APTA Responds to National Research Center for Career and Technical Education on PT and PTA Education and Salaries

January 19, 2012

To whom it may concern,

I am writing in reference to the information about physical therapists (PTs) that appears in the publication "Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School Through College Jobs." We are responding to the data in Tables 9, 18, 49, and 50.

We believe the information attributed to PTs may have been intended to describe physical therapist assistants (PTAs). Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. The minimum educational degree required to become a PT is a master's degree, with the profession moving toward the clinical doctorate as the minimum degree required.

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a licensed PT. To work as a PTA, an individual must graduate with an associate's degree (2 years, usually 5 semesters) from an accredited PTA program at a technical or community college, or a 4-year college or university.

Below we have provided the correct information as it pertains to both PTs and PTAs.

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Table 9. Middle-skill workers in Health Science can earn wages above the MET.

According to Table 9, PTs with an associate's degree earned a yearly wage of $41,800 in 2007-2009. This is not accurate. Physical therapists must hold at least a bachelor's degree in order to practice. Actually, PTs graduating today are required to complete a graduate degree - either a master's or clinical doctorate - from an accredited education program before practicing.

With that in mind, your information may be referring to the PTA, whose minimal educational requirement is the associate's degree. According to the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) 2009 Median Income of Physical Therapist Assistants Summary Report, which provides data pertaining to APTA members, the median income in 2008 for PTAs with an associate's degree was $45,000.

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Table 18. College-level workers in Health Science earn wages above the MET in a number of growing occupations.

According to Table 18, PTs with a bachelor's degree earned a yearly wage of $58,800 in 2007-2009. According to APTA's workforce data mentioned above, the median income for PTs practicing with a bachelor's degree in 2008 was $85,000 and $45,000 for PTAs.

APTA's workforce data also reports that median income for PTs practicing with a master's degree in 2008 was $75,000 (PTs with a bachelor's degree earn more than those with a master's degree because those with a bachelor's tend to have more years of experience than those just entering the field with the required master's degree) and for PTAs with a master's degree it was $51,500.

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Table 49. The education level required for jobs in Health Sciences varies widely.

The table indicates that there were 2% of PT positions available between 2007-2009 that required a high school diploma; 2% requiring some college/no degree; and 7% required an associate's degree. As previously stated, this would not apply to PTs, since PTs are practicing with a minimum of a bachelors' degree.

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Table 50. For registered nurses, dental hygienists, and several other Health Science jobs, workers with higher levels of educational attainment consistently earn wages higher than the MET.

The table indicates that between 2007 and 2009, PTs with an associate's degree earned $41,800 (untrue as there are no PTs practicing with an associate's degree); with a bachelor's degree earned $58,800 (according to APTA's workforce data members earned $85,000); and with a master's degree or better earned $59,700 (according to APTA's workforce data members earned $75,000 with a master's degree).

If referring to PTAs, APTA's workforce data indicate that in 2008 PTAs working with an associate's degree earned $45,000, with a bachelor's degree $45,000, and with a master's degree $51,500.

For more information on a career as a PT or working as a PTA, please visit APTA's "Careers and Education" Web page. If you have questions or concerns regarding any information presented here, please contact me directly at emiliorouco@apta.org or at 703/706-3393. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Emilio J. Rouco
Director, Public and Media Relations