I am very lucky to be a physical therapist (PT). I enjoy my job and the people that I serve. I’ve been able to work in a variety of settings – a children’s hospital, in the patient’s homes, and in privately owned outpatient clinics – all which have helped me to grow in my career. I have trained under wonderful mentors to help me be better in the realms of pediatrics and pelvic health PT. Being a PT is wonderful, and I look forward to continuing my career and seeing where it takes me!
It was hard work though. After undergrad, I spent 3 years full time in my graduate school program. I went to class from 8-5 everyday, spent every night studying, and most weekends I occupied the library. My clinicals and internships were not paid, and I would spend my free time babysitting for families in the city to make extra money.
Once I graduated and started working, although I never went into PT for the money, I was astounded to see my financial situation in such a mess. Wasn’t the whole purpose of me going to graduate school was to be able to find a job that would provide me financial security? But after crunching the numbers, I found that there was an imbalance.
According to U.S. News, the average PT in the US made a median salary of $89,440 in 2019. It is projected that the PT field will grow around 18% between 2019 and 2029. However, the range was what stood out to me. The >75th percentile made $104,210 that year, while <25th percentile made $73,940.1
This doesn’t sound too bad, but there are other factors to consider. This salary is BEFORE TAXES. So you have to account for federal, state, and potential city taxes (based off of where you are working) that are deducted from each paycheck. You also have to account for FICA – social security and Medicare, which also get deducted from each paycheck. Then, you also have to consider your benefits if they are offered to you – medical, dental, vision, and your 401(k), which also get deducted from each paycheck.
So let’s do some simple, estimated math on this.
Here’s Jane, a super awesome PT who’s been at it for about 5 years. Let’s say Jane makes that median salary as a PT – $90,000 (rounded up for simplicity’s sake). Jane is 30 years old, single, with no dependents. She is living in a city with fairly average state tax rate.
If we estimate that her effective tax rate is 20% (which includes federal, FICA which is 7.65%, and state), then: 90,000 x 20% (0.2) = $18,000 total income taxes. So after taxes, her income is actually $72,000.
But Jane is a good planner and preparing for retirement already (good for you, Jane!). So she is maxing out her 401(k), which for the year of 2021 is $19,500. So subtracting this contribution from her income after taxes, her take home pay $52,500.
But Jane’s employer also provides medical, dental and vision insurance. She chose a basic HMO plan, as she doesn’t have any big health issues. So she pays a pretty low amount of $1,500 a year pre-tax for these benefits. So now, her take home pay is actually $51,000.
With an average of 50 working weeks a year, this leaves Jane at just over $1000 a week of take home pay.
I am not saying by any means that this is bad. I understand that PT’s make a decent, liveable wage. But when I was a new grad, all I saw was the pre-tax salary and thought “Damn, I’m ballin’ now!”
So I spent my money frivolously with no thought behind every swipe of my credit card. I had no budget, I had no idea where my money was going, and even with a clinical doctorate degree, I still found myself living paycheck to paycheck and accumulating consumer debt.
What I’m trying to say here is that although your work contract may look good on paper, remember that the number you see is not what you’ll actually take home in the bank. And this is why I started this blog – I want other PTs and allied health professionals to see their income for what it is, learn to spend wisely and plan their personal finances accordingly, so you all can live your best lives and continuing serving the community and population you work with to your heart’s content without worrying about where your next paycheck will go.
Note: I am not a certified financial advisor/planner or a certified financial analyst or a CPA or an accountant or a lawyer. Remember, I am an allied health professional, just like you! This website/blog is for entertainment and educational purposes only. Please consult with your financial advisor(s) regarding your personal finance, investment, and tax matters.
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