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The Best (& Worst) States for Physical Therapists in 2020

We pulled state-level data on salaries, affordability, job growth, and quality of life rankings to determine the best and worst states for PTs to live in 2020.

January 24, 2020

Small book map of North America

According to U.S. News & World Reports' Best Jobs of 2020, physical therapy is one of the top 10 healthcare jobs in the U.S. On top of having some of the highest projected job growth numbers (PT jobs are expected to grow by 18 percent between now and 2028), physical therapy turns out to be one of the more lucrative healthcare professions in the country as well. (As of May 2019, the average annual PT salary was $90,170.)

That said, these metrics will vary from state to state, which means that where you choose to live can play a big role in how your career shapes up. To help you determine where you'd have the best chances for both professional and personal satistication, we identified four key factors that contribute to whether a state can be considered the “best” (or “worst”) to work as a PT:

  • Salary
  • Affordability/Cost of Living
  • Job Demand
  • Quality of Life

For each metric, we pulled the latest data from sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and U.S. News & World Report. Then, we identified which states ranked the highest and lowest for PTs along all four categories. Here's what we discovered.

The Best & Worst States for Physical Therapists

Best and worst states for physical therapists based on salary, affordability, and quality of life

Want to dig a little deeper into the data? Below, you'll find tables for the top five and bottom five states for each metric. And, at the very bottom of this article, you'll also find the full datasets we pulled from.

The Best & Worst States for Physical Therapists: Salary

First, we decided to focus on your earning potential. You and your colleagues do important, sometimes grueling work rehabilitating patients and treating chronic conditions. But does the salary reflect all that effort? Below, we’ve provided data from the BLS’ Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program to show you the five states with the highest PT salaries -- and the five states with the lowest.

Keep in mind that all BLS data reflects the employment and wage numbers for PTs as of May 2019. We'll update these tables when the BLS releases their 2020 data in May 2021. If you'd like to see the full data set for all 50 states, we've provided it at the bottom of this article.

The 5 Highest-Paying States for Physical Therapists

Rank State Average Annual Salary for Physical Therapists Average Hourly Pay for Physical Therapists
1 Nevada $108,550 $52.19
2 Alaska $102,650 $49.35
3 California $99,920 $48.04
4 New Jersey $99,060 $47.63
5 Connecticut $98,780 $47.49

The 5 Lowest-Paying States for Physical Therapists

Rank State Average Annual Salary for Physical Therapists Average Hourly Pay for Physical Therapists
46 North Dakota $81,630 $39.24
47 Vermont $81,020 $38.95
48 Maine $80,380 $38.64
49 Idaho $80,360 $38.64
50 South Dakota $77,130 $37.08

The Best & Worst States for Physical Therapists: Affordability/Cost of Living

Next, we decided to focus on the cost of living associated with each state. This is a really important factor to consider when determining your earning potential. Why? Well, if you have a high-paying job in a state that tends to have a very high cost of living, then you would expect to see most (if not all) of your paycheck going toward your living expenses. Conversely, if you had an average salary in a state with a low cost of living, you’d be more likely to have some money left over to spend however you wanted.

To help you get a more accurate picture of your earning potential, we turned to U.S. News's 2019 Affordability rankings to find out which states are considered the most (and least) affordable. To determine how affordable each state was, U.S. News gave them scores on two metrics: cost of living and housing affordability. Based on those scores, each state then received an overall ranking on a scale of 1 to 50, with 1 being the most affordable and 50 being the least.

Keep in mind that U.S. News & World Report last updated their rankings in May 2019. We'll update the tables below when they release their new data.

The 5 Most Affordable States for Physical Therapists

Rank State Cost of Living Score Housing Affordability Score
1 Iowa 13 1
2 Ohio 16 2
3 Indiana 9 3
4 Oklahoma 2 7
5 Michigan 5 9

The 5 Least Affordable States for Physical Therapists

Rank State Cost of Living Score Housing Affordability Score
46 Massachusetts 43 41
47 New York 48 39
48 Oregon 45 47
49 California 49 49
50 Hawaii 50 50

The Best & Worst States for Physical Therapists: Job Demand

When determining whether a state is the "best" or "worst" to work as a PT, one key factor to consider is not only how much demand there currently is for your particular skillset, but also how much demand there will be in the future. (You can think about this in terms of job security.)

We turned to job growth projection data from Projections Central to show you the five states that are predicted to have the most job openings for PTs between now and 2028, and the five that are predicted to have the least. We’ve also provided the job growth percentages for the states as well.

(Reminder: If you'd like to see the full data set for all 50 states, we've provided it at the bottom of this article.)

The 5 States With the Highest Demand for Physical Therapists (2018-2028)

Rank State Average Number of Physical Therapist Job Openings per Year Physical Therapist Job Growth Percentage
1 California 1,630 22.4%
2 New York 1,560 34%
3 Texas 1,150 20.4%
4 Florida 950 22.1%
5 Pennsylvania 830 20.6%

The 5 States With the Lowest Demand for Physical Therapists (2018-2028)

Rank State Average Number of Physical Therapist Job Openings per Year Physical Therapist Job Growth Percentage
46 Nevada 40 31.5%
47 Idaho 40 25.8%
48 Wyoming 40 22.4%
49 Alaska 30 7.5%
50 Mississippi 10 6.6%

The Best & Worst States for Physical Therapists: Quality of Life

Everyone has a different way of defining “quality of life,” so to establish a standard unit of measurement, we turned to the latest data from the U.S. News’ 2019 Best States Rankings and focused specifically on the "Overall Best States" list. First, analysts ranked each state for the following eight metrics:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Infrastructure
  • Opportunity
  • Fiscal Stability
  • Crime & Corrections
  • Natural Environment

Then, the analysts used those sub-rankings to provide each state with an overall ranking. (You can read more about their methodology here.) Below, we've provided you with the rankings for the top five and bottom five, along with their rankings for each metric.

What’s notable about this list is that the top five states are all northern, mostly suburban or rural states. Meanwhile, the states with the lowest quality of life tended to have more metro areas and larger populations.

The 5 Best States for Physical Therapists' Quality of Life

Rank State Healthcare Score Education Score Economy Score Infrastructure Score Opportunity Score Fiscal Stability Score Crime & Corrections Score Natural Environment Score
1 Washington 4 4 3 2 19 22 15 14
2 New Hampshire 16 5 13 31 1 10 1 4
3 Minnesota 10 17 18 6 3 25 16 3
4 Utah 9 10 2 3 24 5 12 49
5 Vermont 11 8 29 28 10 19 2 7

The 5 Worst States for Physical Therapists' Quality of Life

Rank State Healthcare Score Education Score Economy Score Infrastructure Score Opportunity Score Fiscal Stability Score Crime & Corrections Score Natural Environment Score
46 New Mexico 34 49 47 17 48 47 49 23
47 West Virginia 48 44 50 50 30 34 21 41
48 Mississippi 50 46 48 45 44 44 26 11
49 Alabama 46 50 45 38 45 23 45 35
50 Louisiana 45 48 49 48 50 43 50 50

BONUS: National Physical Therapist Data

As promised, here are the full datasets we used to identify the best and worst states for PTs in terms of salary, affordability, projected demand/job growth, and quality of life.

National Data for Physical Therapist Salaries (May 2019)

State Average Annual Salary for PTs Average Hourly Pay for PTs
Alabama $92,570 $44.51
Alaska $102,650 $49.35
Arizona $89,350 $42.95
Arkansas $85,710 $41.21
California $99,920 $48.04
Colorado $86,740 $41.70
Connecticut $98,780 $47.49
Delaware $96,520 $46.40
Florida $86,090 $41.39
Georgia $87,590 $42.11
Hawaii $92,650 $44.54
Idaho $80,360 $38.64
Illinois $91,750 $44.11
Indiana $86,670 $41.67
Iowa $82,940 $39.87
Kansas $88,310 $42.46
Kentucky $85,260 $40.99
Louisiana $89,560 $43.06
Maine $80,380 $38.64
Maryland $89,890 $43.22
Massachusetts $90,860 $43.68
Michigan $90,500 $43.51
Minnesota $84,280 $40.52
Mississippi $91,050 $43.78
Missouri $84,180 $40.47
Montana $82,130 $39.48
Nebraska $85,100 $40.91
Nevada $108,550 $52.19
New Hampshire $84,610 $40.68
New Jersey $99,060 $47.63
New Mexico $94,430 $45.40
New York $90,880 $43.69
North Carolina $88,020 $42.32
North Dakota $81,630 $39.24
Ohio $87,600 $42.12
Oklahoma $91,480 $43.98
Oregon $87,200 $41.92
Pennsylvania $88,450 $42.52
Rhode Island $85,540 $41.13
South Carolina $85,650 $41.18
South Dakota $77,130 $37.08
Tennessee $84,720 $40.73
Texas $89,630 $43.09
Utah $85,880 $41.29
Vermont $81,020 $38.95
Virginia $91,930 $44.20
Washington $88,010 $42.31
West Virginia $92,320 $44.39
Wisconsin $88,570 $42.58
Wyoming $91,030 $43.76

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019)

Nationwide Job Growth Projections for Physical Therapists (2018-2028)

State Average Number of Job Openings per Year Job Growth Percentage
Alabama 190 18.9%
Alaska 30 7.5%
Arizona 150 43.4%
Arkansas 150 23.6%
California 1,630 22.4%
Colorado 490 37.3%
Connecticut 260 13.3%
Delaware 60 22%
Florida 950 22.1%
Georgia 440 35.7%
Hawaii 70 17.6%
Idaho 40 25.8%
Illinois 620 10.3%
Indiana 340 20.7%
Iowa 150 25.7%
Kansas 140 11%
Kentucky 160 16.7%
Louisiana 50 14.2%
Maine 80 7.3%
Maryland 430 31%
Massachusetts 470 9.9%
Michigan 450 9.4%
Minnesota 310 18.4%
Mississippi 10 6.6%
Missouri 320 18.9%
Montana 70 19.6%
Nebraska 120 22.7%
Nevada 40 31.5%
New Hampshire 100 20.1%
New Jersey 540 20%
New Mexico 90 19.4%
New York 1,560 34%
North Carolina 390 14.9%
North Dakota 50 21.7%
Ohio 480 15.5%
Oklahoma 160 15.2%
Oregon 230 23.5%
Pennsylvania 830 20.6%
Rhode Island 60 10.5%
South Carolina 220 22.5%
South Dakota 60 17%
Tennessee 330 21%
Texas 1,150 20.4%
Utah 150 27.5%
Vermont 50 14.3%
Virginia 470 21.3%
Washington 760 30.3%
West Virginia 100 19.9%
Wisconsin 260 8.3%
Wyoming 40 22.4%

Source: Projections Central - Long-Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028)

National Affordability Rankings (2019)

Rank State Cost of Living Score Housing Affordability Score
1 Iowa 13 1
2 Ohio 16 2
3 Indiana 9 3
4 Oklahoma 2 7
5 Michigan 5 9
6 Nebraska 21 5
7 Missouri 4 11
8 West Virginia 20 8
9 Kansas 8 12
10 Pennsylvania 30 4
11 North Dakota 27 6
12 Arkansas 3 14
13 Kentucky 14 13
14 South Dakota 29 10
15 Mississippi 1 18
16 Wisconsin 22 15
17 Illinois 23 16
18 Georgia 11 19
19 Alabama 6 20
20 Louisiana 17 22
21 Minnesota 31 17
22 Tennessee 7 28
23 Texas 12 27
24 North Carolina 19 30
25 New Mexico 15 34
26 New Hampshire 36 21
27 South Carolina 25 33
28 Wyoming 10 38
29 Delaware 35 31
30 Arizona 26 37
31 Virginia 32 35
32 Idaho 18 40
33 Maine 39 26
34 New Jersey 41 23
35 Florida 28 42
36 Utah 24 44
37 Vermont 40 32
38 Rhode Island 41 29
39 Montana 33 43
40 Maryland 46 25
41 Connecticut 47 24
42 Nevada 38 45
43 Colorado 34 48
44 Washington 37 46
45 Alaska 44 36
46 Massachusetts 43 41
47 New York 48 39
48 Oregon 45 47
49 California 49 49
50 Hawaii 50 50

Source: U.S. News & World Report's Best States 2019 Rankings (May 2019)

National Quality of Life Rankings (2019)

Rank State Healthcare Score Education Score Economy Score Infrastructure Score Opportunity Score Fiscal Stability Score Crime & Corrections Score Natural Environment Score
1 Washington 4 4 3 2 19 22 15 14
2 New Hampshire 16 5 13 31 1 10 1 4
3 Minnesota 10 17 18 6 3 25 16 3
4 Utah 9 10 2 3 24 5 12 49
5 Vermont 11 8 29 28 10 19 2 7
6 Maryland 8 13 26 21 5 15 22 25
7 Virginia 18 7 25 35 9 8 9 18
8 Massachusetts 2 1 7 44 29 30 4 26
9 Nebraska 27 6 21 9 15 7 24 27
10 Colorado 12 11 1 8 28 29 29 31
11 Wisconsin 14 14 24 30 6 14 30 10
12 New Jersey 6 2 31 34 8 49 6 13
13 Florida 29 3 9 14 38 2 31 21
14 Iowa 20 9 32 23 2 17 19 32
15 North Dakota 38 20 35 5 4 13 18 28
16 Idaho 26 33 6 29 35 11 8 15
17 Georgia 39 30 11 10 21 9 27 20
18 North Carolina 30 25 14 18 36 4 14 36
19 California 7 21 4 32 49 42 23 5
20 South Dakota 32 18 27 16 34 3 40 2
21 Connecticut 3 12 30 46 33 46 7 6
22 Kansas 33 15 36 7 16 35 32 8
23 Delaware 15 23 17 19 23 18 36 47
24 Hawaii 1 29 40 12 46 36 5 16
25 New York 13 22 33 22 47 26 10 24
26 Rhode Island 5 41 20 49 31 31 13 1
27 Oregon 17 36 5 1 43 40 38 30
28 Missouri 41 27 23 25 11 16 44 9
29 Montana 28 26 22 20 42 24 25 22
30 Tennessee 43 35 12 13 26 1 43 37
31 Wyoming 42 16 42 15 22 39 17 17
32 Maine 19 28 37 42 27 28 3 39
33 Michigan 24 37 19 41 14 27 35 29
34 Arizona 23 40 10 11 40 33 42 33
35 Illinois 22 19 41 24 17 50 20 43
36 Indiana 40 24 28 37 12 6 34 48
37 Nevada 31 45 8 4 37 37 39 46
38 Texas 37 34 15 33 39 12 33 40
39 Ohio 35 31 38 27 7 41 28 44
40 Kentucky 44 38 39 26 20 45 11 12
41 Pennsylvania 21 32 44 43 13 38 37 38
42 South Carolina 36 43 16 36 41 20 46 34
43 Oklahoma 47 39 34 39 25 32 41 42
44 Alaska 25 47 46 40 18 48 48 45
45 Arkansas 49 42 43 47 32 21 47 19
46 New Mexico 34 49 47 17 48 47 49 23
47 West Virginia 48 44 50 50 30 34 21 41
48 Mississippi 50 46 48 45 44 44 26 11
49 Alabama 46 50 45 38 45 23 45 35
50 Louisiana 45 48 49 48 50 43 50 50

Source: U.S. News & World Report's Best States 2019 Rankings (May 2019)


Image courtesy of Unsplash.com/REVOLT


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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