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Demand For Physical Therapists On The Rise

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
September 28, 2009

As the U.S. population ages and more soldiers fight wars abroad, demand for physical therapists remains strong and is expected to increase.

Business Week reports that according to a new study naming the most in-demand occupations in the country conducted by the job search Web site SimplyHired.com, physical therapists ranked in the Top 3 in 29 out of 40 metro areas. Meanwhile, physical therapist assistants were in the Top 3 spots in nine metro areas. The study confirms data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicted that demand for physical therapists would grow 27 percent between 2006 and 2017.

"It's a profession recognized as having opportunity," said Julie Keysor, associate professor of physical therapy at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University. She noted that older adults often suffer from arthritis and cardiovascular disease, both of which can be improved through physical therapy. In addition, physical therapy can help mild to severe brain injuries often caused by war.

The Baltimore Sun [from an article originally located at http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/jobs/sns-health-physical-therapist,0,1796470.story] notes that other conditions that can be treated with physical therapy include lower back pain, cerebral palsy, bone fractures and other bone and skeletal system disorders. Treatments can include ultrasound, electrical stimulation, stretching, exercise, heat, cold compresses and bone manipulation, with the goal of helping patients gain mobility and independence.

The profession also earns a respectable salary: CityTownInfo.com notes that in 2008, physical therapists earned an average of about $73,000 annually. Moreover, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, 13 to 18 percent of physical therapy positions are open, and salaries are expected to rise.

Jennifer Gamboa, owner of Body Dynamics, a physical therapy clinic in Arlington, Virginia, told Business Week that she starts physical therapists at a base salary of $62,000. "They get additional pay based on performance and productivity," she said.

A drawback to the profession is the time required to be trained. While physical therapy assistants need only a two-year associate's degree, physical therapists typically need bachelor's and doctorate degrees. "It used to be you needed a master's degree," noted Gamboa, "but now it's pretty much a matter of a doctoral degree."

Yet the career can be a personally rewarding one. Cara Brickley, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, told the Boston Globe that she was inspired to pursue her profession after hearing how her father, a Vietnam veteran, learned to walk again after sustaining combat wounds.

"He'd tell me how he was pushed to do exercises and get as strong as he possibly could, and how much he appreciated this help," she said. "I see patients make progress and do things they weren't able to do before, and it's very rewarding."

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