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Travel Physical Therapy: The Expert Guide

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What is travel physical therapy?

Have you thought about working a travel PT contract? Travel physical therapy (travel PT or travel therapy) refers to working temporary contracts, usually 13 weeks at a time. Travel PTs work at all of the same places that a permanent physical therapist works, such as an outpatient clinic, hospital, inpatient rehab, or skilled nursing facility.

The difference between a typical, permanent PT and a travel PT is that the traveler doesn’t work directly for the facility, they work for a staffing agency that places them on short-term contracts. 

Where do travel physical therapists work?

Travel physical therapists work in all 50 states across the U.S. and occasionally in some U.S. territories like the Virgin Islands. They work more or less in any setting that a permanent PT would work in. The most popular settings are skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and home health agencies.

How to become a travel PT?

Anybody can become a travel PT and it doesn’t take any extra training or certifications. Even new graduates can take travel contracts. Taking travel contracts, in the simplest terms, amounts to working short-term jobs, for 13 weeks at a time. You do this via contracting through staffing agencies.

Here are a few simple steps to becoming a travel physical therapist:

  1. Determine why you want to be a travel PT and what your goals are
  2. Educate yourself on how to be a travel PT. You can start here with these free online resources or with the premium Guide to Travel Therapy course.
  3. Make sure that you hold a license in any state that you want to work in
  4. Connect with travel therapy recruiters to help you find jobs
  5. Search for jobs directly over travel therapy jobs marketplace
  6. Onboard with an agency prior to submitting to jobs
  7. Submit to jobs
  8. Interview for assignments over the phone
  9. Accept a job offer 
  10. Credential for the job
  11. Move to your new location and start the job!

Are there traveling physical therapy assistant jobs?

Yes, there are absolutely travel physical therapy assistant jobs. You can 100% travel as a PTA. Travel PTAs can follow the same steps listed above to become travel PTAs.

a women and a dog standing on top of a mountain over looking a lake
You can have endless adventures across the US as a travel physical therapist

What are some travel physical therapy companies?

There are hundreds of travel therapy companies. And, you can work for more than one company. It’s common for travel PTs to work for several companies, and compare/contract jobs and rates before each assignment in order to get the best job and pay rate.

Here are some common agencies that staff travel physical therapists:

  • AMN
  • Aya
  • Aureus/Medical Solutions
  • Concentric
  • Fusion
  • Jackson
  • Pioneer

Where to find travel physical therapy jobs?

There are two primary ways to find travel therapy jobs. You can either connect with recruiters to bring jobs to you, or you can search for jobs online. You can also do a combination of both.

Traditionally, the only way to find jobs as a travel PT was to go through a recruiter and have your recruiter call, text, or email you about jobs. Recruiters still fill that role and do that. However, there are also many marketplaces online where you can go to search for jobs first and then connect with recruiters and agencies who host the jobs. 

What is a typical travel physical therapy salary?

Travel physical therapists can make upwards of $100,000 per year. However, the pay is not that simple to understand and is not the same for each job. For each assignment you work, the facility you work for is going to pay your agency an hourly rate known as the travel therapy bill rate. Bill rates will vary from job to job. They are determined by the place that you are working, and not your agency. 

For each job you work, your agency will take a cut of your bill rate and then you will receive the rest in the form of an hourly rate, reimbursements for housing/meals/incidental expenses, and any other travel or added reimbursements. 

As of October 2023, a typical gross weekly pay of a travel physical therapist, including reimbursements according to Vivian.com was $2,201 a week. On the high end, there are weekly travel PT pay packages commonly reported over $3,000/week. 

What about the PT Compact and licensure for each state?

Travel PTs need to be licensed in each state that they work in. This is one of the harder parts about being a travel PT. You can only work in states where you hold licensure. It can be expensive and time consuming to maintain licensure. 

In comes the PT Compact. The PT Compact is a multi-state agreement that allows physical therapists and physical therapy assistants to work in multiple states.

To apply for the PT Compact, go to their website and follow the directions on that page. Not everybody is eligible for the PT compact. Notably, the compact needs to be enacted in your home state where you have residency. If you are not living in a state where the compact is enacted, you cannot apply to hold a compact license. 

What are the pros and cons of being a travel physical therapist?

Like every opportunity, travel PT has its pros and cons. Here are some of the good and not so good points about being a travel physical therapist.

a women walking on a rocky beach
Coastal Oregon views

Pros of Travel PT

  • Opportunity to earn more money
  • See the country while working
  • Ability to take extended time off in between your contracts
  • Can work in multiple different settings
  • Learn from new patient populations and peers on each assignment
  • Grow interpersonal skills, problem-solving, and independence
  • Get to avoid the stagnancy of working in a job for a long time and office drama

Cons of Travel PT

  • Leaving friends, family, and home behind
  • Having to constantly switch jobs and learn new routines and electronic medical records
  • Finding housing for each assignment while avoiding internet scammers
  • Jobs may require high productivity or patient caseloads 
  • Jobs are more generalized and it’s hard to specialize or find jobs in specialty areas 
  • No paid time off and you only receive benefits while you’re working
  • Can be lonely and isolating if you’re traveling solo

Is it hard to get a permanent job after traveling?

Absolutely not. Physical therapists are always in demand. Especially PTs who have a wide skill set and experience in the field. Travel PT is a great resume-builder because it prepares you to tackle the unknown and become a more independent clinician. 

Where can I learn more about being a traveling physical therapist?

If travel PT sounds like a fit for you, you’re at the right place! This website is dedicated to providing resources for traveling therapists to succeed on the road. I recommend starting here with these free resources and posts about travel therapy. For longer-form content, check out this YouTube channel. Finally, if you want a step-by-step course to take you through everything you need to know to be a traveling PT, join The Guide to Travel Therapy.

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