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Toni Talks about PT Today

We Need to Stop Making the DPT About Money

Published December 2, 2009 11:42 AM by Toni Patt
On the Viewpoints page of the Dec/Jan issue of PT in Motion (pp.8-9) there is an interesting commentary concerning the value of the DPT. The author makes a strong case in support of the product of physical therapy.  I wish I could agree with him. I have a problem with his logic involving the DPT. I agree with him in supporting the product of physical therapy. I don't think justifying the DPT as a method of getting a piece of the rehabilitation reimbursement pie because the salary isn't high enough is the way to go.

This author, like many others, has related the DPT to money. Why does everyone do that? As far as I know, there is no law stating that an advanced degree means an individual should make more money. If that were true, a lot more people would be making a lot more money. Yes, sometimes that happens. This isn't one of those times. We want the DPT to be taken seriously and recognized for what it is. That isn't going to happen as long as there is "whining" that the salary doesn't match the education.

Let's think about this. Much of our literature talks about a discrepancy between the effort to obtain a DPT and the starting salary. That has been one of the anti-DPT arguments since its inception. I could make a strong case for a DPT to make more money. They should, but in reality it isn't going to happen anytime soon. We need to get over it and move on. Instead of worrying about how much money a DPT should be making, we need to be worrying about the product of physical therapy.

No other discipline is going to take us seriously if we're constantly crying that we're not paid enough money.  We're not. Neither is anyone else. We end up making ourselves, and by extension, our product (PT) look foolish. No one respects someone who demands more money but has done nothing to justify it beyond going to school longer. Back in the dark ages, doctors didn't make a lot of money. Even now they don't start making a good salary until residency is finished. And then most of them have student loans to pay off. 

We won't start seeing larger salaries until we prove we're worth the extra money. Until DPTs prove the higher value of their skills, nothing will change. Change like that takes time. It takes time to alter opinions and even more time to earn the necessary respect. If I were interviewing someone and that person told me he or she needed a higher salary because they were a DPT, I probably wouldn't hire that person. If the same person explained the value of that knowledge and how it increased their treatment skills I would think about it.

I often don't agree with the APTA but they are right about this issue. We should be putting effort into changing legislation and increasing our legal scope of practice. The money will follow that. Once we prove the value of a DPT we will have ammunition for the fight for a higher salary. That probably won't happen by 2020. I'm not sure it'll happen before I retire, but I hope so. Someone entering the profession with the goal of making money needs to change professions. I understand there are computer-related jobs that easily pay six figures. Me, I can't sit still that long. I guess I'm doomed to my current salary.



I agree with you that having DPT isn't necessarily for more money.  I think as students, we thought that earning the doctorate meant that it would mean more when we look for jobs 3 yrs later but that reality set in fast!  Most of the professors have Ph.Ds and unless they have been at the university for a long time, most new grads will make just as much as them (just based on university pay).

I really like your posts on PT "product".  Basically this is the bottom line and #1 output factor we should look at as a profession.  DPT offers more radiology, pharmacology and I think the most important; more clinical experiences.  It is tough to think that paying for more clinicals to get experience will be beneficial when I was a student, but I do think it pays off in the end.  

If we can come out of school with more knowledge, clinically and academically, then we should (but not necessarily will!) give a better product.

Unfortunately, there are many who disagree with the DPT and this is separating our profession.  This is the last thing we need as we need membership in the APTA and leaders at the state level to push legislation and regulatory matters in our favor.


Harrison Vaughan December 6, 2009 12:35 PM
South Hill VA


You raised many good points.  Nice post.

Janey Goude December 3, 2009 3:48 PM

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