Make More Money in Less Time: How to Win at Physical Therapy

Your time is valuable; charge what you’re worth!
By Lily Beltran
Make More Money in Less Time: How to Win at Physical Therapy

Having a good financial foundation can help someone have a more fulfilling life. And thanks to a booming economy, many goods and services are becoming more expensive. For example, a modest condo in the Bay area will cost you $1,000,000+ and car prices are up 10% and insurance is 50% more expensive than 10 years ago. Even paying for your children’s education is more expensive than before, with increases in tuition upwards of 213%.

So why are physical therapist wages stagnating?

If you've lived through economic downtimes, you know entering the "working world" during that time was challenging. It changed our psyches. But regardless of what happened, we must shift our perspective when it comes to our careers.

The mindset many adopted is one of scarcity, which is a common mindset during a recession. Common thoughts from that time include, “I’m lucky to have a job. I’m happy to have gotten accepted into a school. I was lucky to even graduate, I can’t believe they’re hiring me for this position.”

Often times, failures are the best learning experiences. However, we need to transcend the past and move into the present, especially when it comes to the economy. We need to take back control of our working lives!

Adopt an abundance mindset that reflects our current economy.

Here are some tips to help you set up a prosperous financial future in physical therapy:

How to Make More Money as a Physical Therapist

1. Pay down all bad debt or don’t get into it

Nothing will eat your earning potential more than having an overhead that collects interest.

Loans are easy to get because banks make money from lending. Student loans amount to over $1.2 trillion of debt. Of that amount, $7 million is in default, with more to come.

Here are some guidelines to determine which debt to pay off first. Try to invest your money to guarantee future financial security. If possible, apply for government forgiveness programs.

Be wary of increasing your overhead, while in debt. It may be warranted to hold off on buying a house, new car, and excessive spending before paying down all bad debt.

Scholarships can help disperse the financial burden of school. You may qualify for more than you think. Apply for at least 10. If you are in school and taking out loans, hopefully they have modest interest rates. The total cost of a four year DPT program, tuition, and housing, can cost over $100,000. If your starting salary is $85,000 or $4,500 a month after tax in California, you’re starting life in a large hole of debt, without adequate resources to pay it back.

We're in an era where the independent contractor is celebrated. These jobs pay well, have flexible hours, and tax advantages. Uber, Lyft, and even being a traveling physical therapist can be easy ways to make sure you leave school with little to no debt. Evaluating a position at a new startup company like Luna can lead to a great opportunity for you in outpatient physical therapy, in a flexible and independent manner. It’s exciting to be working alongside a team of professionals to fill the current gap of leveraging technology in physical therapy.

Don’t start your life on a mountain of unreasonable debt. Look carefully at the return on investment before undertaking school loans.


2. Charge what you’re worth

You don’t necessarily have to pay your dues to get a higher salary. Instead, do whatever you can to start making higher than the median salary.

Becoming a scarce resource in a crowded field will be worth your while. Take on prestigious internships during graduate school or find a field of therapy that pays more. Traveling physical therapists, pelvic floor therapy, and home health therapy are known to attract a higher wage.

Be bold and ready to switch to a position and location that pays more. It's shown that switching jobs early in your career will lead to greater success. Be willing to move where there are higher salaries and a lower cost of living. Screen your potential therapy jobs for how much job flexibility they have. Then use that flexibility to work at multiple locations to increase your pay.

Realize your self-worth then charge what you’re worth. Be fearless.


3. Go out on your own

The best job is a side gig that grows enough to turn into a full-time business. While taking more short-term effort and risk, entrepreneurship can skyrocket your long-term earning potential. It offers unlimited autonomy and freedom as you and your business grow.

What’s keeping you from going out on your own? Why not make some supplemental, side money during your off hours, at double to triple your hourly rate? This can be an easy way to ensure your venture has the greatest chance of success, all while taking on the least amount of risk.

For your long-term prosperity, be bold and invest in ventures that will pay dividends.

While there are some challenges to making a fulfilling career out of physical therapy, what other career has the capability of being so rewarding? There are exciting new faces you get to meet and people with amazing backgrounds and unique life stories. There will likely be challenges in giving your patient the perfect program. But while others complain about their daily grind, we get to evolve from our daily learning experiences.

Be mindful of your debt to income ratio. Charge what you’re worth. Become your own boss.

Physical therapy doesn’t have to be a field that’s impossible to make a living.

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