Physical Therapists `Write Our Own Ticket' Soaring Salaries Make Job Hunting Easy
Virginia Baldwin Hick Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Signing bonuses, generous education allowances, flexible hours, soaring salaries - medical institutions have offered just about everything except maybe limousine service to entice physical therapists to work for them.
"We can kind of write our own ticket," said Kate Crandell, a physical therapist. She recently left a hospital job to direct a small clinic in the Central West End owned by MedRehab Inc., which has outpatient clinics in seven states.
At a time when workers in other occupations are getting laid off or having to settle for less desirable jobs, physical therapists have it made. The demand for their services is much greater than the supply, and that is not likely to change soon.
The occupation is expected to continue to be one of the fastest-growing in the region and the nation. Nationally, the number of jobs is expected to grow 76 percent from 1990 to 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the St. Louis area, including the Metro East side, the growth in jobs is expected to be somewhat less, about 46 percent by the year 2000, according to a study by the Missouri Division of Employment Security.
The shortage is less acute here because three area universities offer physical therapy programs - Washington University, St. Louis University and Maryville University. In fact, the three universities graduate more therapists than the region has openings each year. But many of them go elsewhere.
Nationally, starting salaries average about $37,000, says the American Physical Therapy Association. In St. Louis, new therapists start at around $30,000, recruiters say. Less attractive workplaces sometimes offer several thousand dollars more.
Physical therapists don't know what a tight job market is.
Tammy Davis' experience is fairly typical. Now 23, Davis said she felt sort of like a baseball player when, as a 20-year-old college graduate, she got a signing bonus of $8,000 for her first job, at a hospital in the Metro East area.
When she left that job six months ago, Davis found another job in a couple of days with higher pay and better hours - and it was closer to her home in Florissant.
On a Tuesday, she made five phone calls and got five appointments for job interviews. After the third appointment, she canceled the other two. By Thursday the same week, she had accepted a job. She started work the following Monday.
Why do physical therapists have it so good?
Demand for physical therapy is up.
Increasing the supply of therapists is difficult because the training is costly and takes four to seven years. …