21 Alternative Jobs for Physical Therapists

The idea of physical therapists leaving clinical care by choice used to be practically unheard of. Sure, you could leave to raise a family and nobody would judge you. But leaving to pursue another career altogether? Blasphemy! At best, you were a black sheep. At worst, you were a sellout, a lazy PT, or just a plain old mystery to most therapists. But, since COVID reared its ugly head and ushered in The Great Resignation among healthcare providers, things have changed…a lot. PPE shortages, layoffs, and reimbursement cuts have become the norm, and people no longer look at you like you have three heads if you want out. These days, if you’re exploring non-clinical physical therapy jobs, join the club. You’re certainly not alone, and nobody is going to guilt you or shame you for exploring alternative physical therapy careers.

Top 7 Non Clinical Job Ideas for PTs and PTAs

Alternative jobs for physical therapists

Coming from a physical therapist background, you have many career options to consider thanks to your wide variety of transferable skills. Here are some careers that use skills transferrable skills from physical therapy:

Primary duties: Respiratory therapists help people with lung diseases or other respiratory issues like breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders. They examine patients, consult with a physician to create a treatment plan, perform diagnostic tests and treat patients using various methods.

Primary duties: Physical therapy aides assist physical therapists and physical therapy assistants. They help with patient intake, prepare equipment, prepare hot and cold packs to apply to patients, transport patients, observe them and record their responses and overall progress.

Primary duties:

Exercise physiologists use physical activity to improve their patients overall health. They often work with patients who have cardiovascular or pulmonary issues. Exercise physiologists review a patients medical history and perform tests to identify their oxygen levels, blood pressure and their overall fitness. They then use their findings to create tailored exercise plans for each patient.

Primary duties: Personal trainers create fitness programs for their clients. They demonstrate exercises and routines and help their clients perform these exercises in a way that minimizes injury and promotes fitness. Personal trainers also change their exercises to meet their clients needs, track their clients progress and provide their clients with resources to help with their overall fitness and health.

Primary duties: Nutritionists use food to promote health and manage a variety of diseases. They determine their clients nutritional needs, counsel them on nutrition issues and educate them on healthier eating habits. Nutritionists also create meal plans for their patients, taking into consideration their clients preferences and financial budget.

Primary duties: Massage therapists treat their clients with deep tissue or joint massages to enhance their overall well-being. They talk to their clients about their related history and previous injuries to better serve them. They massage muscles and sore areas and use oils and ointments to penetrate muscles and joints in order to provide relief. Massage therapist also help increase circulation to facilitate healing.

Primary duties: Chiropractors adjust a patients spine or other elements of their body to ease pain and improve their mobility. They evaluate their patients condition via a physical examination, analyze their posture, spine and reflexes and use X-rays to help detect the issue. Chiropractors also use spinal adjustments to correct issues such as spine misalignments.

Primary duties: Audiologists help patients manage complications from disorders or loss of function. Some of their patients include those with hearing loss or balance problems. They identify their patients issue, determine the cause and provide them with the best course of treatment. Audiologists also perform diagnostic measures like patient exams and hearing tests. Using the results from these tests, they develop a treatment plan.

Primary duties: Occupational therapists help people cope with their disabilities and improve their ability to complete their daily tasks and functions. They may instruct their clients on how to use crutches and casts. Occupational therapists evaluate their clients injuries and create a treatment plan to help them get back to work and their everyday activities. If their client works, they may instruct their clients manager on their clients rights and needs as a disabled employee. They may also recommend eating aids or devices to help their patients live more comfortably with their disabilities.

Primary duties: Physician assistants diagnose illnesses, create treatment plans, prescribe medications and perform patient exams. They also assist with surgeries, order and interpret laboratory tests, interview patients and recommend lifestyle changes to improve a patients health.

Primary duties: Speech-language pathologists help patients with communication or swallowing disorders. Working with children and adults, they diagnose, treat and prevent these disorders. They create treatment and therapy plans to meet each individuals needs and perform screenings to identify these voice or speech disorders.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is an exercise treatment for patients with immobility or impaired movement and flexibility. Physical therapists teach their patients how to use devices and teach them exercises to do at home to help with their overall recovery. Physical therapy aims to ease pain and help individuals function, move and live a more normal life. Ultimately, its way to restore health through various methods including physical examinations, diagnosis, rehabilitation and patient education.

More alternative jobs for physical therapists

If you need more options, consider these additional alternative careers for physical therapists:


What can you do instead of physical therapy?

Here are a few of the many ways you can leverage your degree outside of the treatment room:
  • Education.
  • Utilization review.
  • Medical device training or sales.
  • Consulting.
  • Informatics.
  • Marketing.
  • Healthcare copy writing or content writing.
  • Medical writing (may require additional training)

What is the highest paying physical therapy specialty?

If you enjoy working with athletes, you’re in luck: sports medicine is one of the highest paying specializations in physical therapy, according to the Physical Therapist Alliance.

Will there be a strong demand for physical therapists in the future?

Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 15,600 openings for physical therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Do physical therapists love their job?

So, it’s no wonder that, while WebPT’s recent State of Rehab Therapy report revealed that approximately 60% of PTs are happy with their work (we all know patient care is immensely gratifying), many respondents indicated that they’re not so happy with the possible future of physical therapy with how things are headed.

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