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!
I may make a tiny commission for recommending certain courses on my site. Any commissions I earn to go directly toward the operating costs of this site.
Here are 7 of the best non-clinical jobs for physical therapists (and other rehab professionals):
1. Education or tutoring
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!
- 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.
- 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. Take some coursework around teaching/education
I recommend the following courses to boost your resume a bit, and to help you get a better idea of whether teaching/tutoring is even right for you.
- How to Start and Grow Tutoring Business – This is an inexpensive, comprehensive course that covers how to actually create and run a successful tutoring business. This makes more sense if you want the flexibility and high pay of being a tutor, whether you work with PT students, high school students, or anyone in-between.
- Start a Profitable Tutoring Business – This course is shorter and less expensive than the one above. It’s truly the best “try before you buy” to see if tutoring is right for you.
- Here’s a list of online higher education degrees – They’re expensive, and you might not need them, but if you don’t have a DPT, they might make your resume look better. Frankly, I’d take the route of landing a lab assistant role and working your way in that way, rather than spending the money on these.
- If you decide to go for a degree in education, here’s a complete list of the most affordable online education degrees out there!
2. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile, and create a profile on The Non-Clinical PT
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.”
Start networking with other education professionals. Join Facebook groups for clinicians who are aspiring educators. 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.
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. Work your network. You may be surprised how willing your school is to help you.
5. Look for adjunct teaching roles, lab assistant roles, or any other part-time/PRN education 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
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.
- 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.
- 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. Take some relevant con-ed
- MedBridge offers plenty of compliance courses that will beef up your resume nicely when you start searching for jobs.
- Utilization Management – This course is offered by Nurse.com, but it specifically welcomes all disciplines to take it. You won’t receive CEU credits, but your resume will look incredible
2. Get to know the APTA’s Utilization Management Toolkit
Read it over, download the resources, and add those buzzwords to your resume and cover letter!
3. Volunteer to audit charts at your current job
If you’ve been point person during hospital audits, or if you’ve been the one tasked to go through charts for accuracy, that will look excellent on your resume and make great talking points for your interview!
4. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile, and create a profile on The Non-Clinical PT
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.”
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.
6. 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.
Spotlights on clinical reviewers are coming soon!
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.
- 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.
- 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!
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 tech and innovation roles. Tell them that you’d appreciate any connections they have in your area.
5. Attend a healthcare hackathon
Hackathons are 48-hour events designed to tackle issues in healthcare, technology, and other industries, and people form small teams to create solutions to said issues. Trust me, you want to do one.
Here’s a link to all hackathons, but seek out a healthcare-specific one in your area, if at all possible. It’s a great way to network, understand what roles are open in tech, and see what appeals to you.
6. Follow the right companies on LinkedIn and AngelList and apply for roles as they pop up.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Many of the newer tech and/or startup companies are eager to have people like you on board.
Check out the spotlights below to learn more about therapists who’ve gone into tech roles!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
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. Take a copywriting course:
I recommend the following online/remote courses for aspiring medical and health copywriters:
- Breaking into Health Writing – This course is awesome. It’s everything that a new or aspiring copywriter needs to understand how to actually start writing. It’s the types of writing that are out there (medical vs. marketing vs. health, etc.) It’s what you need to make an actual plan to get there. Highly recommend.
- How to Become a Freelance Health Writer – This course is what you need if you already understand what’s up with health writing, but you want to make an actual career of it. It’s how to get clients. Create that portfolio. Land jobs. I also highly recommend this one.
- Getting Started With Freelance Writing – This class is not specific to health writers, so you might find it a bit less relevant to your needs, but it’s still excellent for someone looking to write on more topics than just healthcare and medicine.
- The Complete Freelance Writing Course – This course is comprehensive and covers pretty much everything you’ll need to become a freelance writer, including how to find work/where to find work, how to set up a website, how to market yourself, etc. It gets excellent reviews.
2. 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.
3. Create an online portfolio and sign up for The Non-Clinical PT:
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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
- 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.
- 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
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. Take relevant coursework:
By taking simple, inexpensive online courses, you can get a better idea of whether you’re right for sales or marketing, get an idea of the lingo you’ll need for your interviews, and have some extra icing for the cake that is your resume 🙂
Here are some of the best courses to get started in sales:
- Sales Bootcamp – It’s short, online, and inexpensive. And it’s a really good course. I’d start here if you’re considering sales.
- Grow Sales – This course is great for entrepreneurs and aspiring salespeople with entrepreneurial spirits. It’s a bit longer than the above course, so be sure you have a few hours to delve into the material.
- Practical Sales Skills for Anyone – This course is awesome for someone brand new to sales. I love that they cover interviewing skills, and how each interview is an opportunity to sell yourself to your potential employer.
Here are some of the best courses to get started in marketing:
- Marketing Fundamentals – This course is an awesome, quick, and inexpensive overview of what marketing really is. How it differs from sales and terms that you’ll need for your interview and your new career.
- Marketing Project Management – I love this course because it’s perfect for a PT transitioning into a marketing role. It covers entry-level project management principles used in marketing, so you can talk the talk in your new career (and the interviews to get you there)!
- Marketing Strategy and Social Media Marketing Master Class – If you plan to have a website, run a website, or build your own business, you need this class.
2. 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.
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.
4. Apply to jobs:
Start putting yourself out there and applying to jobs. Work your network and hit the search engines. Much of sales and marketing jobs is who you know so, again, don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people you already know, or connect via LinkedIn.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!