Jobs in Demand: Michael Pharis on Physical Therapy

By on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Physical Therapy

Job: Physical Therapist at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Smith
Age: 27 | Hometown: Van Buren
Degrees: Bachelor of Science and Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT)
Alma mater: University of Central Arkansas

Why did you choose physical therapy?
I chose physical therapy because of the opportunity to build relationships with patients, the challenge of coming up with ways to help patients get better, and the opportunity to get creative with treatments (and never get too constrained by one school of thought).

What was PT school like?
It was an intense three years dedicated to learning all about the human body in labs that dealt with patient movement, and learning special tests and manual techniques. It culminated with a year of clinical rotations where we worked to hone our skills before our national board exam.

What would surprise students most about PT?
It’s much more than just doing arm curls or leg exercises, and it’s not just “massage.”

What do you love most about your job at HealthSouth?
My job involves helping individuals with a wide array of musculoskeletal and neurologic injuries to regain their function so they can operate as independently as possible at home and in the community.

I love the challenge of finding impairments and the challenge of finding ways to address them. I love being creative in my treatments and making therapy engaging for someone who would otherwise not want to “exercise.”

What advice would you give a student considering PT?
Observe physical therapists in action before you apply. Ask questions. If you love people, building relationships and helping people improve their quality of life, physical therapy might just be the job for you.

Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 34 percent by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. In Arkansas alone, physical therapy assistants, physical therapists and occupational therapists are three of the top five fastest growing jobs. And Forbes reports physical therapy jobs have been the ninth hardest to fill nationally in 2017.

Physical therapists entering the profession need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.

The median annual wage for physical therapists was $85,400 in May 2016.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics &

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