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Become An Outpatient Physical Therapist

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Working As An Outpatient Physical Therapist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $42,170

    Average Salary

What Does An Outpatient Physical Therapist Do

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.


Physical therapists typically do the following:

  • Review patients’ medical history and any referrals or notes from doctors, surgeons, or other healthcare workers
  • Diagnose patients’ functions and movements by observing them stand or walk and by listening to their concerns, among other methods
  • Develop individualized plans of care for patients, outlining the patients’ goals and the expected outcomes of the plans
  • Use exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy, and equipment to ease patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and facilitate health and wellness
  • Evaluate and record a patient’s progress, modifying a plan of care and trying new treatments as needed
  • Educate patients and their families about what to expect from the recovery process and how best to cope with challenges throughout the process

Physical therapists provide care to people of all ages who have functional problems resulting from back and neck injuries; sprains, strains, and fractures; arthritis; amputations; neurological disorders, such as stroke or cerebral palsy; injuries related to work and sports; and other conditions.

Physical therapists are educated to use a variety of different techniques to care for their patients. These techniques include exercises; training in functional movement, which includes the use of equipment such as canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and walkers; and special movements of joints, muscles, and other soft tissue to improve movement and decrease pain.

The work of physical therapists varies by type of patient. For example, a patient working to recover mobility lost after a stroke needs different care from a patient who is recovering from a sports injury. Some physical therapists specialize in one type of care, such as orthopedics or geriatrics. Many physical therapists also help patients to maintain or improve mobility by developing fitness and wellness programs to encourage healthier and more active lifestyles.

Physical therapists work as part of a healthcare team, overseeing the work of physical therapist assistants and aides and consulting with physicians and surgeons and other specialists.

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How To Become An Outpatient Physical Therapist

Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.


In 2015, there were more than 200 programs for physical therapists accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). All programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

DPT programs typically last 3 years. Most programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission as well as specific educational prerequisites, such as classes in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics. Some programs admit college freshmen into 6- or 7-year programs that allow students to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree and a DPT. Most DPT programs require applicants to apply through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS).

Physical therapist programs often include courses in biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. Physical therapist students also complete at least 30 weeks of clinical work, during which they gain supervised experience in areas such as acute care and orthopedic care.

Physical therapists may apply to and complete a clinical residency program after graduation. Residencies typically last about 1 year and provide additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. Therapists who have completed a residency program may choose to specialize further by completing a fellowship in an advanced clinical area.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require physical therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state but all include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Several states also require a law exam and a criminal background check. Continuing education is typically required for physical therapists to keep their license. Check with state boards for specific licensing requirements.

After gaining work experience, some physical therapists choose to become a board-certified specialist. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers certification in 8 clinical specialty areas, including orthopedics, sports, and geriatric physical therapy. Board specialist certification requires passing an exam and at least 2,000 hours of clinical work or completion of an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)-accredited residency program in the specialty area.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Physical therapists are often drawn to the profession in part by a desire to help people. They work with people who are in pain and must have empathy for their patients.

Detail oriented. Like other healthcare providers, physical therapists should have strong analytic and observational skills to diagnose a patient’s problem, evaluate treatments, and provide safe, effective care.

Dexterity. Physical therapists must use their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. They should feel comfortable massaging and otherwise physically assisting patients.

Interpersonal skills. Because physical therapists spend a lot of time interacting with patients, they should enjoy working with people. They must be able to clearly explain treatment programs, motivate patients, and listen to patients’ concerns to provide effective therapy.

Physical stamina. Physical therapists spend much of their time on their feet, moving as they demonstrate proper techniques and help patients perform exercises. They should enjoy physical activity.

Resourcefulness. Physical therapists customize treatment plans for patients. They must be flexible and able to adapt plans of care to meet the needs of each patient.

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Outpatient Physical Therapist jobs

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Outpatient Physical Therapist Career Paths

Outpatient Physical Therapist
Primary Therapist Social Worker Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Therapist Mental Health Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Program Director Specialist Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Nurse Practitioner Registered Nurse Supervisor
Director Of Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Therapist, Contract Occupational Therapist
Director Of Rehabilitation
8 Yearsyrs
Program Director Educator Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Mental Health Counselor Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Clinical Director Career Manager
Geriatric Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Psychotherapist Clinical Director Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Clinical Manager Occupational Health Nurse
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Manager Career Coordinator Residence Director
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Therapist Clinical Social Worker Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinician Program Director
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
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Outpatient Physical Therapist Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Portuguese

  • German

  • Arabic

  • Sami

  • Berta

  • Dakota

  • Dutch

  • Cherokee

  • Chickasaw

  • Russian

  • Polish

  • Hmong

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Outpatient Physical Therapist

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Outpatient Physical Therapist Education

Outpatient Physical Therapist

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Real Outpatient Physical Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Outpatient Physical Therapist National Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc. Waldorf, MD May 10, 2016 $75,150 -
Outpatient Therapist Gentle Shepherd Counseling Center North Canton, OH Oct 01, 2011 $73,045
Outpatient Therapist Gentle Shepherd Counseling Center North Canton, OH Sep 20, 2010 $73,045
Outpatient Physical Therapist National Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc. Oxon Hill, MD Aug 31, 2016 $70,626
Outpatient Physical Therapist Welling Physical Therapy and Acupunture PLLC New York, NY Sep 19, 2013 $70,228
Outpatient Physical Therapist Welling Physical Therapy and Acupunture PLLC NY Oct 01, 2013 $70,228
Outpatient Physical Therapist National Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc. Silver Spring, MD Jan 06, 2014 $70,000
Outpatient Coordinator-Physical Therapist American Retirement Corporation Tucson, AZ Feb 01, 2013 $69,894
Outpatient Physical Therapist National Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc. Clinton, MD Dec 12, 2016 $63,066 -
Outpatient Physical Therapist National Rehabilitation Hospital, Inc. Oxon Hill, MD Nov 14, 2016 $63,066 -
Outpatient Therapist Hispanic Community Counseling Services Philadelphia, PA Dec 10, 2010 $62,610
Outpatient Therapist The Chrysalis Center Inc. Tampa, FL Sep 22, 2016 $57,393
Outpatient Therapist Net Treatment Services, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Oct 01, 2012 $52,175
Outpatient Therapist Omni Health Services, Inc. Easton, PA Nov 18, 2015 $48,001
Outpatient Therapist The Wellness Group Youth and Family Services, Inc. Richmond, VA May 10, 2010 $48,000
Outpatient Therapist Gentle Shepherd Counseling Center North Canton, OH Oct 01, 2011 $45,914
Outpatient Therapist Creoks Mental Health Services, Inc. Okmulgee, OK Jan 01, 2010 $42,000
Outpatient Therapist/Psr Facilitator Iroquois Mental Health Center Watseka, IL Sep 15, 2015 $41,302
Outpatient Therapist 12 & 12 Inc. Tulsa, OK Aug 12, 2010 $40,000
Outpatient Therapist Omni Health Services, Inc. Easton, PA Nov 18, 2015 $37,502
Outpatient Therapist High Plains Mental Health Center Hays, KS Sep 26, 2015 $35,500
Outpatient Therapist High Plains Mental Health Center Hays, KS Sep 03, 2015 $35,500 -

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Top Skills for An Outpatient Physical Therapist


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Top Outpatient Physical Therapist Skills

  1. Outpatient Therapy
  2. Treatment Plan Reviews
  3. Mental Health Services
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintained a caseload for case management and outpatient therapy and consistently met productivity expectations.
  • Developed and implemented individualized treatment plans and safety plans, monthly treatment plan reviews, and discharge/aftercare plans utilizing community resources.
  • Performed Diagnostic Clinical Assessments for agencies for determination of eligible benefits and mental health services.
  • Provided individual and family therapy sessions in home and school environment for specific population: sexual abuse.
  • Train group home staff in developing appropriate behavioral strategies for crisis intervention and adjustment disturbances.

Top Outpatient Physical Therapist Employers