colorado I believe are contributing factors.

                                  I am only 4-years out from graduation, working as a staff therapist (not management) and earning in the 80-100K before benefits are added. So where you work does make a difference.
                                   

                                  PREMEDWOAHS

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                                    Agreed--Denver & CO in general are one of the lowest paying areas in the country. Many PTs living in the region and the fact there is NO continuing education requirement to maintain a license in Colorado I believe are contributing factors.

                                    I am only 4-years out from graduation, working as a staff therapist (not management) and earning in the 80-100K before benefits are added. So where you work does make a difference.

                                    if possible elbrus id appreciate you messaging me.
                                     

                                    kcgregor

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                                      Agreed--Denver & CO in general are one of the lowest paying areas in the country. Many PTs living in the region and the fact there is NO continuing education requirement to maintain a license in Colorado I believe are contributing factors.

                                      I am only 4-years out from graduation, working as a staff therapist (not management) and earning in the 80-100K before benefits are added. So where you work does make a difference.

                                      What area do you live in, Elbrus?
                                       
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