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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
Image via Unsplash.com/REVOLT

The results are in: 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.! And, as it turns out, you and your peers have a lot to love about your profession. On top of having some of the highest projected job growth numbers (PT jobs are expected to grow by 21.9 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 2018, the average annual PT salary was $88,880, though some PTs make as much as $123,350.)

That said, keep in mind that 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. So, whether you're on the hunt for a new job or not, it's important to do a little research to figure out if you're living in a place where you'd be able to get the most out of your career -- or not.

The Best & Worst States for Physical Therapists

The Metrics

To help you determine the best and worst states to live in as a PT, we collected state-level data along four key metrics:

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

The Results

Once we aggregated all the data, we were able to identify the best and worst states for PTs in 2020. Take a look at the infographic below to see who came out on top, and who didn't:

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

Want to dig into the data a little more? Below, we've provided tables for the "Top 5" and "Bottom 5" states for each metric. And, if you'd like to see how each state fared, we've also provided the full data sets at the bottom of this article.

Without further ado, let's get to it!

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The States With the Highest & Lowest Physical Therapy Salaries

PTs 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 which five states offer the highest salaries for PTs, and which five offer the lowest.

Keep in mind that all BLS data reflects the employment and wage numbers for PTs as of May 2018. We'll update these tables when the BLS releases their 2019 data in May 2020.

The 5 States With the Highest Physical Therapist Salaries

Here are the five states where PTs can make the most money.

Rank State Average Annual Salary for PTs Average Hourly Pay for PTs
1 Nevada $107,920 $51.89
2 Alaska $99,180 $47.68
3 New Jersey $97,770 $47.01
4 New Mexico $97,210 $46.74
5 California $97,110 $46.69

The 5 States With the Lowest Physical Therapist Salaries

Here are the five states where PTs could make the least amount of money. When reviewing this list, keep in mind that the average annual salary for U.S. workers was $51,960 in 2018. In that light, these numbers are still impressive.

Rank State Average Annual Salary for PTs Average Hourly Pay for PTs
46 North Dakota $78,120 $37.56
47 Idaho $77,700 $37.35
48 Maine $76,910 $36.97
49 South Dakota $76,200 $36.63
50 Vermont $75,010 $36.06

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The Most & Least Affordable States for Physical Therapists

When considering salaries and earning potential in different states, one important aspect to keep in mind is cost of living. Why? 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 in a given state, taking into account affordability, we turned to U.S. News's 2019 Affordability rankings. 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 affordable.

The 5 Most Affordable States for Physical Therapists

Here are the five states that were considered the most affordable. We've also included their scores for the individual metrics to give you more context.

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

Here are the five states that were considered the least affordable to live in.

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

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The States With the Most & Least Demand for Physical Therapists

It’s a safe assumption that the more job openings there are, the greater the need is for PTs. The BLS projects that demand for PTs will grow by about 28 percent between now and 2026, due in large part to the growing needs of the aging baby boomer population. Below, we’ve provided additional projection numbers from Projections Central to show you the five states that are predicted to have the most job openings for PTs between now and 2026, and the five that are predicted to have the least. We’ve also provided the job growth percentages for the states as well.

The 5 States With the Most Demand for Physical Therapists

These are the five states that are projected to have the most PT jobs open up each year between now and 2026. (It’s worth noting that these states also happen to be the top 5 most-populated states in the U.S. in 2019.)

Rank State Average Annual Job Openings for PTs Job Growth Percentage (2016-2026)
1 California 1,640 28.8%
2 New York 1,490 32.7%
3 Texas 1,250 31.2%
4 Florida 1,070 31.8%
5 Pennsylvania 790 23.9%

The 5 States With the Least Demand for Physical Therapists

Here are the five states that are predicted to have the least amount of job growth for PTs between now and 2026. It’s worth keeping in mind that it would make sense that some of the least-populous states would have fewer jobs available than those with larger populations.

You’ll notice that there are some two-way ties in the number of job openings. Within those tied pairs, we ranked them based on who had the higher job growth percentage.

Rank State Average Annual Job Openings for PTs Job Growth Percentage (2016-2026)
46 Delaware 50 21.1%
47 South Dakota 50 20%
48 Rhode Island 50 9.8%
49 Wyoming 30 28.9%
50 Alaska 30 22%

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The States With the Best & Worst Overall 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. To determine each state's rank, they first provided them with performance scores for each of the following eight metrics:

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

The scores were on a scale of 1 to 50, with 1 being the best and 50 best the worst. They then used those scores to provide an overall ranking for each state. (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 scores 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 Overall 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 Overall 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

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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. If your state didn't make any of the lists above, take a look at the following tables to see what's in store for PTs in your neck of the woods.

Physical Therapist Salaries, Nationwide

State Average Annual Salary for PTs Average Hourly Pay for PTs
Alabama $90,620 $43.57
Alaska $99,180 $47.68
Arizona $88,800 $42.69
Arkansas $81,430 $39.15
California $97,110 $46.69
Colorado $82,560 $39.69
Connecticut $96,010 $46.16
Delaware $93,880 $45.14
Florida $87,410 $42.02
Georgia $86,320 $41.50
Hawaii $90,540 $43.53
Idaho $77,700 $37.35
Illinois $90,690 $43.60
Indiana $83,680 $40.23
Iowa $82,960 $39.88
Kansas $85,250 $40.99
Kentucky $84,630 $40.69
Louisiana $89,860 $43.20
Maine $76,910 $36.97
Maryland $85,170 $40.95
Massachusetts $91,750 $44.11
Michigan $91,160 $43.83
Minnesota $83,750 $40.26
Mississippi $89,720 $43.13
Missouri $81,330 $39.10
Montana $79,050 $38.00
Nebraska $80,130 $38.52
Nevada $107,920 $51.89
New Hampshire $82,880 $39.85
New Jersey $97,770 $47.01
New Mexico $97,210 $46.74
New York $87,470 $42.05
North Carolina $87,560 $42.09
North Dakota $78,120 $37.56
Ohio $86,690 $41.68
Oklahoma $84,860 $40.80
Oregon $85,890 $41.30
Pennsylvania $87,050 $41.85
Rhode Island $83,850 $40.31
South Carolina $85,450 $41.08
South Dakota $76,200 $36.63
Tennessee $82,920 $39.86
Texas $92,940 $44.68
Utah $85,940 $41.32
Vermont $75,010 $36.06
Virginia $91,700 $44.09
Washington $85,930 $41.31
West Virginia $89,420 $42.99
Wisconsin $85,200 $40.96
Wyoming $87,510 $42.07

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2018)

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Projected Job Growth for Physical Therapists, Nationwide

State Average Annual Job Openings for Physical Therapists Job Growth Percentage (2016-2026)
Alabama 180 24.4%
Alaska 30 22%
Arizona 360 45.2%
Arkansas 170 30.7%
California 1,640 28.8%
Colorado 490 44.3%
Connecticut 260 18.2%
Delaware 50 21.1%
Florida 1,070 31.8%
Georgia 420 28.9%
Hawaii 60 19.8%
Idaho 60 25.8%
Illinois 740 19.4%
Indiana 330 26.5%
Iowa 130 26%
Kansas 100 10.3%
Kentucky 180 23%
Louisiana 210 22.3%
Maine 90 14.6%
Maryland 360 25.2%
Massachusetts 580 18.2%
Michigan 630 27.3%
Minnesota 260 17.9%
Mississippi 110 16.3%
Missouri 310 22.7%
Montana 80 28.1%
Nebraska 130 24.9%
Nevada 130 31.5%
New Hampshire 110 22.7%
New Jersey 550 22.2%
New Mexico 100 24%
New York 1,490 32.7%
North Carolina 440 23%
North Dakota 50 25.8%
Ohio 540 21.5%
Oklahoma 140 17.9%
Oregon 220 27.5%
Pennsylvania 790 23.9%
Rhode Island 50 9.8%
South Carolina 220 28.4%
South Dakota 50 20%
Tennessee 350 30.1%
Texas 1,250 31.2%
Utah 170 46.1%
Vermont 60 21.1%
Virginia 480 29.7%
Washington 420 26.5%
West Virginia 100 26.3%
Wisconsin 280 15.4%
Wyoming 30 28.9%

Source: Projections Central - Long-Term Occupational Projections for 2016-2026 (July 2019)

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Affordability Rankings, Nationwide

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)

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Quality of Life Rankings Nationwide

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)


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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