What is Physical Therapy School NOT Teaching You?

So before dive into this blog post, this is not to bash any Physical Therapy (PT) schools or PT schools in general. This is just where we are at currently with our profession and our education system. I truly believe we are continually improving in both, but not quick enough. PT school has its place to make sure we are safe so we don’t come out hurting our patients and also, to pass that thing at the end of our curriculum… the NPTE or something. There’s only so much they can squeeze in the 3 years of school. Should some of the content that I talk about today be implemented in ALL schools or should we get the information elsewhere?

So, what is PT school not teaching you?…

1. How to interview the employer

I feel like we are well prepared to go into interviews to answer what THEY ask US. But what about the other way around? You went through all this education. You should find a job that fits you and know if this is the best environment for you. Especially when you are about to be there for 40+ hours a week for however many years.

Is this a place that’s going to help you grow? Oh wait, my professors told me to make sure I find mentorship when I graduate. But how is that set up? Will it just be meeting with a PT once week for the first month, and just talk to me whenever because this clinic is too busy? Or is it more structured for true growth? Where does the company envision themselves in 6, 12, 18,24 months? If they are content with being where they are now, is this a place for you to further yourself? Don’t settle for the first job offer that you get.

Interview them as much as they are interviewing you.


2. How to make money as a PT outside a 9-5

You can become a consultant for EMR companies, products, apps, software, and also market for other private practices.

You can become an online fitness/wellness coach during PT school and implement that in your clinic as passive income.

Become an affiliate for products and courses.

(Continue to end to find out how)


3. How to negotiate

I continually heard when we were about to graduate and started applying for jobs that we should negotiate our salaries. But how? Tell them what sets you apart from the rest of your classmates and those in the area that are graduating the same time as you. We are all graduating with doctorate degrees now. That means nothing to employers. Well, tell them you’ll help with marketing for them on the down time. That sounds like a great response!… But wait, how do I market? See the next section. 

I get tired of hearing from colleagues when employers tell them something along the lines of, “Well this is the average around the area for a new grad. Take it or I’ll offer the next guy/gal the same and they’ll take it“. We don’t get taught how to negotiate or to be comfortable talking about money at the job. We get scared that if they don’t take that offer, that you’ll never get a job. I felt like many professors danced around this topic. How do we negotiate when we don’t understand how the business side works? How much do you bring into the clinic each year? How much percentage of that should go to me, and how much should go to overhead/business owner? What is realistic for a clinic that has PTs only? What about if they have PTAs and techs? How much should you make for seeing 1.5 pts/hr, 2 pts/hr, etc? If you don’t know the business side, how will you be an educated negotiator?

Ben Fung from UpDoc Media does a great job talking about salaries, negotiating, and regularly releases the average salary for your area/setting/experience. The more educated we ALL are on salary negotiation the higher salary average for our profession.

(More answers to come)


4. How to market

First of all, we need to learn how to just market our profession. How many times do you hear a patient, heck even your friends and family say, “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that!“, “You have to go to school that long?”, “You know so much!“, “Oh, I thought I was just getting a massage?“, “So you’re not just a personal trainer?” etc. We do a poor job of promoting our profession. Everyone knows what a physician, optometrist, dentist, personal trainer, massage therapist and chiropractor does. How can we get more patients to come to us when they don’t even know what they do. Heck, even health care providers don’t know what we do.

I feel like the topic was brought up enough in PT school and on clinicals to help the company you are at with marketing. But never HOW to. We need to learn how to market to get patients to trust us in our care, but the 2017 way, not how they did it in 2007.


5. How to survive as a PT Practice without relying SOLELY on MD referrals

Wait, what? That’s a thing? How else do you get patients for your practice? MARKETING– See ABOVE. We are a doctorate profession now. I think it’s time to claim it. We want the respect and autonomy of the title of being a DOCTOR of Physical Therapy, but still send goodie bags, buy lunches, and essentially beg physicians for patients. Even if we put our efforts here, many hospital systems and POPTS don’t even allow you to talk to their physicians anymore. Many of them have contracts with your local high schools as well. Some clinics have 90% of the caseload relying on the same 2-3 physicians.  What happens when one bad incident occurs and you lose that referral source? What happens to your clinic when the other physician moves?

Other health care providers don’t SOLEY rely on them. It’s okay to have good relationships with them, and have a two way street of referrals. I think it’s time that we educate the public on what a physical therapist does and have them come to us FIRST. We know how much it saves patients money if they come to us before the MD. All states have some sort of direct access so let’s get out there and get them into our clinics.

6. How to start your own practice/business side of PT

Chiropractors are taught how to open a practice while they are in school and learn basic business foundations. (Someone can fact check me, I might be wrong, but the point is still there). NOW, this is not meant to have any turf battle or profession shaming, but many of y’all ARE worried about chiros are doing. They are a doctorate profession as well and are ahead of the game to learn this before entering the real world.

In my opinion, business NEEDS to be implemented in PT school. I know not everyone wants to be a private practice owner, but some do. Not everyone wants to do neuro, peds, acute care, ortho, etc, but we have a course to introduce them to the options out there. How can you make a decision if the option isn’t on the table? Contrary to popular belief, people do open up practices right out of school. This might shock you, but people CAN open up CASH based/out-of-network practices when the graduate. Check out Aaron Lebauer. I often hear, “wait FIVE years before you open up your own practice”. Why five? Why not three or seven? Is that the magic number? You can have every certification and take every CEU out there, but will you be better equipped to learn the billing, marketing, staff training, patient acquisition all of a sudden at that five-year mark?

Even if we don’t open a practice, this makes us more educated to understand how to negotiate salary and get a grasp on the business side to not be upset at our employers/owners for why they make certain decisions. I only see it as a win for our whole profession.


The question is still up in the air if this should be implemented into PT schools and if so, how? Now I am just not writing this to complain. I have a solution….

I have learned all of the above in an 8-week interactive (online) course. If you are interested in learning about EVERYTHING I just talked about in this post (and more), Greg Todd offers a course called: Smart Success Physical Therapy (SSPT) [<–click there]. He has the answers to it all- in major detail. I have learned much more than I would have imagined and paid for. Your money will easily come back 10 fold. This course opened my mind up to options that I didn’t even know were out there. Next season/course starts up in June of 2017. Pre-register now and level up! This is beneficial for new grad PTs, SPTs, if you just got accepted into PT school, 20+ years out, private practice owners, and even foreign trained physios! I can stop now.

This course is NOT for everyone. If you are a 9-5 PT and are happy with where you are, then I advise you to not spend your money here. If you have the desire to do more with your career, learn to be an entrepreneur, and push the profession, then I suggest you sign up! Many of you have invested 100k+ in PT school. If you’ve gone that far, might as well take a course that will continue to further yourself financially and professionally. Don’t just settle with investing the minimum requirements every two years for your CEUs.




Message/email me if you have any questions regarding this course. Here is the link again.

Dr. Andrew Tran