Finding your First Job After PT School


You’ve made it through the grind and you’re on the home stretch towards graduation. You’ve started prepping for the NEPTE (or not) and you’ve started the inevitable job search. Luckily, as you move through the end of third year, recruiters stream in daily like a flock of seagulls to a handful of cheetos. 

In my experience, each one promised “patient centered care,” where PT’s would get what I’ve come to call “The Big Three.”

  1. Competitive Salary 
  2. Continuing education and benefits (I know, that’s technically 2 things)
  3. Continued Mentorship 

All these things are easy to say, but much harder to follow through with. So, I’ll outline a few of the lessons I’ve learned through the process so far, since I’ve had a number of friends reach out to me for guidance. 

Let’s go category by category…

1- Competitive Salary

While this seems to be very straightforward, it may not be the case. If you sign on for a position as a salaried therapist, then that means you are no longer making hourly wages. Which means you might be at the mercy of working longer hours, which effectively lowers your hourly wages, unless you’ve got something established for overtime hours or bonuses. For instance, 75K may sound great, but if you end up working 60 hour weeks, maybe not so much. With all that being said, make sure you understand what’s expected of you as far as scheduling and weekly work requirements, and if there’s the potential for longer hours, make sure you will be compensated for those hours. Also, if it is a “high volume clinic (where more than one patient comes in on the hour),” factor in time for notes outside of the clinic, because it is very likely that you will not have time to finish these during the business day. For instance, you may work 8 hours per day, plus 30 minutes to clean up before heading home, then 1.5 more hour of notes at home to finish up the day. Now your weekly work hours have increased significantly (but your salaried pay is based on 40 hrs). Almost every job, in my opinion, will require more than 40 hours from start to finish, but these are just a few things that I wish I had paid more attention to when I was weighing my decision of where to work.

2- Benefits and Con-Ed

I’m not going to dive too deeply into the benefits portion, but just know that matching into a Roth (pre-tax) or traditional 401K (post-tax) can add up quickly. As far as con-ed, if you can do your homework and be specific during your contract negotiations, companies may be more willing to increase your allotted amount of available funds even if they are unwavering on salary. I think this is largely because It demonstrates that you are driven, committed to growing as a clinician, and could benefit the company (certifications etc). If there’s a certification or class you wanted to attend anyway, those ceu funds are as good as cash, and, they aren’t taxed like a signing bonus. Not to mention, they will often help you to better serve your patients, which is always the primary goal.

3- Continued Mentorship 

This is possibly the biggest point. Each company will promise you mentorship opportunities, but few will have exactly what you want personally. Every clinician has his or her own style. One of my clinical instructors once told me that PT is just as much an art as it is a science, and in retrospect, I totally agree. You need to do your homework to see if your co-workers and the DIRECT senior therapist in your work environment has a style that appeals to you, because they will be your braintrust. Just because you did a clinical with a company, you need to make sure those in the area you are applying have goals and styles that mesh with what you are hoping to learn (whether treatment or business related). 

A Couple More Points to Keep in Mind

Sometimes taking an initial salary cut to work with a clinician or in a setting that directly aligns with your mission and goals as a therapist is the best move you can make. We all want to feel fulfilled in our work, and finding a nice fit will always serve as a great base for you to build your work life around.

Think about your long term goals, and don’t just settle for the “stable” position. You are a DPT (once you pass the NEPTE), and companies everywhere need your help. Not only that, you can make good money working part time or PRN while you keep searching for your position of choice. 

So there you have it; some extra things to consider as you graduate and try to solidify the job you’ve been  grinding  through school to snag. 

Hopefully this has been helpful, and if you have any questions, or want to find out more about our business at Refine PT and Performance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Best Wishes, 

Tyler Vaughn


Refine PT and Performance

[email protected]


Owner Pathology Apparel