Top Non-Clinical Jobs for Physical Therapists

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I often hear people ask, “What else can I do with a physical therapy degree?” If you’re looking for non-clinical jobs or creative ways to leverage your degree, you’ve come to the right place!

A physical therapy degree is not obtained easily! It takes time, money, effort, and maybe a few tears. Once you get done with school and start to practice, it can be an enormous letdown if you’re not feeling satisfied. Some PTs are frustrated by insurance limitations, while others find patient care draining (emotionally or physically…or both).

Some PTs simply don’t enjoy treating patients, while others wish they could swap that physical therapy degree for a business or marketing degree.

The same holds true for professionals in all rehabilitation fields. Rehab degrees make you work for them, and they’re very costly. If you’re unhappy in your chosen field, you shouldn’t feel stuck and bereft of options. I wrote this article to shed light on some of the existing non-clinical options, so expect frequent updates and additions as the site grows!

Here are 7 of the best non-clinical jobs for physical therapists (and other rehab professionals):

1. Education

education

Physical therapists make excellent educators. Our jobs entail educating patients, caregivers, families, and other healthcare professionals every single day. Education is a natural transition for many physical therapists.

This might come as no surprise to you; education is one of the few accepted established non-clinical career paths in our field. For years, physical therapists have been going into education when they’re ready to leave the clinic.

What you might not realize is that PTs aren’t limited to teaching at physical therapy schools. After all, there are PTs living all over America, but there aren’t PT schools everywhere.

Luckily, there are institutes of higher education pretty much everywhere, if you’re willing to commute a half hour or so. PTs are perfectly qualified to teach at the community college, university, and graduate level, especially in courses like anatomy and biomechanics.

Also, with the advent of more and more online education programs, PTs are in the perfect position to pick up courses to teach online, or even work with companies like MedBridge to create online CEU classes or Allied Health Education to teach webinars from home!

Pros:

  • You’ll keep your PT knowledge fresh in some areas.
  • You’ll truly help shape the next generation of clinicians.
  • You’ll stay young being around students.
  • You’ll have flexibility and generous pay (usually).
  • You’ll enjoy watching students succeed.

Cons:

  • You’ll be grading papers, preparing lessons, etc. outside of your actual teaching hours.
  • You’ll likely start out as adjunct, meaning it’s not a clean break from patient care.
  • You’ll possibly be required to stay clinical to some degree (if you teach at a PT school).
  • You’ll occasionally see an unsuccessful student, which can be painful.

How to get there

Here are some basic steps that will help you on your path to finding non-clinical jobs as an educator:

  1. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile: Take inventory of any sort of leadership or education roles you’ve held. If you’ve been a CI, tutored during PT school, mentored as a big brother or big sister, etc., take note of it and highlight it on your resume. Change your LinkedIn headline to read something along the lines of “Physical therapist seeking teaching and education opportunities.”
  2. Network: Start networking with other education professionals. Go to meetups and put the feelers out to others from your class who have gone on to educational roles. Take education-focused con-ed courses.
  3. Get in touch with your alumni association: Let your school know that you’re interested in educational roles. Tell them that you’d appreciate any connections they have in your area.
  4. Look for adjunct teaching roles in your area of expertise. Don’t be afraid to look into remote, online, or junior college-level roles.

Check out the spotlights below to learn more about therapists who’ve become educators!

2. Clinical reviewing or utilization review

utilization-review

In the past, clinical reviewing was performed largely by nurses. Today, physical, occupational, and speech therapists are seeking non-clinical jobs which entail reviewing other therapists’ clinical notes and determining whether the therapists’ treatments were justified.

Clinical reviewers typically work for rehab companies, and they’re employed to review notes and educate staff members on appropriate billing; they may not be required to decline charges. Utilization reviewers might work for insurance companies themselves. They review charts, too, but they’ll likely face more pressure to decline treatments.

These jobs are sometimes remote or partial-remote, and they generally require at least a few years of clinical practice in a specific setting.

For example, if you’re working for a pediatric clinical reviewer job, it will help immensely if you have several years of experience with treating kids as a peds PT.

Pros:

  • You’ll likely enjoy flexible work, possibly with partial or full-remote employment.
  • You’ll be able to fight fraudulent billing practices.
  • You’re definitely still leveraging your degree.
  • You’ll likely enjoy a good salary.

Cons:

  • You’ll probably feel pretty crappy at times; there’s sometimes pressure to decline treatments, even when you deem them medically necessary.
  • You’ll be sitting. A lot. If your body ached in patient care, you might develop new aches and pains from the sedentary role.

How to get there

Here are some basic steps that will help you on your path to finding non-clinical jobs as a clinical reviewer:

  1. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile: Take inventory of any sort of auditing, compliance, or detail-oriented roles you’ve held. If you’ve been point person during hospital audits, or if you’ve been the one tasked to go through charts for accuracy, make sure that you list those responsibilities on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Change your LinkedIn headline to read something along the lines of “Seeking clinical reviewer/utilization reviewer roles”
  2. Network: Start networking with other compliance professionals. Go to meetups and put the feelers out to others from your class who have gone on to CR/UR roles. Pick their brains to find out how they landed their roles. Take compliance-focused con-ed courses and add them to your resume.
  3. Reach out to current and former employers: Let them know that you’re interested in auditing and compliance roles. If you left on good terms, it’s always helpful to put the bug in their ear that you’re looking.
  4. Take additional con-ed. Medbridge offers plenty of compliance courses that will beef up your resume nicely when you start searching for jobs.

Spotlights on clinical reviewers are coming soon!

3. Industry/technology

technology

Ever thought of working with robots? Neither had I, until I started chatting with a few physical therapists who have gone that route. With companies like ReWalk and suitX out there, tons of physical therapists are being hired as clinical trainers, marketers, consultants, and more!

Our backgrounds make us incredible assets to robotics companies in particular. As these organizations create technology to help SCI patients more mobile, PTs’ input is crucial. PTs are also highly valuable in industries seeking to streamline healthcare delivery. For example, if there’s an EMR company seeking an account manager to work with its rehab clients, you’ll have a huge leg up on job seekers who have never worked in rehab facilities. That’s why WebPT hires so many former clinicians into non-clinical roles.

Pros:

  • You’ll feel like you’re on the cutting edge of developments that will truly transform how we operate as clinicians.
  • You’ll enjoy unprecedented creativity.
  • You’ll be uniquely positioned to offer clinical expertise in a sea of techie and engineer types.

Cons:

  • You may wind up working long hours, or traveling quite a bit. This is more common in smaller, startup type companies.
  • You’ll see a wide variety of pay; tech startups don’t always pay well, but established companies do.

How to get there

Here are some steps that will help you on your path to finding non-clinical jobs in tech.

  1. Sign up for AngelList: AngelList is a website where tech startups post roles. Check out roles in sales, account management, and content (to get your foot in the door.) Helpful hint: also search for roles with the keyphrase “clinical background.”
  2. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile: Take inventory of any sort of tech roles you’ve held. If you’ve managed social media accounts, been instrumental in the move from paper to electronic charting, or otherwise participated in tech-focused work, list it! Don’t be afraid to highlight your clinical background–this is what will make you stand out!
  3. Network: Start networking with groups that interest you. Considering work in robotics? Join every robotics group you can find. Ensure you print up some business cards at Vista Print so people remember you!
  4. Get in touch with your alumni association: Let your school know that you’re interested in educational roles. Tell them that you’d appreciate any connections they have in your area.
  5. Look for adjunct teaching roles in your area of expertise. Don’t be afraid to look into remote, online, or junior college-level roles.

Check out the spotlights below to learn more about therapists who’ve gone into tech roles!

4. Recruiting

recruiting

Recruiting is an incredible career path for rehab professionals. Recruiters work with employers and rehab professionals, trying to ensure a good match for a position. For example, you might work as a recruiter for ATI Physical Therapy or CovalentCareers.com, and your role would be speaking with facilities who are looking for PTs, then finding PTs who look good for those roles. You’d do the initial screening of applicants, and you’d earn a paycheck based on whether you’re able to fill open positions.

How to get there

Here are some steps that will help you find non-clinical jobs in recruiting.

  1. Start by working with a company like Relode: You can become an agent and start working your network by seeing if you can place people you know into open jobs. This will tell you a lot about whether you’re going to enjoy recruiting.
  2. Network: Be sure to keep in touch with everyone possible. Go to any and all PT conferences and conventions. Get people’s cards, including employers. Be open about the fact that you’re a born connector, and express interest in recruiting when you speak with companies at conferences.
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile and resume: This is one case where the more places you’ve worked, the better. That means you know more eligible therapists.
  4. Start applying to companies: You can take the approach of applying to job listings on Indeed, or you can start contacting companies like FYZICAL and tell them you read about them on The Non-Clinical PT. Let them know that you’re interested in recruiting roles and see what happens!

Pros: 

  • You’ll enjoy meeting, and networking with, all sorts of people.
  • You’ll use existing connections to help find the right professionals for the right roles.
  • You’ll enjoy a high salary if you’re good at your job; it’s often commission-based.

Cons:

  • You’ll have to “eat what you kill.” Commission-based roles often require an assertive, proactive personality, or you won’t make much income.
  • You’ll often have times where you feel like you’re fitting a square peg in a round hole.

Check out the spotlights below to learn more about folks in recruiting roles!

5. Writing

writing

Ahhh, writing. My calling, and my favorite activity 🙂 Call it publishing, call it copywriting, or call it blogging, but there’s a huge need for educated rehab professionals in the online world. Just google “healthcare content” and you can see that writing about healthcare is a booming industry.

How to get there

I already wrote an extremely comprehensive article: How to launch a non-clinical career as a copywriter. Be sure to take a look when you have a moment.

Here’s are some steps that will help you find non-clinical jobs as a copywriter.

  1. Start writing: Volunteer to write for friends’ websites, start a blog, or create an online journal. Volunteer to write an article for The Non-Clinical PT–I can use the help 🙂 Whatever you do, try to keep honing your craft with each submission. Get bylines wherever you can. Offer to write for Student Doctor Network and/or WebPT.
  2. Create an online portfolio: Your writing is only meaningful when people can find it! Create an online portfolio either on your own website, or use a pre-made site. I use contently.com.
  3. Work with a recruiter: You’ll get higher rates for your work, not to mention better roles, if you work with recruiters from staffing agencies. I’ve worked with the fantastic Aleya Malacane from Creative Circle, as well as the fabulous Jamie Neal from Aquent.com. Chat up your recruiter and find out what they want in health copywriters. It could be your resume, cover letter, or online portfolio needs tweaking.
  4. Be patient. Becoming a professional copywriter takes time and heaps of patience. It took me about two years to find stable, satisfying work as a full-time copywriter. It was worth the wait, but it did not come easily. Try working per diem and gradually transition out of patient care.

Pros:

  • You’ll enjoy unprecedented flexibility and creativity.
  • You’ll get to leverage your degree and build a name for yourself at the same time.
  • You’ll have tons of paths to take, from marketing, to strategy, to editor-in-chief.

Cons:

  • You’ll be sitting a lot. Either invest in a standing desk or get your tail off the chair and get moving throughout the day.
  • You’ll probably have to break into the field slowly, building your portfolio, then transitioning out of patient care.
  • You’ll find that the pay might not be what you’re used to as a PT (at first). After a year or two, you’ll likely earn close to what you did as a therapist.

Spotlights on more copywriters are coming soon, but this is what I do for a living, so feel free to reach out with any questions I didn’t cover in the aforementioned article!

6. Sales and marketing

marketing

When I was working in outpatient, I used to get super envious of the Dynasplint rep who would just breeze through, fit patients with their splints, toss us some doughnuts (mmmm…doughnuts), and be on her merry way. It seemed like such a fun, fulfilling way to leverage a PT degree!

Turns out that I was right! I will be releasing several spotlights on sales reps in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. But basically, it’s a huge industry. Your role will vary greatly.

I wrote an article on how to become a rehab liaison, and you should check it out! Rehab liaisons are basically sales and marketing reps for inpatient rehab facilities, and I really enjoyed my time working in that role 🙂

If you’re an actual sales rep, your role is to represent your product, so you need to know it inside and out. You are also responsible for maintaining (and sometimes starting) relationships with various businesses. For example, if you work for Bioness as a sales rep, you will be going around to various rehab facilities and demonstrating your products, as well as training the therapists in their use.

How to get there

Here are some steps that will help you find non-clinical jobs in sales and marketing.

  1. Update your LinkedIn profile and resume: Sales jobs are generally very numbers-driven and quota-based. That’s good for some folks, and not so good for others. If you choose to pursue sales roles, be sure to list any productivity numbers you’ve exceeded, as well as any times you’ve overshot quotas or managed relationships with clients.
  2. Network: This is huge for sales and marketing roles. You’ll want to really work those connections. AngelList is a great place to look for sales jobs with startups, while in-person networking events and cold outreach to company websites/LinkedIn contacts (or in-person career fairs) works well for larger companies.
  3. Hone your sales skills: Consider joining toastmasters or an improv group, both of which will improve your confidence and public speaking skills.

Pros: 

  • You’ll find this is one of the easiest roles to jump into directly, without needing to do a gradual transition out of patient care.
  • You’ll likely enjoy a good salary, provided you’re comfortable in a commission environment.
  • You’ll be able to leverage your degree and existing industry connections.

Cons: 

  • You’ll be “on” a lot. If you’re leaving patient care because you are shy or don’t like being around people all day, this might not be the role for you.

Check out the spotlights below to learn more about folks in marketing roles!

7. Entrepreneurship

entrepreneurship

I am so excited to include this on the list! There are SO many physical and occupational therapists who are leveraging their degrees to be their own bosses in non-clinical or partial-clinical ways.

In the past, entrepreneurial-minded PTs were told to become clinic owners, and that’s about it. With the advent of telehealth and smartphones, PTs have gone in all sorts of cool directions, including owning HEP companies and running telehealth platforms.

The key to becoming an entrepreneur is to identify a problem, then provide a solution, making your entire mission to delight your customer/client in the process. Influencers fall under this category, as well; some folks, like the Movement Maestro, are making names for themselves as experts, by leveraging social media.

How to get there

The best way to become an entrepreneur is to learn from other entrepreneurs, but here are some steps to help you along your path.

  1. Study your industry carefully, and identify a need: The guys at Pre-PT Grind identified a strong need for guidance and mentorship in the pre-PT community, so they created an organization to meet that need.
  2. Find a mentor: Identify folks who are doing things that are close to what you’re hoping to do, and make friends with them. Buy them dinner and pick their brains. Beg for 20 minutes on the phone and land a stellar informational interview. Network as much as possible in your areas of interest. If you see someone on the spotlights on this site, reach out to them!
  3. Attend a hack-a-thon: More to come on this topic, but if you’re looking to innovate, you absolutely have to attend a hack-a-thon. It’s a great way to network and connect with other like-minded entrepreneurial types.

Pros: 

  • You’ll have the ability to truly create an organization or product that fits your vision. I created TNCPT because I knew what I wanted to do (create a comprehensive resource for therapists to find EVERYTHING they need to go non-clinical), and I wanted to be able to run the site solely based on user preferences (reach out to tell me what you want!) and my own vision for where I see the PT industry in 5, 10, and 20 years.
  • You’ll be able to work from anywhere you want.
  • You can truly effect change in our industry, in patients’ lives, and even in the healthcare industry on the whole.

Cons:

  • You’ll need a lot of internal drive to be an entrepreneur; you’re always on, and you will likely be hustling pretty much all the time. I’m writing this article on my weekend, and every entrepreneur I know is pretty much working all day, every day. But they love it!
  • You won’t get a steady paycheck for a long time. You’ll go without perks many folks take for granted, such as PTO, 401(k), and health/dental benefits.

Check out the spotlights below to learn more about folks in entrepreneurial roles! More coming soon 🙂 

Did I leave anything off? Just let me know! I’ll be re-releasing this article frequently, as I find other roles to feature!

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you thank you for writing this!! Makes me feel less crazy and gives great advice for moving forward in my career. I appreciate this post very much!! TY

    • Hi Jen! Thank you so much for your comment; reading it truly made my day 🙂 Please let me know if I can ever help you, or if you have any particular questions. I might not know the answers, but I’ll certainly try to find them… thanks again for your comment and Happy New Year 🙂 – Meredith

  2. Meredith somehow my searches just keep finding you!! Lol!! I so resonate with these articles. I’ve been away from clinical practice for a bit pursuing some of my other passions of Life Coaching, Reiki, Qi Gong and fitness to mention a few. It’s been an interesting path integrating all of this with my love of helping others as a PT. Any advise for a not new grad with loads of experience and a very strong desire to help people help themselves with a holistic Mind Body approach?

    • Hi Coby!

      Thank you for the comment. I think your background in PT is the perfect complement to your holistic and mental health pursuits! If you do wind up doing life coaching as your primary goal, you’re pretty well set up for having both mind and body covered 🙂 I checked out your website and it looks like you’re already very much on the right path. My advice is always to start with writing super relevant content to whatever it is you’re trying to either sell or “be the expert at.” In your case, you’ve already been blogging, which is great. Just keep at it, with more and more content, and try to get that content in front of the right eyes. You’ll only know which eyes to target when you hone in on a particular group you’d like to help. Is it teachers? Rehab professionals? Identify the ones you think could most use your help and then write tons of tailored articles to those people. You can join Facebook groups and share those articles in the groups to get more traction.

      Your message seems really appropriate for burned out clinicians (any healthcare professional, really), so maybe you can start by working with PTs/OTs/SLPs and RNs. I’m happy to chat with you more about this sometime 🙂 Just drop me a line on the contact page. Happy 2018! Meredith

  3. Meredith.. Smashing article and hitting all the edges of the PT profession and burnout/resentment. I can relate to the details of this article as a PT in various levels. That’s why I am in the midst of building my life coaching programs around burnout in our profession. I have developed a six week life coaching program on this such topic and would love to through around some thoughts your way as it gets rolling out!!!! Looking forward to collaborating!!!!!(website – not up yet!)

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