How to Start a Physical Therapy Career Successfully

I have been a PT now for 16 years. At the age of 27, I became a practice owner and I obviously done pretty well for myself but it wasn’t by accident. I kind of had a plan for my career and I probably think it out as much as I should have but when I became as a physical therapist I said, “I want to have a private practice” and now looking back, I wish there were things that I put in place from the get go so I can make that I am not wasting my time. I am moving in the right direction and I see so many PTs just doing haphazard stuff that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not getting them to what they say they want to go. That if you don’t really have major aspirations or goals and that’s fine but in today’s market of being a physical therapist, it’s just like super expensive. It’s a huge investment. I think it is so imperative that PTs really figure out “how do I want my career to go; how do I want my career to look”


Let’s talk about the three things that you can do to help you successfully map out your career as a PT.

Watch: How to Start a Physical Therapy Career Successfully

I think number one is to get your first job in your dream situation. Now let me explain this a little bit. I am not saying to get your dream job. Your dream job might be to own multiple out-patient clinics, to work for a professional sports team, to work for some industry, some big company and just take care of all their employees. I don’t know what it is but when you take your first job, you need to take a job that is in line with your dream job. If your dream job is to work at an out-patient industry, you need to take an out-patient job as your first job. You do not need to be working in a home-health industry or at a school nursing facility because then what you are doing is just taking a job for financial reasons and what happens is that the first couple years of your career is what is going to shape your career and habits. So please, make sure you take a job in line with what you want to do long term.


Number two is get a mentor. This is what I feel a lot of physical therapists screw up. A lot of times people think that, “okay, I want to have my own practice one day and what I need is I need a mentor that’s like really amazing at physical therapy but not really amazing at practice ownership”. In that case, you might have to have two mentors. If you want to have your own practice one day, you need to have a mentor that it is in business. Preferably the business of physical therapy but even if they are not, make sure that you have a mentor that understands business. There are some of the most gifted physical therapist out there don’t have a flipping clue on business and if that’s what you want to do, you will start to think because remember your synapses and what you’re doing as a PT it’s all happening with those first three years. So, if someone is so gifted as a clinicient but they don’t really understand – they don’t really have a good emotional intelligence across the patients, they don’t understand business, they don’t understand how to capitalize of of things, how to see changes in the health care industry and how to capitalize of of that then that’s actually really scary. That’s something that you need to be aware of. I highly recommend, for those who want to have a business, get a business mentor. For those who want to be a great clinicient, get a great clinical mentor. Preferably someone that gets both but maybe you need to get separate. For me, I had a separate business mentor because I couldn’t find any great business mentor in the field of physical therapy.


And then finally, I believe you need to reverse engineer your career. Let me explain. If you have aspirations to have a practice in 10 years, then I need you to start to reverse engineer. It will make you understand whether what you are currently doing makes sense for you or not. I had basically a vision; I had the goal of having a private practice in five years and I achieved that goal in four years and nine months. It’s not like I am obsessed every single day working for other places. I worked for one, two, three corporations and then I went to a practice and then I have my own thing but I had that goal at the back of my head and what I did is I said, “okay, the five year goal was I have a private practice so where I would need to be in two year and a half?” I mean by two year and a half, I need to at least be a clinical director for a place so that I can learn some of the business stuff and I did that. I actually did it in by a year and a half into it. I knew that if I am two and a half years there then I needed to be at a year and a half; I knew that by a year and a half, I need to really accelerate my career clinically so that I could start to focus and learn more about the business side of things and that’s why I did a 180 hours of CEUs within my first year and a half.
I went backwards and you need to reverse engineer your career. If you do those three things, I feel pretty confident that that will at least help with getting your PT career off to a great start. The cool thing is that you could do those things even if you are not in PT school. You can start to map things out and know these are the things that I need to do to get myself to where I want to go to. It does not take going to PT school to do that.