Physical Therapy

Startup Costs: $100,000 +
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No

Ask the Expert: Dr. Karen Litzy, PT, DPT, Founder and Owner of Karen Litzy Physical Therapy, PLLC

What is the first step to getting started in the physical therapy industry?

In order to apply to physical therapy school, you need a bachelor’s degree with certain prerequisite courses (check with the schools you’re interested in attending). You’d then take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), then apply and gain acceptance to an accredited physical therapy school. You might also need observation hours alongside a physical therapist in order to be admitted to PT school. After two to three years of schooling that includes clinical rotations as well as didactic and lab courses, you will graduate with a doctorate in Physical Therapy. The final step is passing the National Physical Therapy Exam, which means you are licensed to practice. Some therapists will go on to a residency or fellowship, but neither is absolutely necessary. 

Is the physical therapy industry growing?

According to the IBIS World Report, the profession has seen sustained growth over the past five years at an annualized rate of 1.3% (even with a dip in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic), and was sized at $38.3 billion in 2021. In part because of the steadily increasing size of the elderly population, the profession is expected to grow year over year through at least 2030.


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What are the current trends in physical therapy and what type of person is a great fit to try this?

According to that same IBIS World Report as well as other industry research, there are a few trends worth noting:

• Physical therapists have become more specialized in targeted areas of care, such as sports medicine, pediatrics, neurology and oncology.

• Partnering with other healthcare professionals like physicians or chiropractors.

• Because of decreases in insurance reimbursement, more physical therapists are adding cash-based revenue streams like Pilates, yoga, group classes, health coaching and other wellness services.

The type of person who’s a great fit is someone who enjoys being around all kinds of people, is organized, a good listener, introspective, driven, a lifelong learner, creative and a team player.

How much money can a person expect to make in the first year and in five years?

A successful private practice (with one location and depending upon the number of therapists employed) can generate $250,000 to $2,000,000 in gross revenue. The average private practice generates between $170,000 and $800,000.

In five years (and again, this depends on how large you want to be), you can maintain the practice at $250,000 or grow it as a single-clinic operation to upwards of $1,000,00. If you expand to include multiple clinics, it’s possible to generate $10,000,000-plus in gross revenue.

A staff physical therapist can expect to make anywhere from $75,000 to $105,000, with the median salary approximately $91,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over time, that pay will increase depending on location, position and bonuses.


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What kind of experience/training do you need to have?

Physical therapists are now graduating with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, though some graduated 20-plus years ago with a master’s or bachelor’s. Physical therapy school also includes several months of internships. Some may choose to further their skills through residency or fellowship, but neither are mandatory. You also need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam to practice.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

That there are so many avenues to pursue as an entrepreneur, intrapreneur, or even as a staff physical therapist — the business is ever-evolving to meet the needs of communities. You have to be nimble, open-minded and willing to take chances to succeed. I also wish I’d known that to grow as a physical therapy entrepreneur, it’s vital to take some business courses (I was part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program). Additionally, it’s a great idea to hire a coach to keep you organized and accountable and to create a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to help you along the way. If you try to do it all, it will keep you small!

Who are your customers?

My clients are people aged ten years and older who are recovering from an orthopedic injury or surgery or who want to start or continue their fitness journey. Most live in New York City, but I see clients via telehealth who live in Florida, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.


Related: Get the No.1 Guide to Starting Your Own Business

Are there any resources you recommend that were extremely valuable in getting your business off the ground?

One is certainly the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association, which includes an annual conference and exhibition. What’s also vital is hiring the right lawyer and accountant for your type of business. For example, it was beneficial for me to hire a lawyer specializing in healthcare entrepreneurs.

One particularly great read for me was Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine, by Mike Michalowicz.  

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