Working Internationally as a Physical Therapist

While we have never worked internationally as physical therapists ourselves, we travel abroad quite often for leisure for several months at a time, so we get a lot of questions about travel therapy contracts in other countries. Our recent travels took us to the beautiful countries of Australia and New Zealand, and we discovered firsthand how amazing they both are. We especially fell in love with New Zealand and now consider it our favorite country in the world of the 40+ we have visited!

We know that many fellow Americans also dream of visiting these beautiful and unique countries, and some even consider moving there temporarily or perhaps long term for work. While we were in New Zealand, we had the opportunity to connect with a physiotherapy company called LigamentNZ that assists PTs and OTs with coming to New Zealand and Australia for locum and permanent jobs. We are excited to share a guest post with you from them about the process for becoming a locum physical therapist (physiotherapist) or occupational therapist in New Zealand or Australia.

Kia Ora & Greetings to all of you from the Southern Hemisphere!

We at LigamentNZ are located in beautiful New Zealand, and this time of year (January) finds us at the start of another beautiful summer. LigamentNZ is a company comprised of physiotherapists and support staff from multiple countries who have joined together to provide an amazing service to the rural communities and locations in both New Zealand and Australia. We have over 100 years of combined total physiotherapy experience, spanning more than 10 countries and counting!

What are Locum Physiotherapists and Working Holidays?

The most important message to receive from this blog post is that this adventure is about you. You are the one that is going to come to this amazing corner of the world, and not only provide exceptional care to the residents and athletes, but also live and explore during your time outside of work. This concept transitions to the term “working holiday” and what it means to us as physiotherapists. This type of experience involves coming to a new part of the world and being paid, while also having the support systems in place to enjoy the exploration and adventures that the country has to offer. If you simply go to a new place to work, it would be just like getting a new job without any of the benefits of exploring or adventure. We would not want that for ourselves, and therefore, do not want it for you.

A locum physiotherapist working with us is one who will travel to different regions in New Zealand and/or Australia, usually for 3 to 6 months at a time to provide care to communities in need. Contract locations vary from the beaches to the rolling hills, and to the mountains and cities in both great nations. A locum physiotherapist is fully supported by their company and provided with all the resources necessary to not only have a successful work experience, but more importantly, have a successful adventure, regardless of their location and the amount of time that they will be there. A locum physiotherapist typically will make a higher hourly rate on their salary than a permanent physiotherapist in Australia or New Zealand, because they are taking on the risk and the burden of short-term contracts and regular relocation events.

What Makes NZ and Australia So Special?

A simple Google search will present with most likely hundreds of thousands of reasons why these two great countries are so special. For most people coming here for a working holiday or to relocate, these countries offer a landscape and a culture that is unmatched in the rest of the world. The resources and opportunities in both countries vary between each other, as well as between the different regions. New Zealand has a lower per capita population than most other developed countries and offers a more nature-oriented experience, especially for outdoor loving individuals. Australia does have some major cities along the coast, but also is complemented by its vast landscape towards the interior and its own unique geographical challenges should one attempt the adventures inland. Both countries complement each other and are easily transited with minimal logistical paperwork involved.

The Foundations and Principals of LigamentNZ

At the heart and soul of LigamentNZ are the principles of Communication and Growth.

We completely and without reservations support all of our locum physiotherapists with their personal and professional growth while they are with us in this part of the world. This is not simply an experience to come and make us, and you, money while you live in a foreign country. This entire adventure and growth process will take place over several months, and even several years for some of you, and will provide you with experiences and insights both professionally, and personally with that will help shape the future of your patient care and personal lives.

It is easy for us to boast about how great we are, but it is better if someone is to come and experience it for themselves. Our website does have some great information, as well as some testimonials from some of our current and former locum adventurers from various countries, which you can read for yourself.

Here are a few highlights of how the locum physiotherapy program works with us here in New Zealand:

Registration process:

After the initial inquiries about what we have to offer are completed, we send a pre-interview form and collect more information prior to a formal meeting. Once the interview has been performed and both the physiotherapist and the company decided this would be a great match for the local communities as well as for the physiotherapist, we will send out a contract. Once the contract is signed, the registration team will take over and assist with the process.

The foundations of registration truly lie in the hands of the individual physiotherapist. The more efficient the physiotherapist is at returning assigned paperwork and components of the registration packet, the faster they will get through the process. We have had several physiotherapists get through this process in a mere few months, and this is something that can be expedited with diligent work.

Timeline for registration and getting to ground:

On average, the registration timeline for most individuals from the United States will be around the 4 to 7 month range from the beginning of the process to receiving the registration. After the registration is received, then the individual applies to get a visa. It is quite quick and painless. Once on a flight and in the country, the locum physiotherapist would go through approximately 7 to 10 days of Jetlag recovery, combined with introduction to the national documentation system, and the actual inner workings of being a physiotherapist in this country. This will take place at the headquarters in Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, NZ. They may also have some outsource work in Wellington or a Northern location, depending on their travel route to their first locum adventure.

Available settings and salary ranges:

LigamentNZ has been working diligently to improve our networks of hospitals and national health registry facilities to support our growing list of private practices in both countries. Primarily the settings for locum physiotherapists will be in the outpatient clinics around the entire country, but hospital work is also available and is fully supported just like the private clinical work.

Our locum physiotherapists will be on a contract that is not performance-based and is simply a flat hourly rate that is comparatively greater than the average hourly rate of a full-time employee in a permanent placement in Australia or New Zealand. The specific rate, of course, will vary on experience in years as well as a CV assessment. Payment bonuses and other concessions may be available based on location of locum contract placement. Pay ranges for locum positions can be viewed on our website on the “Tell Me More” handouts for PT & OT. Keep in mind these rates are listed in New Zealand Dollars for an annual salary.

*Editor’s Note: We at Travel Therapy Mentor often get questions about the pay ranges for working abroad. Please keep in mind that pay rates are lower for physical and occupational therapists in countries outside of the US. You will not make US Travel PT or Travel OT rates working abroad, your rates will likely be similar to or slightly lower as a locum therapist abroad than permanent therapist positions in the US. This is important to note when you begin looking into traveling for work in other countries. You will mainly be doing it for the incredible experiences you can have, and will need to look at it more like a “working holiday” where you have the opportunity to live abroad and earn enough income to pay for your vacation, but not as much as you would make working back in the US.

Support package and contract benefits:

In New Zealand there is a public health system, therefore employee health insurance is not necessary to be provided because it is available for all visa holders and citizens. All locum physiotherapists with LigamentNZ will be provided with a vehicle for their own company and personal use. They will only be responsible for petrol and any moving violations incurred. There are plenty of places to explore on the island and we encourage weekly or monthly adventures with full use of the vehicle. For those taking contracts in Australia, a car will also be provided.

Employer provided housing will always be an option and will always be subsidized for the locum physiotherapist. Their weekly housing payment will never exceed $250NZD for New Zealand placements, and this will not change, should they relocate to a large city or a small rural community. Housing is a challenge in this country and offering something with stability is a unique component of our contract experience. Housing rates may vary for placements in Australia.

Additional supporting benefits in place include extra time off to explore and have adventures in both countries, as well as company provided and financially supported adventures depending on the length of the contract, time the locum has spent in the other country, and other factors based on their performance. We truly want everybody to have an adventure that includes some growth and experiences to their CV from working. People are encouraged to come here with LigamentNZ to work in order to support their adventure lifestyle and not simply come here just to work.

How to Start Your Adventure

Visit our website at to learn more and fill out an interest form to start the pre-interview process today!

There is such a high demand for physiotherapists, and a growing demand for occupational therapists, in both countries that we want to help the local communities and provide growth and adventure experiences for any individuals, couples and families interested in coming to this part of the world.

LigamentNZ offers a support service for working holidays and local experiences that is unmatched around the world.

Contact us, ask more questions through social media, and learn how you can begin your New Zealand and Australia adventures!

We would like to thank LigamentNZ for taking the time to share this information with us about their locum PT/OT program for international therapists interested in working in New Zealand or Australia! If you want to learn more or have any questions about working as a locum or traveling physical therapist or occupational therapist in AUS/NZ, please contact them via their website.

If you have questions about working as a travel therapist in the US, please contact us here at Travel Therapy Mentor. If you’re looking to get started as a US-based travel therapist, we can also help you with recruiter recommendations here.

Please note that while LigamentNZ accepts applicants from various countries for working internationally in Australia and New Zealand, we at Travel Therapy Mentor are only able to assist US citizens looking to take travel therapy contracts in the US. We are not able to offer support to international candidates wanting to work in the US at this time.

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.