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Physical Therapy

Although it's still bouncing back, the physical therapy industry is poised for huge growth. Thanks, Baby Boomers.


Looking at the numbers, one might be discouraged. IBISWorld's predictions show the physical therapy industry might barely grow through the rest of 2011. But the aging Baby Boomer generation is great news for the industry's future: The field will see a big spurt in the next five years as a huge wave of Americans hit retirement age and beyond. Growth of 4.3 percent is expected annually by 2016, which will add more than 44,000 jobs since 2008. The number of establishments is expected to grow too, from 105,587 in 2011 to 123,351 by 2016.

"Physical therapists' role in health care will likely grow as the need for a provider to manage movement across the lifespan becomes more important as Americans live longer and more Americans with disabilities that impact movement and mobility live longer," says Erin Wendel, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. On top of that, physical therapists are back to levels not seen since before Medicare payment reductions in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 forced facilities to cut staff, she says. The recent national healthcare reform could increase the number of insured Americans and further increase the demand for physical therapists, Wendel says.

While the competition in the field is high, the pressures put on schools to accept new students could mean it will stay steady over the next few years.

By the Numbers:

0.1% Annual growth in revenue from 2008 to 2011 for the physical therapy industry
4.8% Projected annual growth in revenue from 2011 to 2016 for the physical therapy industry
283,926 Number employed in physical therapy in the United States in 2008, according to IBISWorld
327,851 Number expected to be employed in physical therapy in the United States in 2016, according to IBISWorld 2016
105,587 Number of physical therapy establishments in the United States in 2011, according to IBISWorld
123,351 Projected number of physical therapy establishments in the United States in 2016, according to IBISWorld
Last updated: Apr 11, 2011

TIM DONNELLY | Columnist | Contributor

Tim Donnelly is a freelance writer and managing editor of His work has appeared in Billboard, The Atlantic, Thought Catalog, and The New York Post.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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