Travel Physical Therapy (Travel PT)- The Ultimate Guide

Since starting as new grad travel physical therapists in 2015, Whitney and I have learned so much. I can vividly remember when beginning to research travel physical therapy as a third year DPT student being completely lost and overwhelmed. Resources for learning were very limited and the information available was either very vague, or geared toward travel nurses which can be very different. Some sort of guide to travel physical therapy is exactly what I was looking for, but it didn’t exist. After struggling through and learning many things the hard way, we started writing and making videos about travel physical therapy so that other prospective travel PTs didn’t have to make the same beginner mistakes that we did.

Travel Physical Therapy Lessons Learned

Now after over 7 years in the industry, writing hundreds of articles about travel physical therapy, and making over 100 hour long live videos discussing all of the ins and outs, I can confidently say that Travel Therapy Mentor is exactly what I was looking for when we were starting out all those years ago. We’ve mentored many thousands of current and prospective travel PTs and become the go-to resource for all things travel physical therapy. Now after becoming so well versed in the nuances of travel PT, it’s sometimes difficult for me to remember exactly the questions and concerns I had back then, but in this article I’m going to do my best to answer some of the most common questions we get from prospective travel physical therapists.

The information here also applies to Occupational Therapy (OT), Speech Language Pathology (SLP), Physical Therapist Assistants (PTA), and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA), as well since most of the basics are exactly the same. The big differences between travel physical therapy and other disciplines is job availability and pay rates, but besides that everything else is relevant to all disciplines.

Do You Really Make More as a Travel Physical Therapist?

What first made me very interested in travel PT was the higher pay. I knew that as a new grad physical therapist in my hometown working in outpatient at a permanent job, I’d likely be making around $65,000/year. This didn’t sound great to me as a student graduating from PT school with 6 figures of student loan debt and a goal to reach financial independence as quickly as possible. I’d heard rumors that travel physical therapists made significantly more but honestly couldn’t find great information about how much to expect or how the pay was structured. When starting out, travel physical therapy pay can be a little confusing, but once you understand tax free stipends and how take-home pay relates to a normal hourly or salary position, it gets a lot less complicated.

Discussing travel PT pay in terms of an annual salary doesn’t really make sense due to the fact that each contract pays differently, and every travel physical therapist works a different number of weeks per year. Also, not every contract has a need for 40 hours of work, so it’s possible to work more or less each week, which makes a travel physical therapy salary very inconsistent. If you’re confused by all of this and don’t yet understand how the pay works, this guide to travel physical therapy pay will be very helpful along with this travel therapy pay 101 article.

The Average Travel Physical Therapy Pay Range

On average, a travel physical therapist can expect to make about 1.5-2 times as much as a therapist working a permanent position. Of course this varies significantly depending on the setting and location of the contract, as well as how much permanent positions pay in your area. There are some therapists that are thinking about leaving a permanent position paying $120,000 a year to become a travel physical therapist, and the contracts they are looking at actually pay about the same as they are making at their current job. On the other hand, there are some new grads that live in an area where permanent jobs are only paying $58,000/year, and instead they decide to take travel home health contracts in California where they make 3 times more than they would back home.

In general, the majority of travel physical therapy contracts pay between $1,600-$2,000/week after taxes, but there are always outliers. We’ve seen contracts paying as low at $1,400/week and as high as $3,400/week depending on the setting, location, and how urgent the facility needs a PT.

Why Do Facilities Need Travel Physical Therapists?

There are a variety of reasons why a facility might need a travel PT. Some of the most common include a therapist going on maternity leave or short term disability for an injury, a sudden influx of new patients, or a permanent PT leaving on short notice before they can find a replacement. There are also many travel contracts available in rural areas all over the country where they have a very hard time keeping permanent staff due to therapists not wanting to live long term in that area. These facilities may use travel therapists year-round because they don’t have any candidates for the permanent job.

How Do You Find Travel PT Jobs?

There are a variety of ways to search for travel physical therapy jobs. The vast majority of travel physical therapists find contract jobs through travel staffing companies and recruiters. While it’s possible to set up your own contracts as an independent contractor, this is often not worth the hassle and risk involved, so only a very small percentage of travelers go this route. While it’s possible to make more money when finding your own contracts, the travel company often keeps much less of the bill rate than most travel PTs assume.

If you go the typical route of working with recruiters and staffing companies, the recruiters will present you with open travel jobs that fit your search criteria, and you’ll choose which ones you want to be submitted for. Once your application is submitted, the manager at the facility will decide whether or not they want to interview you for the position. Beware to ask the right questions during the phone interview to avoid bad facilities. If the interview goes well and the offer sounds good to you, then you accept the contract and start preparing to move to the new location!

This Step by Step Guide goes into all the details on how to search for and prepare to begin a travel therapy contract.

How Do You Go About Finding a Good Travel Physical Therapy Company?

The travel staffing companies (or agencies) and recruiters that you work with are a vital part of your travel PT experience. Currently, there are well over 100 travel agencies staffing physical therapists around the country, and if you ask 10 different travelers, you’ll get 10 different answers about which travel companies are the best. The truth is that there are pros and cons to every travel company depending on your needs and wants in terms of setting, location, and benefits. The best travel company or the highest paying travel company for a physical therapist looking for a SNF contract in Texas who doesn’t need health insurance will be completely different than for a therapist looking for a outpatient contract in Maryland who needs health insurance for a spouse and kids. In addition, the best recruiter fit for each travel therapist will vary based on communication style, personality, and the therapist’s wants and needs.

Asking questions about the travel company and recruiter to make sure they’re a good fit for you is very important. It’s always a good idea to work with a few different companies and recruiters to have more job options, especially if you’re looking for contracts in very specific locations. Over the years we’ve interviewed dozens of companies and over 100 recruiters to find great ones to send therapists to based on their needs. If you need help finding good companies and recruiters for your situation, fill out our recruiter recommendation form and we can get you connected with some that should work well!

Do You Have to Get Licensed in Every State You Work In?

Yes, and licensing can be a pretty big hassle depending on the state. States can have a variety of different requirements including background checks, school transcripts, verification of other state licenses, board exam scores, finger prints, and jurisprudence exams. Fortunately for travel physical therapists now, the PT compact was introduced a few years ago, which makes the process much easier for those who are eligible to participate. The OT and SLP Compacts are coming soon as well.

Can I Travel With Another PT or Healthcare Worker?

Yes! While most travel therapists are solo travelers, it’s definitely possible to travel as a pair as well. Whitney and I have become experts at navigating this after traveling as a pair for over 7 years now. It is more difficult to find two jobs around the same location vs. only one job, and it can be a little more difficult finding housing, but it’s really nice to always have a partner to go on adventures with. As with just about everything in the travel therapy world, there are pros and cons! There are also lots of therapists that choose to travel with pets or with a spouse that is not a therapist which is certainly doable as well but may require some additional research and planning.

How Do I Negotiate Higher Pay on My Travel Physical Therapy Contract?

Understanding how to negotiate pay as a travel physical therapist is very important. Unfortunately, it is very context dependent since every situation is different. If you’re the perfect candidate for a job that desperately needs a PT and they don’t have any other applicants, then you can play hardball and often get a really great pay rate. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a travel job in a desirable location with many other well-suited applicants, then trying to push for higher pay may only cause you to lose out on that contract to someone else. The key to being a good negotiator as a travel physical therapist is understanding when you have leverage and can push for higher pay and when you don’t.

Is it Difficult to Find Housing On Travel Physical Therapy Contracts?

Finding short term housing can be a major pain in some areas of the country. The availability of short term housing options varies drastically depending on where you’re looking. For most of the country, it really isn’t that big of a deal though. Travel companies can find housing for you, but this is almost never in your best interest due to missing out on the housing stipend, which is a significant amount of your weekly paycheck. In this article we discuss all of the ins and outs of housing as well as where to look and what to watch out for.

You may also consider traveling in a camper or an RV to avoid having to find short term housing. Whitney and I did this for 3 years. There are pros and cons to the RV Life, but it can be a great option for some!

Are Travel Physical Therapy Jobs Available Internationally?

Although working contracts internationally is possible, we don’t recommend it for most PTs. Getting visas to work in other countries, getting the degree equivalency, and applying for licensure in another country can be very difficult and time consuming depending on the country. Also, international jobs are not nearly as plentiful as travel PT jobs inside the US, and pay is often significantly less. That’s not even to mention potential language barriers. Instead of working overseas, we prefer to leverage our higher incomes and flexibility as travel physical therapists to do lots of international travel for fun between our travel contracts in the US.

We do know therapists that have worked in Australia, Belgium, and in other various countries around the world, so it’s certainly possible to make it work if this is a goal of yours. But typically these therapists go to work overseas for a year or more, not short term contracts like travel therapy in the US.

What is the Length of a Normal Travel PT contract?

The majority contracts are 13 weeks long, but we’ve seen some as short at 3 weeks and as long as 9 months. Often facilities are willing to negotiate on the length of the contract though, so if a potential travel job is perfect for you besides the length of the contract then it’s always worth applying for it and trying to negotiate the contract length in the interview.

Can You Stay Longer at a Contract If You Like It?

Contract extensions are pretty common for travel physical therapy contracts. We’ve actually extended several of our contracts for an additional 13 weeks after the original contact ends. Extending a contract can be a great way to reduce expenses by not having to move as often and also get an increase in pay for the extension. Whether you can extend or not will always depend on the needs of the facility though and if they will still be short staffed after your contract end date.

How Long Do Physical Therapists Usually Travel?

This varies massively and is completely up to the therapist. We know some travelers who take only one contract before settling down at a permanent job. We also know therapists who have been traveling consistently for over 10 years! The average travel PT will usually stop traveling after a couple of years. Currently, Whitney and I have been traveling for over 7 years and have made a career out of it. We look at it as an alternative lifestyle that gives us lots of flexibility and time off to pursue other interests. There are all different types of travel physical therapists and it’s not uncommon for your plans to change over time the longer that you continue to travel.

Starting Your Travel Physical Therapy Career

Hopefully this article has helped to answer many of your questions about travel PT. If you still have other questions, then our guide to getting started and Travel Therapy 101 Series are great places to go for more in-depth learning, as well as the other resources linked throughout this article.

If you’d like a step by step guide to not only starting your travel therapy journey, but becoming a financially successful travel physical therapist, then our comprehensive travel therapy course would be perfect for you. It’s 12 hours of video content along with helpful guides and handouts that has helped over 100 new travel PTs succeed with travel physical therapy. Don’t forget to reach out to us for recruiter recommendations to help you get started, or contact us for anything we haven’t covered!

Additional Resources:

Jared Casazza
Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT – Jared has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015 and has mentored thousands of current and aspiring travel therapists.

Retiring Very Early as a Physical Therapist (Yes, even as early as in your 30’s)

photo of Jared hiking while looking up at the sky, with title "Retiring Very Early as a Physical Therapist by Jared Casazza at Travel Therapy Mentor"

Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT

Retiring from your career as a physical therapist earlier than “traditional” retirement age may be a goal you’re seeking, or something you’ve at least thought of in the back of your mind at some point. What if I told you that it’s possible not only to have a comfortable retirement before the age of 65, but possibly even as early as in your 30’s depending when you began your career and how you choose to structure your life? If this is something that’s piqued your interest, let’s dig a little deeper to understand how a very early retirement (or at minimum a transition to part time or optional work) has become a reality for me and could be a real possibility for you as well.


Over the past five years, I’ve written dozens of articles on personal finance, investing, and financial independence. Almost all of these articles have been on the blog I started back in 2016, Fifth Wheel Physical Therapist, where I’ve consistently tracked my progress toward financial independence since that time. Over the past couple of years I haven’t felt as motivated to write about these topics though. That’s mostly because usually I feel that either I’ve already covered things I would potentially think about writing, or it’s already been covered elsewhere in the finance space. It’s also because I’ve had gradually decreasing interest in personal finance and financial independence since I reached my ultimate financial goal in May of 2019. In reality, the decrease in interest started even before then, when I realized that I’d saved more than enough to “Semi-Retire” (transition to only working part of the year) back in 2018, after only working full time for 3 years as a physical therapist. Once I was certain that my financial future was secure, my interest in personal finance took a backseat to other interests.

Every now and then though, I’ll get a particularly moving email or message from a follower who was inspired by my articles to improve their own financial situation and is now on their own path to financial independence. The excitement that emanates from those communications reminds me of the excitement that I felt when I first discovered that financial independence and early retirement (known as the “FIRE” movement) was possible and achievable for me, and it reminds me why I started writing about FIRE and working toward it in the first place. For the right person, like me, being introduced to the idea of financial independence and the math behind it is intoxicating.

After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to reach financial independence and have nearly unlimited options for their future?

With so much negativity regarding finances and workload after graduation in various therapy groups where I’m involved, I realize now the value in at least occasionally putting out content to introduce those that are receptive to the idea that a 30+ year career seeing 20+ patients per day isn’t a foregone conclusion. With some planning, optimization, and foresight: it’s possible to achieve financial independence and effectively make work optional much earlier than most think is possible.

Making my job as a Physical Therapist (PT) optional financially was my ultimate goal from my very first day working as a PT. From my clinicals, I knew that I enjoyed working as a physical therapist, but that it was probably something that I wouldn’t want to do 40+ hours per week indefinitely. It’s becoming clear from the conversations being had online that a large number of current therapy students and new graduates have had, and are currently having, this same realization.

In my opinion, actively working toward financial independence is the answer. This was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made personally. I like to think of working toward financial independence as a game, with every net-worth milestone being one step closer to buying lifestyle freedom and optionality.

If you think this sounds crazy, or is just a pipe dream, below I’ll explain how I was able to leave my career as a full time physical therapist at the age of 30, after only working full time for less than four years, with enough saved and invested to support my expenses indefinitely — and have since used that freedom to design a lifestyle full of adventure, international travel, and plenty of leisure.

The Journey to Financial Independence

As I mentioned above, I discovered financial independence along with the math behind it prior to graduating physical therapy school, in 2015. I instantly knew that this was a goal that I wanted to reach as quickly as possible and started sketching out potential scenarios and thinking about options to supercharge my path. Below I’ll detail some of the key strategies that helped me to achieve financial independence, and some ways that you could utilize similar strategies to reach your own financial independence.

Maximizing Income

Based on research I’d done while considering options after PT school, I knew that it was possible to make significantly more money as a Traveling Physical Therapist. That combined with a desire to venture outside of my hometown made Travel PT a no-brainer and led me to pursuing it immediately after graduation. To my delight, my girlfriend (and now business partner, with whom many of you are familiar on this site) Whitney who was graduating at the same time as me saw the potential benefit and was quickly onboard with Travel PT as well. And thus began our Travel PT journey as new grads.

By no means is travel therapy the only way to maximize income as a physical therapist though. There are many therapists that I’ve communicated with over the years that make as much or more than I do as a Travel PT by working in home health, cash based outpatient practices, or by working a PRN physical therapy job outside of their full time job. Travel therapy was just the path that I personally chose to maximize my income as a new grad PT.

Knowing that maximizing income is vital to reaching a goal of financial independence, in addition to working as a Travel PT, I also started working on some side hustles to further increase my monthly earnings. To my surprise, these side hustles actually helped me earn enough that I was able to cover all of my expenses with them and save 100% of my travel therapy income each month during my first 3 years as a PT.

Minimizing Expenses

Another vital component of reaching financial independence and early retirement is minimizing expenses. As a traveler, keeping expenses low can sometimes be more difficult due to the need to duplicate living expenses in order to maintain a tax home, but it’s possible to still keep expenses low with some strategic planning.

I decided to rent a room in a house for my tax home instead of renting an apartment or entire house, which helped me to save a lot of money. Whitney and I also decided to buy a fifth wheel camper to live in while on travel assignments, which not only saved us money each month but also made finding housing in assignment locations much less of a hassle. We bought both our fifth wheel and the truck to pull it with used in order to reduce how much we’d lose in depreciation costs when it came time to sell them later on.

Besides keeping housing and transportation costs as low as possible, we chose to limit how much we spent on things like meals out, electronics, and subscription services to further reduce the expenses side of the equation.

Savings Rate

By maximizing income and minimizing expenses, I was able to maintain a high savings rate. Throughout my three years of full time work as a travel therapist, my savings rate stayed in the 80-90% range. More specifically, around 88% in 2016, 85% in 2017 and 72% in 2018 — even despite working for only half of the year in 2018 and spending the second half of the year traveling around the world!

As a side note, most people believe that traveling for long periods of time internationally would be very expensive, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, I keep track of all of my expenses during our long international trips to show that traveling internationally can cost the same or less than it costs to live a median lifestyle in the US, with some strategic planning. It cost me less than $37/day to travel for 5 months through Europe and Asia in 2018 and less than $46/day to travel for 4 months all over Europe in 2019! These were both trips of a lifetime for us, and being able to take them while still saving money was a massive bonus!


Having a high savings rate is wonderful and a key component to achieving financial independence, but utilizing that money saved each month wisely is just as important. Being able to cover your yearly expenses with 4% or less of your invested assets (known as the 4% rule) is what most people in the personal finance community define as “financial independence.” This is where making intelligent investing decisions comes into play. Investing as much as possible early in your career is ideal in order to allow compound interest to work in your favor for as long as possible.

There are endless ways that people choose to invest, but what worked best for me and probably makes sense for the majority of people is a simple passive index fund investing approach with a reasonable asset allocation**. For me, that meant sticking primarily to Vanguard passive domestic equity index funds. Passive index fund investing not only costs less in terms of fees but also requires significantly less time to implement, which means more time to earn extra income or for leisure.

**Please note that I am not a licensed financial advisor and this is not meant to be specific financial advice for your situation. It’s important that you do your own research and if necessary consult a licensed financial advisor to assist you with investing and finance decisions.

Managing Debt

Besides investing, money saved each month should also go toward paying down debt. I believe that avoiding high interest rate debt at all costs is imperative for achieving financial success, but often some debt is unavoidable. For most of you reading this, that would include student loan debt.

There are generally two main approaches to managing student debt. Either pay the debt off as quickly as possible, or make minimum payments on an income driven repayment plan for 20-25 years until the debt is forgiven, while saving/investing the money saved along the way. Initially, I planned to pay my debt off as quickly as possible, which is what the majority of travel therapists will take the opportunity of having higher income to do; but, after a lot of time spent learning and making projections, I instead decided to go the income driven repayment plan route. You can find the considerations and math behind my decision here. This certainly isn’t the best option for everyone, but for me this choice has saved me tens of thousands of dollars over the last six years and supercharged my path to financial independence!

Early Retirement or “Semi-Retirement”

Since reaching “semi-retirement” in 2018 after only working full time as a PT for three years, and full financial independence in 2019, I’ve significantly reduced how much I’ve worked as a physical therapist, while instead choosing to spend more time traveling the world and working on hobbies and entrepreneurship.

I’ve only worked a total of 200-300 hours/year in each of the last two years, mainly to maintain my physical therapy license and keep my evaluation and treatment skills from getting rusty. This amount of work seems about ideal for me personally, as I’m still able to help patients, which brings me joy, for part of the year, while still having plenty of time to do other things that I want to do including travel the world. I’ve found that working on and growing our websites Travel Therapy Mentor and Fifth Wheel Physical Therapist is something I really enjoy, and I value the ability to impact the lives of others who find and read the articles I write.

The hours I work as a physical therapist combined with income earned from the websites and from my investments have caused my net worth to continue to increase each year, despite not working full time since 2018. At this point, I have over 35x my anticipated future yearly expenses saved and invested, which means an even more secure financial position. I plan for this to continue for the foreseeable future as I continue to keep my expenses relatively low.

Is Retiring Very Early Possible as a PT?

Retiring very early as a physical therapist is not only possible, but I believe that the path I took to get there isn’t unique and is replicable for many students and new grad therapists who are interested in pursuing this goal. In fact, since first writing about this years ago, there are many other therapists well on their way to achieving similar financial success. Here is one such story and here is another!

The wonderful thing about financial independence and personal finance is that it truly is personal. No two individuals have the exact same situation, and therefore no two paths will be exactly the same. I hope that you can find some aspects of my path that will work for you to improve your own financial situation and allow you to achieve financial independence more quickly — and in doing so, be able to design your lifestyle and future to look how you want it to!

If you’re a student, new grad, or current clinician interested in utilizing travel therapy to improve your own finances, here’s a great place to start. If you need helping finding reputable travel companies and recruiters we can help you with that as well! Please don’t hesitate to message us with any questions!