Historically, the supply of physical therapists has not met the market demand for these health care providers since the profession began early in the 1900s. This trend continued into the 1990s despite substantial increases in physical therapy educational programs since1975 - from approximately 65 programs to 205 programs today. Indicators of this shortage included: strong increases in salaries over time, high job placement rates and multiple job offers for new graduates, and hiring bonuses offered as employment incentives (1). The Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to identify physical therapy as one of the largest employment growth areas - jobs expected to increase at a faster than average rate through 2012 (2).
In the mid-1990s the unemployment rate for physical therapists was 1.2% -- considered the benchmark rate. A survey conducted by the American Physical Therapy Association in October 1999 revealed a 3.2% unemployment rate in physical therapy (3). The survey did not, however, indicate how much fractional unemployment contributes to that rate (4). Despite this softening of the job market during the late 1990s and early 2000s, our graduates during that time still found employment (95 % plus within 6 months of graduation). Some graduates reported, however, that the positions they obtained did not represent their first choices either in setting or location.
Currently the job market for physical therapists has again cycled to the demand exceeding the supply (5). We now again see increases in salaries, high job placement rates and multiple job offers for new graduates, and hiring bonuses offered as employment incentives. Each week the division office receives over 10 requests from facilities or recruiters to post jobs available to our upcoming graduates.
1. APTA Executive Summary Workforce Study Vector Research, Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan1997
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition, Physical Therapists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos080.htm (visited January 31, 2005).
3. PT Bulletin, APTA, January 14, 2000
4. Individuals changing jobs or between jobs due to planned move, women or men who have chosen to not work to raise their family, and those deemed incompetent and have lost their jobs make up fractional unemployment.
5. PT. Alexandria, VA: Dec 2004. Vol. 12, 12; pg. 20