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The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Traveling Physical Therapist

There’s no getting away from it, the last few years have been tough. As the world begins to open up again, many of us are itching to travel, especially abroad. The great news for physical therapists is that you can travel for work, share your expertise, and experience new cultures. Sounds like a dream?

While becoming a traveling physical therapist is an exciting opportunity, you can expect to encounter some challenges on your journeys. There’s some vital information you must be aware of because becoming a traveling physical therapist is not for everyone.

Read on to find out whether this could be your dream job or worst nightmare, here’s what you must know:

The Role of a Traveling Physical Therapist

True to the name, a traveling physical therapist (PT) is a qualified individual that works across the globe or within various parts of a country, depending on where their services are required. You’ll have the opportunity to use your skills in different parts of the world or your country for a few months at a time.

In a nutshell, you’ll work temporary, short-term contracts, usually 13 weeks or 3 months, and then move to a new location. Roles could be in schools, outpatient clinics, hospitals, rehabs, nursing facilities, or long-term care homes.

So, if the idea of working at the same practice on a daily basis for years on end sounds like a snooze, you’ll certainly be kept on your toes by working in a variety of locations.

Does the Role Meet Your Salary Expectations?

In addition to having the opportunity to see the world, as a traveling physiotherapist, you have the potential to earn more than what you might as a permanent physical therapist at a traditional practice, sometimes 15% to 20% more.

A typical US annual salary is around $121,893, plus therapists are reimbursed for accommodation expenses, licensure, and other essential travel costs. Additionally, some traveling PTs will be offered health and dental insurance.

If those perks aren’t enough, you may find positions where a per diem for food and incidentals are provided, which means that you can pocket every cent you earn for the future.

Is Becoming a Traveling Physical Therapist Right for You?

Becoming a traveling physiotherapist is clearly rewarding, but it’s certainly not for everyone. The work can be strenuous and challenging, and you may find yourself in unfamiliar territories. But, at the same time, if it’s right for you, it could be a life-changing experience.

The role may not be for you if you have strong ties to home. Whether it’s children or elderly parents that keep you from traveling, packing up and leaving everyone behind may not be viable. However, with short-term contracts of just 13 weeks, you could opt for a sabbatical in your current role and use the opportunity to travel and enjoy a change of scenery.

Being a traveling physical therapist is often perfect for younger therapists or recent graduates who want to explore the world while earning a good income. The income you’ll earn, plus the fact that many of your expenses are covered, could help you build a solid foundation for the future.

But most importantly, the role requires an adventurous spirit, someone who enjoys engaging with diverse cultures, and a willingness to adapt or step out of one’s comfort zone.

The Benefits & Drawbacks of Becoming a Traveling Therapist

Like all job possibilities, this role has some major benefits and drawbacks that could make or break your desire to travel for work. Here’s what the experts have to say:

Pros

✔️ You’ll have the opportunity to travel, either within various parts of countries like the US, UK, or Australia or potentially to other locations scattered across the globe.

✔️ Your time is yours, and you don’t have to adhere to the inflexibility of a standard 9 to 5.

✔️ The earning opportunities are vast. Traveling PTs can make a decent income and save for a rainy day while scratching the travel itch.

✔️ Working in various cities or countries means that you’ll gain insight into a wide range of practice management styles. One of the best ways to learn is by working with an assortment of mentors and discovering how different clinics run. This will have long-term benefits, improve your skills, and make you an adaptable and fast-learning employee.

✔️ You’ll provide care to underserved markets, often helping those who desperately need PT services.

Cons

❌ Licensure can be tricky, with piles of paperwork and sign-up fees to navigate.

❌ There are some dubious recruiters, so be sure to find support from someone with solid credentials and a sound reputation.

❌ Traveling can be stressful, from missed flights to managing accommodations; many things can go wrong if you don’t plan properly.

❌ Moving away from your loved ones can be stressful, and you may feel unsettled by living a nomadic lifestyle.

❌ You may not enjoy some of the locations you work in, and the standard of living may not be what you’re used to. Furthermore, while you may work in luxurious locations, rent can be expensive if not covered in your contract.

❌ There may be language barriers depending on where you travel.

Required Licensure & Registration for Becoming a Traveling Physical Therapist

In addition to visas and your PT license, you will need to register as a PT through your Local Registration Board. These are usually National Boards, particularly in the UK, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. However, the United States and Canada have State or Provincial Boards.

National boards often allow licensure for international travel, but your Regional Board may also afford you these opportunities. We suggest you do research on your local registration office and inquire about your prospects. There are some examples of international cooperation. For example, physical therapist registration for either Australia or New Zealand allows you to travel to both countries.

Registration is complicated and can take up to 12 months. You’ll need to meet certain standards and prove your level of competency. Furthermore, you’ll be expected to provide a range of documents, including educational transcripts, proof of work history, and there may even be exams.

A good place to start is the World Physiotherapy website where you can contact them for information on your jurisdiction.

Our Verdict

Working as a traveling physical therapist can be mentally and emotionally rewarding, afford you opportunities to see your country or various parts of the globe, and offers some fantastic financial benefits.

We highly recommend this route if you’re up for the challenge, ready to grow as a physical therapist, and itching to travel and experience the world. Just be sure to opt for a reputable recruitment agency to avoid being scammed and to ensure that your journey will be safe.


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