Physical Therapy Business Tips

Top Paying Physical Therapy Specialties

updated on

May 17, 2024

Top Paying Physical Therapy Specialties

If you’re a currently practicing or student physical therapist, you’ve probably wondered how much your colleagues in the top paying physical therapy specialties are earning. After all, the job and compensation of being a physical therapist can vary greatly from specialty to specialty.

But what exactly are the best paying physical therapy specialties, and where do they work? In this article we’ll break down each of the highest-paying specialties in the PT world, what they do, and the outlook on physical therapy as a career in today’s world.

What Are The Top Paying Physical Therapy Specialties

Although what you’re paid as a physical therapist will always depend on a wide range of factors, the specialty that you work in can have a big effect on your annual income.

Although numbers will vary widely depending on factors such as experience and location, three of the top-paying physical therapy specialties include sports medicine ($80,000 - $120,000), acute care ($90,000 - $110,000), and traveling PT ($100,000 - $150,000).

Let’s break down some of the highest-paying specialties one-by-one.


Physical therapists working in neurology are specially trained to work with people who have neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or Parkinson’s disease. Neurology PTs typically work in hospitals due to the severe nature of many neurological conditions, but can also work in outpatient neurology centers and see patients who are out in the community.

Sports Medicine

Sports medicine physical therapists are those with additional training working in sports settings, such as athlete rehabilitation and conditioning. For the most part, sports medicine PTs work in sports facilities or travel with sports teams, but can also work in a variety of different outpatient settings with their own roster of clients.

Cardiovascular & Pulmonary

Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapists are most often certified as cardiovascular and pulmonary clinical specialists (CCS) through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Because they specialize in working with patients who have a range of cardiopulmonary conditions, they often practice in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient cardiac rehabilitation centers.


Geriatric physical therapists work with senior citizens and most often practice in outpatient clinics or skilled nursing facilities. Although there are many physical therapists working in geriatrics without specialized training, there are also many physical therapists who are certified geriatric clinical specialists (GCS) through the APTA. 


Pediatric physical therapists are those who work primarily with children for a wide range of conditions, most often working in children’s hospitals and pediatric outpatient clinics. Although generally lower paying compared to many other areas of practice, most pediatric physical therapists stay in this specialty because of the satisfaction they get by helping children in need.

Traveling PT

Traveling physical therapists are those who accept short-term jobs for clinics in need of a temporary therapist, with the ability to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and outpatient clinics. Although not technically a specialty, traveling physical therapists are among the highest paid PTs because they maintain a mobile lifestyle that fulfills the needs of different clinics on a contract-by-contract basis.

Acute Care

Acute care physical therapists are those who work in hospitals and may or may not have specialized training related to a patient population they serve. Within the hospital setting, acute care PTs are able to work with patients recovering from a wide range of conditions such as infection, cancer, and traumatic injuries. Due to the higher risk of working in hospitals and the collaboration needed with other members of the medical team, acute care therapists are paid higher than in many other areas of practice.


Many physical therapists practice in orthopedics with or without specialized training, although many are certified as orthopedic clinical specialists (OCS) through the APTA. Most orthopedic physical therapists use their training in outpatient clinics and work with a variety of patients, earning similar salaries to PTs with standard training.

Where Do Physical Therapists Work?

Physical therapists can work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, and home health. While physical therapists can work in most settings without a specialty certification, some settings prefer additional training after school to better serve the patients that are typically seen.

Let’s break down each of the main practice settings for physical therapists, and some of the physical therapy specialties most likely to work in them.


Hospitals are a common acute care setting for physical therapists to treat patients with urgent conditions and physical comorbidities as part of a multidisciplinary care team. Hospitals are also a great place for physical therapy specialties such as cardiopulmonary, oncology, and geriatric.

In Home Care

In-home care, also called home health, is a practice setting where physical therapists provide care to their patients in the comfort of their own homes. These therapists typically drive from home-to-home during their work day and often treat patients who would not be able to leave their homes to get the care that they need.

Outpatient Clinics

As the most common practice setting for physical therapists, outpatient clinics are an accessible place for patients to attend appointments and receive care for a number of conditions from their friendly neighborhood PT. Although orthopedic clinics are the most common, there are many varieties of specialty clinics where patients with specific conditions can get the care they need.

Inpatient Rehabilitation Centers

Inpatient rehabilitation centers are generally considered a halfway point for patients who need intensive physical therapy and readily available medical care, such as patients recovering from stroke or traumatic injury. PTs of all backgrounds may work in this setting, although specialties may be preferred depending on the primary patient population served by the rehab center.

Nursing Homes

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), also called nursing homes, are a practice setting where physical therapists treat older adults who are recovering from a condition over the course of a few weeks or months, often offering long-term care for patients who are not safe to return to their prior living environment. Therapists of all specialities may work in SNFs, although PTs with their geriatric clinical specialist certification are likely to be more common.


Physical therapists working in schools provide care to children who need regular therapy and additional attention to help them develop and thrive more easily. Although some schools may have a formal therapy area for students, many PTs provide care to their patients in classrooms or common areas at designated times. Naturally, expect to see many physical therapists with their pediatric clinical specialist certification working in this setting.

Professional Sports Organizations

Therapists working in professional sports organizations may provide care to their patients in gyms, training facilities, or even on the field. Generally, therapists in this setting work with high-level clients and have a unique approach to care in order to optimize performance. Because PTs working in this setting are treating athletes, many of them will have their sports clinical specialist certification. 

Job Outlook For Physical Therapists

The physical therapy field has grown in recent years, and there is projected growth in the physical therapy field to meet the needs of aging populations. Although job security is high for physical therapists, problems related to education costs and insurance reimbursement are resulting in decreased satisfaction across the profession.

Starting Your Own Physical Therapy Practice

Starting your own physical therapy practice can be a very fulfilling and rewarding endeavor with the right plan. When starting a practice, focus on finding a good location, establishing a reputation by providing great care, and exploring modern marketing strategies to increase visibility of your practice.

Starting your own physical therapy business can be a major challenge, but having the right tools at your disposal can make a big difference in achieving your goals. In the modern physical therapy world, an intuitive PT EMR and documentation software for your SOAP notes can give you the extra edge that you need to stand out.

ClinicSense is an innovative physical therapy software that makes cumbersome tasks like SOAP notes more simple than ever before, giving you more time to work with the patients you serve - no matter which of the physical therapy specialties you’re working in. 

Even better, you can get a free trial of SOAP notes today to jump start your practice and make patient care easier.

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