Physical Therapy Careers

If you want to help ill or injured people get moving again and manage their pain, you might consider a career in physical therapy.

Demand for physical therapists in Kentucky is expected to grow by double digits. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand is driven both by the large number of aging but active baby boomers and by the number of people living with chronic diseases.

In addition, the BLS says job prospects for physical therapists should be especially favorable in rural areas where there is not as much competition for work as in urban and suburban areas.

To become a physical therapist, you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. DPT programs typically last three years.

Kentucky has three accredited physical therapy programs, at the University of Kentucky, Bellarmine University, and Western Kentucky University. UK offers its DPT program at its Lexington campus and at the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard.

Some programs admit college freshmen into six- or seven-year programs that allow students to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree and a DPT.

Demand for physical therapists in Kentucky is expected to grow 22.9 percent from 2016 to 2026, making them the second-fastest growing occupation in Kentucky requiring a professional or doctoral degree.*

  • Physical therapists: 22.9 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 2,691 to 3,306 positions. Average salary $84,322.

Physical therapist assistants are also in demand in Kentucky, with a 25.8 percent increase projected from 2016 to 2026. An associate degree in physical therapy is needed for this job.

Getting care from a physical therapist assistant can reduce the overall cost of physical therapy care. A physical therapist must evaluate a patient and design a plan of care, but the assistant can provide much of the treatment, under the therapist’s direction.

  • Physical therapist assistants: 25.8 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 1,792 to 2,254 positions. Average salary $55,528.

Physical therapist aides typically have a high school diploma and learn their work through on-the-job training. They set up equipment, help patients move from one area to another, and perform clerical tasks.

  • Physical therapists aides: 23.4 percent growth from 2016 to 2026, from 697 to 860 positions. Average salary $25,073.

* The fastest growing occupation requiring a professional or doctoral degree in Kentucky is postsecondary health specialties teachers, with 23.4 percent growth from 2016 to 2026.

Figures from the Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2026.

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