Can a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Make 6 figures?

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Let’s cut to the chase, a physical therapist assistant can make 6 figures if they work hard enough, have the right skillset and are in the right place. However, that can really be said for most professionals. The real question is whether a physical therapist assistant can earn 6 figures consistently without burning out. Your average physical therapist assistant will likely not earn 6 figures working 40 hours a week providing PTA type services, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot use their skills to earn income in other ways to meet their 6 figure goal. Let’s start with how much traditional PTA’s earn.

Related: Can Physical Therapists Make 6 figures?

What Do Most PTA’s Earn?

With data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s safe to say that the majority of PTAs earn anywhere between $50,000 and $75,000. So how likely is it for some to increase their income by 50% – 100% to hit the 6 figure mark?

Percentile10%25%50%
(Median)
75%90%
Hourly Wage$ 17.92$ 23.40$ 29.42$ 36.48$ 38.54
Annual Wage (2)$ 37,280$ 48,670$ 61,180$ 75,870$ 80,170
Percentile wage estimates for Physical Therapist Assistants:

Considering that it is already somewhat challenging for Physical Therapists to make 6-figures, it is going to be even more challenging for PTAs to meet that same milestone. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Regardless of your profession, if you’re willing to put in the hours, learn new skills, explore new work environments, new roles, and never give up, your income goal is simply an eventuality. Now let’s get to some modifiable factors for physical therapist assistants to make more money.

The Highest Paying Healthcare Setting for Physical therapist Assistants

In order to succeed in meeting your 6 figure goal as a physical therapist assistant, you may need to consider changing settings. I’ll list out settings from least paying settings to most paying settings:

  • Schools, day cares, outpatient clinics, hospitals, subacute rehab facilities, home health care, and travel therapy.

Of course, this spectrum not the rule and there are always going to be exceptions and overlap. Compensation differences in each setting is generally driven by the profit margin and demand of these settings.

With recent Medicare reimbursement cuts to services rendered by a PTA in outpatient, it becomes tougher to earn more in that setting. Once you make peace with the fact that you’ll only earn so much within a given setting, it’ll be easier for you to make decisions on next steps on increasing your income if that is your ultimate goal.

How Changing Health Care Settings Helped Me Earn More:

When I graduated, I was earning $63,000 as a physical therapist in a hospital based outpatient practice. Most places simply didn’t pay more unless I was willing to see 3-4 patients an hour or magically had another 5-10 years of experience under my belt and became a clinical specialist. All would take more time than I was willing to spare and effort than I was willing to spare.

I learned that by simply switching to working in a skilled nursing facility, I could increase my income by $10-$15K. It wasn’t ideal, but I still learned things clinically. Plus, it allowed me to pay off my 6-figure student loan balance much faster and was my stepping stone to home health care where I increased my income again by another $10-$15K.

Without making the moves earlier in my career, I probably wouldn’t have started my own private practice as early as I did. That being said, you never know where the road might lead you.

Related: My 6 figure Home Health PT compensation package

The highest paying role for Physical Therapist Assistants

Sometimes that road might lead you to a different role that pays you even more than treating patients would. Here are some roles that isn’t unheard of for PTAs to transition to and can earn $80,000 – $100,000+:

Health care Sales / Marketing manager: $107,000 – $173,0001
Director of Rehab: $108,000 – $147,000 2
Business Owner: $60,000 – your imagination3

Of course, the type of work that accompany these roles is not what motivated you to become a PTA, but sometimes what you do for work might not be enough to fund the lifestyle you want out of work. While you did not go to school for these roles, it’s not to say that your experience as a PTA won’t help. I have met PTAs and COTAs who have transitioned outside of their traditional therapy assistant type roles and became managers, directors, and business owners. If your goal is to earn atypical salaries for a PTA, than you have to do atypical things.

Sources:
1. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/healthcare-sales-marketing-manager-salary/philadelphia-pa
3. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/rehabilitation-director-nursing-home-salary/pa
4. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-Small-Business-Owner-Salary-by-State

Other modifiable factors that influence your earnings as a PTA

Seniority: While seniority does have some play in a salary bump, your goal is to earn as much as you can as early as you can. Closing in on my income cap within 5 years of my career was the best thing that happened as it allowed me push past my comfort zones sooner than later.
Geographic Location: Therapists in New York and California will be paid more than the national average. In part, due to higher cost of living in those areas as well. Higher compensation can also be expected in more rural states like Oregon, where there is greater a need.

It’s not always what you earn but what you keep that matters

We all heard of the broke NFL players who make billions of dollars, but end up going broke after their career is over. It all goes to show you, it doesn’t matter how much you earn if you cannot save, invest or manage money well.

A PTA who earns $55,000 – $65,000 per year and saves $15,000 a year is better off than a PT who earns $90,000 per year, but can barely save enough to pay off their credit care. No matter how much you earn, work to increase the gap between you income and expenses and invest the difference.

Create a plan and stick with it! Don’t give up!

It’s possible to earn six figures as a PTA, but it takes planning, persistence, and dedication. Famously said by Dr. Steven Covey, begin with the end in mind. Frequently revisit your goals and adjust along the way.


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