Physical therapy is a wonderful profession where you can work in all sorts of settings, and with all sorts of patients. As fulfilling and enjoyable as patient care can be, though, sometimes we start to wonder what else is out there. We might become injured or ill, and we’re no longer able to work in a clinical setting. We might be bored, or feeling stifled financially. Perhaps we simply want more flexibility or growth in our careers. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of non-clinical jobs for physical therapists out there, and I wrote this article to explore the most popular ones.
Signs it’s time to consider a non-clinical physical therapy career
Before we jump into the non-clinical physical therapy careers out there, let’s briefly touch on some signs that maybe it’s time to consider leaving patient care.
- You’re Googling things like “What else can I do with a physical therapy degree?” or “I don’t want to be a physical therapist anymore.” Repeatedly.
- You’re not feeling excited about your job anymore. Or, worse, you dread going in.
- You wish you could make more money, but you’re barely getting raises (if at all), and taking on extra jobs just doesn’t work for you.
- You envy your friends who have greater flexibility (or even work from home).
- You no longer feel connected to your patients or coworkers.
Perhaps you’re fully aware that you want to explore alternative physical therapy careers, but you’re simply not sure where to start. Or maybe you have tried applying to non-traditional roles, but haven’t had any luck landing interviews.
Whatever your reasoning, if you’re looking for non-clinical physical therapy job options, you’ve come to the right place! A career change from physical therapy IS possible.
Why I’m writing about non-clinical physical therapy jobs
I believe if you’re unhappy in your chosen field, you shouldn’t feel stuck. And I also believe that if you want to explore something new, you shouldn’t have to start from ground zero and take a huge pay cut in the process.
Personally, I was ready for a change after just three short years of working as a PT. I’m sure you can imagine how embarrassed and foolish I felt for having invested all that time, money, and energy (and tears, in my case!) into a profession that didn’t seem to fit me at all.
I wrote this article to shed light on some of the existing non-clinical job options out there, because when I was first feeling unhappy, I had NO idea what to do next. This article is meant to be a work in progress, and I will come across more and more as time goes on—so expect frequent updates and additions as the site grows 🙂
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Here are 9 alternative careers for physical therapists:
Physical therapists make excellent educators. Our jobs as PTs and PTAs always entail educating patients, caregivers, families, and other healthcare professionals every single day.
Education is a natural transition for many physical therapists.
The fact that education is number one on this list probably comes as no surprise to you; education is one of the most popular 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 teach webinars from home! Indeed, working from home as a PT is very possible if you pursue education!
Nicole Tombers, PT, DPT, does a great job of explaining physical therapist career options in education in this article.
- 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.
Check out the spotlights below to learn more about therapists who’ve become educators!
- Kyle Coffey – Exercise Physiology Program Director
- Ed Kane – Professor at University of St. Augustine
- Adrienne Nova – PTA Clinical Director
- Twylla Kirchen – Occupational Therapy Program Director
- Jeannine Nonaillada – Assistant Dean
- Jason Ashby – PTA Program Director
2. Utilization review
In the past, utilization review (UR) roles were largely filled by nurses. Today, PTs (as well as OTs and SLPs) are often recruited for these roles, too!
Utilization reviewers (also known as clinical reviewers or physical therapy reviewers) typically work for insurance companies (or companies that contract with insurance companies), and their roles generally involve reviewing cases, and approving, denying, or otherwise managing insurance claims.
Utilization review 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 can check out a more extensive article I wrote about utilization review here.
- 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.
- These roles can be rather corporate at times.
Check out the spotlights below to learn about therapists who have pursued careers in utilization review.
3. Technology and innovation
Ever thought of working with robots? What about running clinical trials for innovative devices designed to help stroke patients? I had no idea PTs ever worked in these types of roles until I started this website!
As it turns out, tons of physical therapists are being hired as clinical trainers, marketers, consultants, and more!
Our backgrounds make us incredible assets to tech companies. As engineers and designers work create technology to help patients become more mobile, PTs’ input is crucial. What seems painfully obvious to us after working with scores of patients might never cross a designer’s mind when she is placing a button on a device.
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; physical therapy jobs at startups don’t always pay well, but established companies do.
Check out the spotlights below to learn more about therapists who’ve gone into tech roles!
- Lily Mercer – Account Executive and Marketing Manager
- Merci Greenaway – Physiotherapist in Residence
- Melissa Klaeb – Clinical Consultant
- Ben Galin – Chief of Product
- Angela Forsyth – Program Director
- Stephanie Miller – Clinical Analyst
- Marla Ranieri – Chief Development Officer
4. Clinical/rehab liaison
A clinical or rehab liaison is responsible for filling the beds of a rehab facility with appropriate patients. These types of roles have a strong marketing and sales angle, as you’re often selling services to physicians, case managers, and even the community at large.
Clinical liaison roles tend to be pretty flexible, and they’re great for those who work both independently and on teams. These roles do require clinical licenses, and you still spend quite a bit of time with patients—just not treating them directly.
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 🙂
- It’s pretty easy to move into a clinical liaison career, provided you have worked in acute care and/or inpatient rehab.
- These roles pay pretty much what you’d make in an acute care job.
- The roles are fun! You still get to work with patients, but in a much less physically and emotionally demanding way.
- There’s not always a direct growth path for these roles. Many people use these roles to springboard more directly into sales.
- There can be some pressure to meet census quotas.
- Sometimes, case manager and doctors can try to push you around a bit.
Recruiting is an incredible career path for rehab professionals, especially those who have done some travel physical therapy in the past.
Physical therapy recruiters work with employers and rehab professionals, trying to ensure good matches for various job roles. For example, you might work as a healthcare recruiter for a staffing company, 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.
Some PTs choose to become independent recruiters. You can do that by working with a company like Relode, or you can simply contact companies and cut out the middle man!
- 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, just to make that job placement.
- It can be challenging to convince a recruiter to give a PT a chance in a totally new role. Read how one OT bombed her healthcare recruiter interview to learn valuable lessons!
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.
Writing roles vary greatly. You might work as a clinical content writer, or you might work as a health copy writer. You can work for large organizations or freelance with smaller clients.
You can also work as a medical writer, which is entirely different, and often requires a PhD or additional formalized medical writer training.
I’ve got a lot of additional content on this topic:
- How to launch a non-clinical career as a copywriter
- Getting your article published online
- Health blogs that publish guest posts from therapists
- Grammar guide for physical therapists
- 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.
Check out the spotlights below to learn more about folks in writing roles!
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!
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.
- 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.
- You’ll likely have a lot of traveling in these roles.
- You’ll need to be good at working independently, and you’ll need to get into the mindset of selling.
Check out the spotlights below to learn more about folks in sales roles!
I am so excited to include this on the list! There are SO many physical 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 PT and smartphones, therapists 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.
- 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 therapists in entrepreneurial roles!
- Sarah Lyon – Founder of OT Potential
- Chanda Jothen – Founder of Pink Oatmeal
- Joses Ngugi and Casey Coleman – Founders of Pre-PT Grind
- Nicholas Rolnick – Founder of The Human Performance Mechanic
- Tomeico Faison – CEO and Business Coach
- Keith Cronin – Consultant and Manufacturer
- Maria Lindbergh – Founder of Stay at Home Solutions (Home Modifications Specialist)
- Jen Esquer – DocJenFit of The Mobility Method
- Iris Kimberg – Founder of NY Therapy Guide
- Mandy Chamberlain – Founder of SeniorsFlourish
- TaVona Boggs – Founder of Wellness PTs
9. Telehealth PT
I debated whether to include telehealth physical therapy on this list, as it’s technically still considered clinical work. But telehealth is so flexible and hands-off, many PTs find it to be liberating compared to traditional patient care.
Telehealth PT is physical therapy delivered over electronic means, rather than in person. There are several ways to get into telehealth:
- Join an existing company that provides telehealth services. You can sign up as a staff teletherapy provider and be part of a pool of therapists providing services remotely. You’re paid like a staff therapist and don’t need to worry about business considerations like billing or patient acquisition.
- Start your own telehealth PT company. The other option is to start a company where you provide telehealth as a solo practitioner. This means finding patients, setting up the tech yourself, and other concerns, but there are solutions to make this easier!
- It’s a way to truly keep using your degree and knowledge, without burning out your body.
- You’ll be able to work from anywhere you want.
- You’ll be part of a major sea change in our profession, which is exciting and prevents boredom.
- At this time, telehealth feels a bit like the Wild West. There’s not a lot of structure, and there are struggles with convincing patients to pay for your services when they still associate PT with hands-on care.
- Telehealth is cash-only at this point, as insurance companies are only reimbursing telemedicine in a precious few disciplines.
Check out the spotlight below to learn more about a telehealth pioneer!
Where can I find non-clinical physical therapy job postings?
I’m so glad you asked! I run a Facebook group called Non-Clinical Job Postings for Rehab Professionals. Be sure to join!
Did I leave anything off? Just let me know! I’ll be updating this article frequently as I find additional non-clinical physical therapist career options to feature. A career change from physical therapy IS possible, and I’m here to help you get there!