One of the most frequent questions we receive from students and prospective travel therapists who find our website or Instagram account is, “How do I become a travel therapist?”
They usually see all of the amazing adventures we’ve had and the financial independence we’ve been able to achieve since we decided to become new grad travel PTs in 2015 and want to go down a similar path. Becoming a Travel PT, OT, SLP, PTA, or COTA is something that just about all therapists consider at some point during their schooling or upon graduation. Traveling around the country meeting new people, trying out different states and practice settings, all while earning 1.5-2 times as much as at a permanent therapy job on average, makes travel therapy a pretty compelling option, especially for a new grad.
We love getting these questions and helping others get started with becoming successful travel therapists now, especially since we made lots of mistakes when we first started due to no resources being available at that time. How to become a travel therapist is not a straightforward question to answer due to everyone starting at different places and having different wants/needs with travel therapy jobs, but I’ll do my best to give some insight applicable to everyone!
Do Your Research Before Becoming a Travel Therapist!
When considering becoming a travel therapist, doing your research before starting and understanding the process is essential. After mentoring many thousands of new and current travel therapists, the one theme that consistently emerges is that the therapists who jump into travel without understanding the ins and outs first are the ones who are much more likely to have a bad experience early on, causing them to stop traveling. The horror stories about travel therapy are almost always coming from therapists who didn’t understand what they were doing and allowed themselves to be put in a bad position, or made avoidable beginner mistakes.
Naïve new travelers are very easy for bad travel companies and recruiters to take advantage of by either paying much too low or by sending them to terrible facilities. There are certainly pros and cons to travel therapy, but the best way to minimize many of the cons is to be well informed.
We created Travel Therapy Mentor in 2018 to make becoming a travel therapist and doing your research as easy as possible by providing a plethora of resources. Now we have over 100 articles as well as over 100 live videos (audio versions of most of them here on our podcast) on just about every possible travel therapy topic. We also have our step by step course that will walk you through becoming a financially successful travel therapist.
Another great option for learning and connecting with other travelers is our Facebook groups, Travel Therapy Mentor Community Group and Healthcare Travelers on FIRE, where thousands of travel therapists ask questions and learn from each other. If you’re completely overwhelmed with content, then the single best place to start is our Travel Therapy 101 series which covers all of the basics, with links to more in depth content. However you choose to learn, just make sure to do your research and start your travel therapy career informed!
Find Trustworthy Recruiters at Good Travel Therapy Companies!
With hundreds of travel therapy companies out there placing travel therapists, and many of those companies having dozens of recruiters, finding the best travel companies and recruiters is undoubtedly daunting. Finding great companies and recruiters is the most sure fire way to have a good experience when becoming a travel therapist. Every travel company will say they’re the best, and most recruiters are great at selling themselves since their livelihood depends on it. There are lots of great companies and recruiters out there, but unfortunately there are also a lot of not so great companies and recruiters.
Working with multiple different companies and recruiters is very important so that you have as many job options as possible, increasing the odds of finding a great fitting contract. Every therapist wants to find the best travel companies or the highest paying companies, but the truth is that the best and highest paying companies will vary depending on your specific needs in terms of discipline, setting, location, and benefits. Finding the best recruiters for you is also difficult because every traveler has their own communication style and expectations which will mesh well with some recruiters more than others. This means that the best travel companies and recruiters for you will often be different than for your classmates or coworkers.
Let Us Help!
Since finding amazing companies and recruiters is difficult, one of the most important services we offer at Travel Therapy Mentor is helping travel therapists get connected with good companies and recruiters that should work well for their specific situation. We’ve spent thousands of hours interviewing companies and recruiters to find their strengths and weaknesses to know which travelers they would work best for. We also continuously reassess which recruiters we work with and recommend based on their performance, communication, and feedback we receive from travelers. We have over 50 recruiters at over a dozen different companies that we send therapists to according to their wants and needs. If you’d like us to help you get connected with companies and recruiters that should work well for your situation, then fill out our recruiter recommendation form!
Determine Your Priorities as a Traveler
Every traveler chooses travel therapy for different reasons. When I started traveling as a new grad physical therapist, my main reason was to make and save as much money as possible. I had a lot of student loan debt and was determined to improve my financial position quickly, which made Travel PT extremely appealing. While traveling, I could earn a lot of money while also making very minimal student loan payments, meaning I could invest a ton of money each year to get myself in a better financial position early in my career. As time went on though, my priority shifted from saving as much as possible each year to having more free time which is when I decide to “semi-retire.”
Some travelers choose to travel because they want to explore the country and find where they want to eventually settle down. Sure, making a lot of money is great, but for them that’s secondary to checking out cool locations across the country where they may end up staying long term. Other therapists choose to travel because they aren’t sure which setting they want to work in long term, and with travel they’re able to try out different settings for a few months at a time before choosing and settling into a permanent position. Still other therapists choose to travel for the flexibility of being able to take long periods of time off between contracts to do long road trips and travel internationally. Whitney and I have used that flexibility to take multiple 2-5 month international trips including our five month around the world trip in 2018.
Every Travel Therapist is Unique
Since all travelers have their own priorities, it’s important when becoming a travel therapist to sit down and think through yours and decide what’s most important for you. Ideally you get all of your contracts in the exact location you want, in the setting you desire, and with extremely high pay. Realistically though, this is unlikely. Most of the time you’ll get one or two of those, but not all three. For that reason, ranking setting, location, and pay in order of what is most important to you is necessary before becoming a traveler, and this may evolve through your travel career as well.
For me when starting, finding outpatient PT jobs in low cost of living areas was most important. I was willing to work just about anywhere on the east coast as long as it was an outpatient job in a low cost area where I’d be able to save a lot of money. Another traveler might want the absolute highest paying contracts and care much less about the setting and location, so even though they’d prefer to work in outpatient on the east coast, they end up working home health in California where contracts pay much higher. Think about these factors as you prepare to begin your journey as a travel therapist, as it can help guide you with your job search and career choices.
Is Being a Travel Therapist Really for You?
Becoming a travel therapist isn’t a decision you should take lightly. While just about everyone considers it, it’s certainly not for everyone, especially not for all new grads. While we started traveling as new grads and have helped many hundreds of other new grads get started with travel, we occasionally advise against it for some therapists. If you’re a therapist that isn’t comfortable yet with your evaluation and treatment skills, or have a difficult time with change, or get overwhelmed easily, then travel might not be right for you.
Additionally, if you’re a therapist who’s already planted some roots, maybe you own a home with a mortgage, or you have a family or a spouse to consider, you will have various factors to take into account to determine if traveling is the right move for you. You may also have a lot of financial factors to consider in order to decide if travel therapy is really worth it for you financially.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Adapting to new clinics, job searching and interviewing for jobs every few months, packing and moving often, and being away from family and friends for long periods are all things you need to consider before deciding to become a travel therapist. Also while most facilities we’ve worked at over the years have been very good, not every contract is going to be perfect, and some can be downright difficult.
Before deciding to become a travel therapist, make sure that you consider all of the pros and cons, and that the pros outweigh the cons for you. If they do, then travel therapy can be the adventure of a lifetime for you! We have had an amazing experience ourselves as travelers and wouldn’t change anything about choice we made to travel, despite occasional headaches along the way. The financial freedom, adventure, and flexibility it has given us would have been impossible by any other means as therapists.
What are You Waiting for?
If becoming a travel therapist sounds like a good fit for you, then use the tips above, and jump in! Utilize the resources on our site and in our groups to set yourself up for success. If you have questions that aren’t covered in our content, then feel free to contact us. Best of luck on your journey to becoming a travel therapist!
- Is Travel Therapy Right for You as a New Grad?
- Why and How to Work with Multiple Travel Therapy Companies and Recruiters
- Is it Worth it Financially to be a Travel Physical Therapist?