Orthopedic Physical Therapist

* Last Updated on September 23, 2021

Orthopedic physical therapist entails treating conditions that affect the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. The orthopedic physical therapy ensures that an individual builds strength, flexibility, and other motions, injury on the system reduces the quality of life and inflict pain on an individual. As an orthopedic PT specialist, you will help patients with post-operative exercises while making sure to avoid re-injury during recovery.

Job Description

  • An orthopedic physical therapist performs and evaluates the patients and follows specific program guidelines that help a patient achieve the best treatment as recommended by a physician
  • Develop interventional routines that help clients deal with orthopedic issues affecting the muscles, tissues, bones, and ligaments as well as other body parts.
  • Carry communication strategies with case managers, referrals, schedule staff, and care coordinators.
  • Discuss the evaluation results of specific patients with their caregivers, parents, and physicians
  • Ensure that the patient gets involved in the therapy treatment for quick health outcomes
  • Help the patient design a home program that helps the patient continue with physical therapy at home
  • Organize training programs for staff, patients and caregivers
  • Monitor their schedule as well as that of other staff to ensure that there is no time lapse
  • Take part in programs and conferences that educate on new developments in the field

How to Become Orthopedic PT

1. Attain a bachelor’s degree in a biology-related course

Orthopedic PT should preferably acquire a bachelor’s degree programs in physical therapy. The degree should include courses such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, physiology, and calculus. The course should also include a unit where students deal with lab issues, and they should obtain a minimum grade point average.

2. Attain a graduate degree

Almost all states in the US require that an Orthopedic Physical Therapist should have a doctoral degree. Most of these courses take nearly three academic years, and they include subjects such as physical therapy prosthetic and orthotic intervention.

3. License requirements

If you want to succeed in an Orthopedic PT career, you must verify your accreditation of the doctoral program as most states might not issue a physical therapy license without non-accredited physical therapy programs. The certification is issued by the state in which you are practicing your Orthopedic PT career. The license proves that you attended the courses and that you have good morals. Moreover, they have to undergo a written and oral exam after paying a filing fee. Ensure to meet the filing deadlines for license renewal requirements by your employing state.

4. Orthopedic certification

You should have a board-certification to practice as an Orthopedic Physical Therapist; you should be a licensed therapist to apply for the certification. Moreover, it would help if you prove that you have participated in research in the past, which are related to orthopedic physical therapy. You may wish to gain experience as an Orthopedic PT through professional certification programs or resident programs.

Career Outlook and Salary

Job outlook projections indicate that Orthopedic PT career is likely to grow at a rate of 22% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than any other professional. The expected need for orthopedic care might come from baby boomers who are not having an active life at the moment and that they might be susceptible to health conditions. This group of people is highly likely to develop mobility issues stemming from chronic conditions. These people are likely to be affected by lifestyle diseases such as chronic diabetes, and stroke, thus the need for physical therapy.


The median annual Orthopedic PT payment as in May 2019 was $89,440, and even with economic uncertainties, this figure might not fall less than this average value.

Work Conditions

As an Orthopedic PT, you will be working in partnership with caregivers, doctors, patients, and their guardians. You will participate in programs that aim at improving the service provision, and as such, you will work directly with researchers. You will be helping other specialists in scheduling time and also ensuring that you also keep time.

You might work in a hospital helping inpatients who have mobility issues, and you will design exercises that help improve their overall well-being. You will also work with patients at home by giving them directives on how well they can exercise to improve their conditions.

Career Pros & Cons


  • Great pay with a median of about $ 89,440, although payment is not the main issue for you, it is great you get paid more compared to other professions.
  • Depending on your working environment, you might be able to strike a work-home life balance perfectly, and other medical practitioners might not have this luxury when working in hospital shifts. As a physical therapist, you can set your preferred working hours and schedule set lunch breaks.
  • You have a variety of choices in the work environment, and you may prefer to confine your work at the hospital or help patients at home. You can also be a traveling therapist as most rehabilitation centers seek therapists through the peak season. In some warmer states like Arizona, South Carolina, and New Mexico, there is an increase in the number of older people who prefer to retire in these states.
  • The profession is in demand according to the statistics from the Bureau of Labor statistics when compared to other medical fields.
  • Health and fitness helps you achieve fitness as you help the patient the best health outcome, the profession demands you to spend with patients conducting physical movement activities
  • You will have job satisfaction as caring for others, and seeing their conditions improve can make you happy as well.


  • School is expensive, and you might pay more tuition fee unlike other graduates taking different courses
  • You must obtain a license to work in different states

Career Advice

If you are interested in an Orthopedic PT career, this is the right time for you as the occupation is in demand at the moment. You will get higher pay compared to other medical professionals, and with a proper schedule, you might get a better work-life balance. You will also achieve a personal fitness outcome as you help patients with their physical therapy activities. Moreover, you are likely to get job satisfaction when you see your patients getting better due to the therapy.