3 Up-and-Coming Physical Therapy Specialties

Some physical therapists are pursuing nontraditional roles that take them outside the rehab facility

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2011

Physical Therapist Jobs and Careers
Physical Therapist Jobs and Careers

Physical therapy is one of the world’s leading allied health professions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of jobs available in this field will increase by 30% through 2018 – a rate much faster than the average for all other occupations. Traditionally, physical therapists (often called PTs) work in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, helping patients regain abilities lost to age, disease or injury.

However, some PTs are now finding roles that allow them to apply their knowledge and skills in new ways. Here are three specialties that are becoming increasingly popular:

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1. Physical Fitness and Obesity Management. Gyms and health clubs now sometimes employ an on-staff PT to provide services to their members. This is especially beneficial to anyone leaving regular PT care for an independent fitness program; the ability to quickly consult with a PT before, during or after workouts can ease the transition and help patients avoid re-injury. Having an on-staff PT also brings health clubs a level of credibility and professionalism beyond that provided by regular trainers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 33.8% of U.S. adults are obese – a level that has led health officials to label the problem an epidemic. Because PTs often have experience dealing with obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, they are usually well suited to helping overweight patients manage their health. The care and advice of a PT can also help obese people who want to lose weight do so with less risk of injury.

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2. Sports and Performing Arts. Helping athletes recover from injures has been part of physical therapy for a long time, but as the amount of money generated by (and invested in) professional sports has risen, so has the number of PTs who work in this area. Leagues, individual teams and rehabilitation facilities that specialize in sports injuries are all provides of physical therapy sports jobs.

Perhaps surprisingly, the performing arts have emerged as another field that needs well-trained PTs. Injuries sustained by dancers, figure skaters and actors are often similar to those suffered by athletes, and such professionals are usually just as dependent on good health to do their work. Employment in this specialty places many of the same demands on PTs as physical therapy sports jobs do.

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3. Veterinary Therapy. A relatively new and small area of concentration, veterinary PTs work with animals. They may consult with a number of veterinary offices in their area or work at a specific animal hospital. Currently, working animals like dogs and horses are the primary patients of PTs, but circus animals, zoo animals and even household pets are all potential beneficiaries of their services.

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