So, you want to be a Physical Therapist? That’s great!
Physical therapy jobs are everywhere.
And if you’re a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA), the news is even better.
Being a PTA is an incredible career in a fast-growing field. In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, PTA jobs are some of the fastest growing in the nation—averaging 40% annually. This is much faster than the 7% average growth rate for all occupations.
In 2014, PTAs, including traveling PTAs, held about 78,700 jobs, in a variety of industries:
- Therapist offices (43%)
- Hospitals (23%)
- Home healthcare services (9%)
- Physician offices (5%)
And by 2024, that number is expected to grow by another 51,400 PTA jobs.
Effectively doubling the workforce.
With that kind of growth, you might be thinking that you can get a job anywhere, and you’d be right.
However, just because you can get a job as a PTA anywhere, doesn’t mean you should. There are some states that offer more employment and higher salaries, but before we get into that, it’s important to know the baseline.
Basic PTA Job Information
Breaking down the salary for a PTA isn’t an easy prospect. A lot can depend on your experience.
Check out our article: Physical Therapist Skills: What You Need to Succeed Now, for a list of the skills you need to make the big bucks.
All that aside, we can break down the average wage.
In May 2016, the median annual wage for a Physical Therapist Assistant was $56,610. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,040.
And while location had a large influence on salary, so did the industry. The top paying industry for PTA jobs is in nursing care facilities. There, you can expect to make, $64,030 on average. The lowest paying industry is in a physician’s office, where you’ll earn $52,210.
Now, a traveling PTA salary is slightly higher. That’s because the travel physical therapy profession is the next big thing.
If you’re willing to travel, you can expect a starting salary of $67,200 annually, according to salarygenius.com. On average, you can expect to earn $81,600, and for experienced PTA travel jobs, you could potentially make an average income of around $96,000.
Knowing this, where should you look for a job?
The Best States for PTA Jobs
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as saying “PTA jobs in Las Vegas are the best!” We can’t make a blanket statement.
There are many things that go into determining the best state to practice physical therapy. It depends on what is most important to you.
For some people, salary is most important while others are most concerned with future job prospects. Others look for PTA jobs based on unique factors like progressive practices which fully endorse using physical therapy apps for patients for rehabilitation.
To help you out, we’ve broken down some of the main characteristics of each state when it comes to PTA jobs:
- Employment rate
- Job availability
- Average salary
- Job projections
PTA Jobs: Employment Rate
Sometimes, you’re not concerned about finding the best traveling PTA companies or the highest salary.
You just want to live where the most jobs are.
If that’s the case, then take a look at the following five states for PTA jobs.
- Texas – 6,780 employees
- Ohio – 6,210 employees
- Florida – 5,340 employees
- California – 5,040 employees
- Illinois – 4,860 employees
Each of these states has the greatest number of jobs available. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider finding PTA jobs in WV (West Virginia) or PTA jobs in MA (Massachusetts), for example. There may still be the right fit for you, outside of areas with a high concentration of positions.
For states with the least PTA jobs, there will be more competition in: Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, Delaware, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Mexico.
Each of the above listed states only offers between 70 to 390 PTA jobs, on average.
PTA Jobs: Availability by State
Now, what if you have a spouse or friend who is also looking for a PTA job? In that case, the concentration of PTA jobs to be a better indicator of your likelihood for success in finding work as a Physical Therapy Assistant.
In this case, the state order is:
- Ohio – 1.16 per thousand jobs
- West Virginia– 1.14 per thousand jobs
- Alabama – .99 per thousand jobs
- Kentucky – 0.95 per thousand jobs
- Tennessee – 0.94 per thousand jobs
Job concentration can also be key for PTA travel careers.
Since these states have the highest concentration of PTA jobs, they might not need a traveling PTA as much. As an example, you’d be better served looking for traveling PTA jobs in RI (Rhode Island) where there are fewer than .94 PTA positions per thousand jobs.
Another thing to consider when it comes to job concentration is salary. It tends to be that the higher the concentration of PTA jobs, the greater the competition, thus the lower the PTA salary. Even when considering a traveling Physical Therapist Assistant salary, concentration can decrease your wages.
PTA Jobs: Average Salary
So, where should you work if salary is your biggest PTA job consideration?
You can earn as much as $16,600 above the average national mean annual wage by working in the right state.
So, where are the highest paying states for PTA jobs?
- Texas – Annual mean wage: $71,780
- New Jersey– Annual mean wage: $64,230
- California – Annual mean wage: $63,680
- Florida – Annual mean wage: $62,730
- Connecticut – Annual mean wage: $61,530
The state that may pay below average: Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Hawaii, Nebraska, Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi—between $23,790 – $49,160.
So, in the less high paying states, we recommend earning a travel Physical Therapy Assistant salary instead. In this case, you’ll start off with a higher salary, which could be leveraged when settling down in one place.
Short Term PTA Job Prospects
Finally, maybe you’re less concerned about the right here and right now, but you’re worried about the future of PTA jobs.
If that’s the case, then we recommend choosing your PTA job location off of the projected job employment by 2018.
- Texas – 430 new PTA jobs by 2018
- California– 400 new PTA jobs by 2018
- Florida – 330 new PTA jobs by 2018
- Pennsylvania – 280 new PTA jobs by 2018
- New York – 280 new PTA jobs by 2018
Top 3 Best States for PTA Jobs
Based on all of the above data, we’ve narrowed down our list to the top three states for physical therapy jobs.
It pays the highest salary, has the greatest expected job growth, and currently employs the most PTAs.
It’s the third highest paying state for PTAs, has the second highest expected job growth, and the fourth highest employment rate.
Coming in third, Florida offers the fourth highest PTA salary, the third greatest job growth expectation, and the third best employment rate.
However, it is important to note that there are several others factors that must be considered when finding the best location to work.
PTAs are not just employees. They are people who have families and interests.
Finding a PTA Job Based on Your Lifestyle
There are many other factors that should be considered before you sign on the PTA employment contract.
What if you want to go back to school or your spouse wants to start school as a Physical Therapist Assistant? In that case, you’ll want to work near a top school. Check out our article about The Ultimate List of Physical Therapy Schools to Choose From.
You may wish to find a PTA job close to home. This can be accomplished through permanent placement or per diem jobs. In either case, you can remain within close enough distance to return to your old familiar bed at the end of the day.
The difference is that while permanent jobs typically follow a routine schedule with one employer, per diem jobs offer greater flexibility depending on your availability. As a per diem PTA you can block schedule your time and only have to work the days and shifts you want to.
An alternative to finding PTA jobs within your state or a bordering state is to become a traveler.
Travel PTA positions allow physical therapy assistants, nurses, and other medical professionals to work in various areas of the country temporarily. Most assignments are about 13 weeks, allowing travelers to complete one assignment as a way of having a vacation without having to take time off from work, or giving them the opportunity to complete more than one assignment.
Travelers are people who enjoy adventure and want to experience different areas of the country as the locals do.
SEE ALSO: Inspired Traveler Facebook Community
The possibilities for PTA jobs are endless!
You could find yourself in Maine, New York, Colorado, California, Hawaii, or any of the other US states.
Miss a friend or family member who lives far away? Consider a travel position near them for an extended visit. You may even find a place that you would like to make a permanent home!
If you could pick a dream state to apply for PTA jobs, where would it be?
Share with us in the comments below!