Discover the Exciting Possibilities of a Career in Travel Physical Therapy

Discover the Exciting Possibilities of a Career in Travel Physical Therapy

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Have you ever thought about transforming your love for physical therapy and travel into a career? With a travel physical therapy position, you can explore different regions while enhancing people's lives. This comprehensive guide will delve into the career path of a travel physical therapist. It covers the necessary skills, job descriptions, specific roles, and the different types of physical therapy within the travel therapy profession. We will also compare the pay, benefits, and challenges of travel physical therapy jobs to regular PT jobs, and discuss how continuing professional education can significantly impact your career.

What Does the Career Path of a Travel Physical Therapist Look Like?

The career path of a travel physical therapist typically begins with earning a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited physical therapy program. This involves several years of undergraduate prerequisite courses followed by 3 years in a DPT program. After graduating, the next step is to obtain a physical therapy license in the state(s) where you plan to practice. This involves passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) and meeting other licensure requirements that vary by state.

Once licensed, many physical therapists opt to gain 1-2 years of experience working in a variety of clinical settings such as outpatient clinics, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and school systems. This allows them to build clinical skills and determine what patient populations and settings they most enjoy working with. It also makes them better prepared for the autonomy and range of patients they will encounter as a travel PT.

With a solid educational and clinical foundation, physical therapists can then pursue travel therapy positions. These temporary positions, lasting from 8-26 weeks typically, allow PTs to work in new locations and settings around the country while receiving attractive pay premiums. Travel therapists work closely with staffing agencies who coordinate assignments, licensure, housing, and other logistics.

As a travel PT gains more experience, he or she may take on roles as mentor for newer travel therapists. More seasoned travel therapists may also pursue specialty certifications or leadership positions to advance their careers. However, many travel therapists enjoy the patient care and lifestyle benefits that come with temporary assignments in new locations.


How to Become a Travel Physical Therapist?

Here are some key steps to becoming a travel physical therapist:

  • Earn a DPT degree from an accredited physical therapy program (3 years after undergraduate prerequisites)
  • Obtain licensure by passing the NPTE exam and meeting other requirements for the state(s) where you wish to practice
  • Gain 1-2 years of experience working in clinical settings such as outpatient clinics, hospitals, or skilled nursing facilities
  • Research and apply for travel physical therapy jobs with staffing agencies
  • Interview and accept an offer for a travel PT position at your desired location and facility
  • Relocate for the 8-26 week assignment, coordinating housing, transportation, and other logistics through the staffing agency
  • Consider pursing specialty certifications such as neurologic, orthopedic, or geriatric PT to qualify for higher level positions

What are the Skills Necessary for a Travel PT Career?

Here are some of the key skills that travel physical therapists need to be successful:

  • Clinical skills - Ability to effectively evaluate, diagnose, and treat a wide range of patients and conditions, often with little orientation
  • Adaptability - Flexibility to adjust to new environments, policies, documentation systems, and colleagues every 8-26 weeks
  • Autonomy - Comfort working independently with less oversight and support than a permanent position
  • Problem-solving - Resourcefulness to handle unfamiliar situations and complications that arise
  • Communication - Ability to build rapport and disseminate information effectively to patients, families, and colleagues
  • Time management - Efficiency with documentation, scheduling, and treatments to maximize productivity
  • Physical stamina - Energy and strength for prolonged standing, lifting, and mobilizing patients

What are the Job Descriptions and Responsibilities of a Travel Physical Therapist?

Travel physical therapists have a range of responsibilities that may vary depending on their assignment, but often include:

  • Performing initial evaluations on new patients referred to therapy services
  • Developing therapeutic exercise programs, gait training protocols, and other treatment plans
  • Documenting evaluations, daily treatment notes, progress reports, and discharge summaries thoroughly
  • Adjusting or discontinuing interventions based on patient status and response to treatment
  • Educating patients and caregivers on home exercise programs and safe mobility techniques
  • Communicating frequently with interdisciplinary team members including nurses, physicians, and social workers regarding patient care
  • Recommending appropriate assistive equipment for mobility and self-care based on assessment findings
  • Adhering to ethical principles, legal standards, and facility policies and procedures
  • Contributing to quality improvement initiatives or program development projects as needed
  • Maintaining continuing competence through professional development activities and certifications

What Types of Physical Therapy are Available for Travel Therapy?

There are many exciting opportunities for travel physical therapists to gain experience in different settings across the country. Some of the most common types of facilities that hire travel PTs include:

Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs): SNFs need therapists to provide rehabilitation services for elderly patients recovering from surgeries, illnesses or injuries. As a travel PT in a SNF, you may work with patients on improving mobility, strength, balance and functional activities.

Hospitals: Travel PT jobs in hospitals allow you to work with patients recovering from major surgeries like joint replacements or cardiac procedures. You may also work with critically ill patients in the ICU on early mobility and preventing complications.

Outpatient Clinics: Outpatient clinics hire travel PTs to treat orthopedic conditions, sports injuries, neurological disorders and other chronic conditions. This setting allows you to focus on exercise prescription and functional training.

School Systems: Travel therapy jobs are available to provide physical therapy services for children in school settings. You may work with students who have disabilities, injuries or developmental conditions.

Home Health Agencies: Home health allows travel PTs to visit patients in their homes to provide rehabilitation services. Patients may need therapy after surgeries, illnesses or accidents that limit their mobility and activities.

What is School-Based Occupational Therapy vs Skilled Nursing Facility?

School-based occupational therapy involves working with students in an educational environment to enhance their ability to participate in learning activities. The goal is to reduce barriers and enable students to successfully engage in academic, social, play and self-care occupations in school.

In contrast, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) provide rehabilitation to elderly and medically complex patients. Occupational therapists in SNFs work on restoring abilities needed for functional independence after setbacks like injuries, illnesses or surgeries.

School-based OTs focus on children's developmental skills, sensory processing, behavior regulation, social skills, transition planning and modifying educational tasks. SNF occupational therapists address self-care, mobility, cognitive functioning, communication, medication management and other basic activities of daily living.

Both settings require expertise in areas like environmental modification, assistive technology, therapeutic exercises and activity analysis. But the patient populations and functional goals differ significantly between schools and skilled nursing facilities.

Travel occupational therapists can gain well-rounded experience by working in school systems during the academic year and SNFs over summer breaks. This provides diversity across ages, abilities and practice settings.

Is Traveling Sports Physical Therapy a Viable Career Choice?

Traveling sports physical therapy can be a rewarding career choice for PTs interested in working with athletic populations. It allows you to provide rehabilitation services for sports teams and organizations while experiencing different regions.

Travel sports PTs work on injury prevention, post-surgical rehab, concussion management, return to play decisions and performance optimization. Settings may include schools, colleges, professional teams, tournaments and training facilities.

Benefits include diversity of caseloads, flexible scheduling, earning extra income and exploring new places. However, the work can be inconsistent as sports seasons and team needs change. Maintaining licensure in multiple states is also required.

Careful planning is needed to coordinate housing, licensing, contracts and travel logistics. Networking skills are essential to build relationships with coaches and establish a reputation.

Overall, travel sports PT presents unique challenges but outstanding experiences. Therapists who strategically balance clinical skills, marketing and flexibility can find success and satisfaction in this specialty.

What is the Role of a Traveling Pediatric Occupational Therapist?

Traveling pediatric occupational therapists provide services to help children of all ages participate in daily activities. Contracts may be in schools, clinics, hospitals, homes or community settings.

Evaluations address development, cognition, motor skills, sensory processing, behavior, social skills, self-care and play. Interventions may include:

  • Sensory integration and sensory diets
  • Behavior modification strategies
  • Handwriting training
  • Social stories and visual schedules
  • Splinting or adaptive equipment for positioning

Additional responsibilities involve parent/teacher education, classroom modifications, transition planning and activity analysis. Documentation and coordination with the care team is also key.

Benefits of traveling as a pediatric OT include working with diverse ages, abilities and backgrounds. It allows therapists to continually expand their knowledge and clinical skills. However, frequently changing environments can be challenging.

Traveling pediatric OTs must be adaptable, patient and creative problem-solvers. But the role provides opportunities to profoundly impact children's development and participation across settings.

What are the Benefits and Challenges of Travel Physical Therapy Jobs?

Travel physical therapy jobs allow physical therapists to work in different locations across the country while enjoying benefits like higher pay, adventure, and flexibility. However, travel PT jobs also come with challenges like being away from home for long periods, frequently changing locations, and adapting to new environments.

Some of the main benefits of travel physical therapy jobs include:

  • Higher Pay - Travel PTs typically make 20-50% more than therapists working in permanent positions. Their tax-free stipends and bonuses for things like completing contracts can add to the higher wages.
  • Adventure - For PTs who love traveling, a travel job allows them to explore new places while getting paid. It's an exciting way to discover cities and towns across the U.S.
  • Flexibility - Travel therapists can choose when and where they want to work, giving them more control over their schedules. They can balance work with family time and vacations between contracts.

However, there are also some potential challenges to be aware of with travel physical therapy positions:

  • Being Away from Home - Travel PTs are away from family and friends for weeks or months at a time. This can be a struggle for those who value stability and get homesick easily.
  • Frequent Moves - Pack up and move every few months. Changing locations so often can be tiring.
  • Adapting to New Environments - With every new contract, travel PTs have to get accustomed to new clinics, coworkers, protocols, and patient populations. This requires flexibility.

How is Travel Physical Therapy Pay Compared to Regular PT Jobs?

On average, travel physical therapists make significantly more money than PTs working in permanent, non-travel jobs. Some key differences in pay include:

  • Base Salary - Travel PTs typically earn $75,000-$90,000 per year or more, while regular PTs average around $65,000-$85,000 annually.
  • Tax-Free Stipends - Travelers receive tax-free payments for meals, lodging, and incidentals ranging from $500-$1,500 per week.
  • Bonuses - Completion bonuses ($1,000-$3,000) and referral bonuses ($250-$500) are common for meeting contract terms and referring other therapists.
  • Overtime Pay - Travelers often qualify for time-and-a-half hourly rates when working over 40 hours per week since they are not salaried employees.
  • Experience Level - Traveling opens up higher-paying opportunities earlier in one's career compared to gaining years of experience before earning top salaries at a permanent job.

The increased pay allows travel therapists to quickly pay down debt, save, or splurge on vacations between contracts. However, the nature of travel therapy also leads to higher costs of living on the road.

What are the Pros and Cons of Working in Rural Areas as a Travel Therapist?

Working contracts in rural settings offers unique benefits and challenges for travel PTs to weigh:


  • Lower Cost of Living - Small towns have more affordable housing and overall lower costs for gas, food, entertainment, etc. This allows travelers to save more of their higher earnings.
  • Closer Community - Rural areas tend to have a stronger sense of community where the PTs get to know their patients and team better during a contract.
  • Outdoor Recreation - Travelers can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, hunting, and boating during their rural contracts.
  • Recruitment Bonuses - Facilities in small towns offer larger bonuses to attract therapists to more remote locations.


  • Fewer Amenities - Rural areas generally have fewer attractions like malls, concerts, nightlife, cultural events, and large healthcare systems.
  • Professional Isolation - Being away from large rehab departments means less opportunity to collaborate with peers and attend continuing ed courses.
  • Limited Housing - Finding short-term housing may be challenging in rural locations that have fewer apartment complexes and extended stay options.
  • Transportation Needs - Having a reliable personal vehicle is essential when working in isolated towns where flying or public transit are scarce.

The rural atmosphere will suit some therapists but deter others. Considering both the advantages and disadvantages helps travelers determine if small-town contracts align with their needs.

How Does a Travel Therapy Mentor Support Travel Therapy Job Role?

A mentor specifically focused on travel therapy guidance provides invaluable support as new travel PTs navigate the unique aspects of the role:

  • Housing Assistance - Helps find ideal short-term housing options near the facility.
  • Contract Negotiation - Provides tips on negotiating pay rates, stipends, bonuses, over-time, and other benefits.
  • Network Connections - Introduces mentees to a network of fellow travelers which leads to job referrals and career growth.
  • Local Area Guidance - Offers recommendations on things to do, places to eat, where to shop, and how to get around in the contract location.
  • Clinical Mastery - Shares specialized clinical skills, treatment techniques, and best practices to boost the mentorship experience.
  • Work-Life Balance Strategies - Advises on effectively blending demanding travel assignments with self-care and personal relationships.
  • Navigating Politics - Guides mentees on dealing with workplace politics, challenging coworker dynamics, and advocating for support when needed.

An experienced travel PT mentor becomes an invaluable asset, helping new travelers adjustment quicker, excel clinically, and determine if the travel therapy path aligns with their long-term career goals.

How Does Continuing Professional Education Enhance a Physical Therapy Career?

Continuing professional education (CPE) is essential for physical therapists to stay current on the latest evidence-based practices, expand their skillsets, and advance their careers. Some key ways CPE enhances a PT career include:

Improving clinical skills and knowledge. By regularly participating in CPE courses, workshops, and conferences, PTs gain exposure to new treatment techniques, assessment tools, research findings, and technologies. This allows them to provide more effective interventions for improved patient outcomes.

Maintaining licensure. Most states require licensed PTs to complete a minimum number of CPE hours each year to renew their license. Meeting these requirements is mandatory for continuing to practice legally.

Advancing specializations. Advanced certifications in areas like sports PT, neurologic PT, and orthopedics require ongoing CPE credits. Earning these credentials opens up higher-level career opportunities.

Boosting earning potential. PTs who pursue CPE to expand their expertise can qualify for higher-paying roles and leadership positions. This investment in professional growth delivers financial returns.

Staying passionate. Learning the latest best practices and exploring emerging areas of the field helps PTs stay engaged and enthusiastic about their work. CPE prevents career stagnation.

Overall, committing to lifelong learning through CPE enables physical therapists to provide optimal care, achieve career goals, and find meaning in their vocation over the long-term.

What Role Does Travel Therapy Play in Career Development?

Travel therapy offers physical therapists a powerful means of accelerating their career development through rich clinical experiences, networking opportunities, and financial incentives.

Travel PTs gain exposure to diverse patient populations, facilities, and mentors as they take temporary assignments around the country. This breadth of experience allows them to expand their clinical skills significantly faster than staying in one setting.

Working at multiple renowned clinics and hospitals also enables travel PTs to build an impressive resume. Gaining experience in sought-after facilities can open doors to career advancement.

The nature of travel therapy also helps PTs make connections with influential leaders and clinicians in the field. Networking on assignments lays the foundation for future collaborations, mentoring relationships, and job referrals.

In addition to robust clinical and networking benefits, travel therapy offers financial rewards through bonuses, stipends, and higher pay rates. The additional income enables PTs to pay down student loans faster and save for future education costs.

For PTs interested in exploring different practice settings, gaining well-rounded experience, and funding their career growth, travel therapy is an optimal pathway during the early and middle stages of their career.

What are the Most Recommended Therapeutic Exercises for PTs to Learn?

Some therapeutic exercises highly recommended for physical therapists to master include:

  • Core strengthening: Exercises to stabilize and strengthen the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex are essential for rehabilitation and injury prevention. Examples: planks, bridges, bird dogs.
  • Balance and proprioception: Exercises that challenge a patient's balance ability and body awareness assist with fall prevention, improved motor control, and coordination. Examples: single leg balance activities, agility ladder drills.
  • Functional movement patterns: Exercises involving squatting, hip hinging, pushing, pulling, and rotational movements train proper muscle activation for daily activities. Examples: squat variations, deadlifts, medicine ball rotations.
  • Posture correcting: Exercises that counteract poor posture brought on by prolonged sitting and repetitive movements. Examples: chin tucks, thoracic extensions, seated rows.
  • Gait training: Exercises that optimize normal gait biomechanics for patients with injuries, neurological conditions, or who are deconditioned. Examples: side stepping, marching, mini squats.
  • Stretching and self-myofascial release: Techniques using foam rolling, muscle release balls, and loaded stretches help restore mobility and reduce muscle tightness. Examples: hamstring and calf stretches, quad/IT band rolling.

Mastering this core set of therapeutic exercise categories allows PTs to skillfully address most patients' needs and limitations.

How Do Functional Movement Studies Support PT Career Growth?

Pursuing training and certifications in functional movement provides physical therapists with significant career development benefits in multiple areas:

  • Clinical skills enhancement: A deep understanding of functional patterns and biomechanics allows PTs to perform more effective patient evaluations and design tailored, integrative treatment plans.
  • Credentialing opportunities: Certifications like the FMS, SFMA, and FRCms open doors to new patient populations and practice settings focused on performance and high-level rehab.
  • Leadership development: Expertise in functional movement elevates PTs as resources in designing injury prevention and return-to-performance programs for athletes and workers.
  • Marketability: As focus increases on movement quality versus isolated muscle strength for injury prevention and rehab, PTs skilled in functional movement have a competitive edge.
  • Professional passion: Learning cutting-edge functional methods helps experienced PTs rediscover their passion and prevent career stagnation or burnout.

Investing in a strong foundation of functional movement principles and practices pays dividends for PT career progression over the long-term.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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