In the past couple of months, in physical therapy programs across the country, graduates who have worked hard for years to become physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, are receiving their well-deserved degrees. According to estimates by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 7,249 PTs and 5,489 PTAs will graduate in 20121, and nearly all of them will be employed within 6 months.
If you are among those 12,738 graduates seeking a job, knowing how to negotiate the best salary will be critical as you navigate the job market. (Remember, salary is only a part of the negotiation. Benefits, like retirement contributions, continuing education funds and paid time off for professional development are negotiable too. In this post, we are focusing solely on the salary part.)
As with most situations, going in with the right attitude is key.
First, you should recognize how valuable you are in the marketplace with your new degree. Nearly 13,000 new PTs and PTAs in the U.S. this year sounds like a big number; and a lot of competition for jobs. But, consider that an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 PTs permanently leave the profession each year due to retirement or other reasons.5 Also, think about the following:
- There are over 300 million people in the United States2
- 20.5 million of them are enrolled in college3
- 32,498 are enrolled in physical therapy school1
Just to be enrolled in physical therapy school makes you 0.01% of the total U.S. population. Graduating this year makes you 0.0043%. Talk about an elite group! You are a valuable commodity! Also realize that:
- Employment for PTs in 2010 was 198,6000; projected employment in 2020 is 276,000 – a 45% increase.4
- Employment for PTAs in 2010 was 67,400; projected employment in 2020 is 98,200 – a 46% increase.4
- The vacancy rates in 2010 for:
- Acute care hospitals were 10.0% for PTs and 8.8% for PTAs
- Private practice were 11.2% for PTs and 14.4% for PTAs
- Skilled nursing facilities were 12.1% for PTs and 5.8% for PTAs5
While much of America is struggling to find work, those that made the decision to work hard and earn a physical therapy degree are finding just a 0.2% unemployment rate.6
By now, you recognize your value as a PT or a PTA. Use this information wisely as you negotiate your salary. It was not presented here to create greedy PTs and PTAs who are only in it for the money. Most of us got into PT for more altruistic reasons, and don’t think that way to begin with. But, you’ve worked hard, and you deserve a fair salary that reflects your level of preparation and hard work.
As the title of this post suggests, a future post will address additional tools for PTs and PTAs to negotiate their salaries, such as salary data for PTs and PTAs across the country. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or follow this blog via email (see below), to be sure you get the next installment as soon as it is posted!
1. 2010-2011 Fact Sheets (PT and PTA programs). Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. http://www.capteonline.org/AggregateProgramData/ Accessed June 25, 2012.
2. United States Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov. Accessed June 25, 2012
3. Fast Facts. Institute of Education Sciences. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=98. Accessed June 25, 2012.
4. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http:///www.bls.gov. Accessed June 25, 2012.
5. A Model to Project the Supply and Demand of Physical Therapists 2010-2020. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.apta.org/WorkforceData/ Accessed June 25, 2012.
6. Who Are Physical Therapists? American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.apta.org/AboutPTs/ Accessed June 25, 2012.