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How to Make Twice as Much as a Permanent PT in the Same Job.

Traveling therapists can get paid nearly double the amount of their permanent therapist counterparts!!

But How?! and Why?!


This post will cover:

  • How much do travel therapists make?
  • Components that make up the pay package
  • Understanding the benefits
  • How do travel therapists get paid?
  • Why do travel therapists get paid more?
  • How do travel therapists salaries work?


Comparing Travel and Permanent Salaries

When it comes to compensation, the pay of travelers is structured quite differently compared to permanent staff.

Let’s first talk about the salaries for permanent positions. According to the 2020 WebPT Salary Guide, as an entry-level position (0-5 years experience), you can expect to make roughly $66,000 annually. Whereas, PTs with more experience (>20 years) can expect to make an average of $87,000 annually.

However, WebPT is quick to note about the willingness to travel:

“Annual salaries of therapists and assistants are nearly double those associated with permanent salaries.”

So, to recap:

A permanent new grad therapist makes on average $50,000- $70,000 (gross, before taxes)

A traveling new grad therapist makes on average over $100,000 (gross, before taxes).


Reasons for Higher Salaries as a Travel PT


If you’re like me, you might be thinking, what’s the catch? I was also skeptical originally too. As discussed in this blog post (insert blog post about “Why do travelers get paid more “) facilities can have an urgent need for therapists-

If they don’t have the therapists they need to take care of their patients, not only is it poor PT care, but at the end of the day, they are a business too. If they are not treating patients, they could be losing money.

As a traveler, you are in high demand, facilities are willing to pay more to fill the need to keep their operations running smoothly.



In addition, Travelers get tax-free benefits for traveling away from home for work in addition to other benefits that contribute to the whole pay package. This is tax- free money which is also known as a stipend or per diem. It is a reimbursement for housing and meals because we are traveling for our work. However, in order to collect the per diem, you have to adhere to government regulations. More on Tax-Free Benefit as a Travel PT in this article.



Yearly Gross Permanent vs. Weekly Net Travel Salaries

Typically, we understand a permanent salary as a gross yearly amount (that is before taxes). So, if I was to say the median salary for new grad permanent therapists is $66,000 a year, we understand that is how much we get before taxes for the entire year.

But as travelers, we understand and compare salaries as a weekly Net amount (net means after taxes), or we call it “take-home after taxes.” Because pay differs from contract to contract, un-paid time-off differs, and because there are multiple components of a pay package, we as travelers look at a pay package to be a weekly pay after taxes are taken out, which is also known as your net pay.

Perm staff = yearly GROSS amount (before taxes)

Travelers = weekly NET take-home (after taxes)

With this weekly pay, we can then determine how much our yearly pay might be if we continue to make about the same amount of money per contract, so that we can compare it to a permanent salary.


Pay Package Breakdown

In order to compare the two, I will show you how a travelers salary breaks down and how it compares to a permanent salary. A travel therapist’s salary is broken into two different components:

1. The hourly wage. What you are getting paid to be a therapist. This amount is taxed.
2. The housing and meals stipend (also known as a per diem) that is non- taxable.

When figuring out this pay-package, it’s important to understand these different components. They are two different components that make up your weekly net take home (after taxes).



So, in order to better explain how it all works, here is an example of a pay package.

This is just an example of what a pay package might look like for a new grad, but it helps you to understand how the numbers work out.

Not saying this is EXACTLY what you can make, but this is meant to show you HOW the salary breaks down into the two components described above.


Taxable Hourly Wage: $22 x 40 hours =     $690/ week (after taxes depending state/fed. bracket)

Tax-free Housing & Meals Stipend: $21 x 40 hours =  +$840/ week
Weekly Net Total : $690/week + $840/ week=    $1,530/ week (after taxes, NET)

This is equivalent to a SIX-FIGURE salary!


A Wanderlust PT Success Story

After 2.5 years working as permanent therapists and paying off student loans, Geena and Garrett realized that they owed more on their student loans than they started with. And they were also feeling the effects of burnt-out. So much so, that they were thinking about changing careers altogether. They knew that something had to change, but they didn’t know what-

They had considered switching to travel PT in the past, but they were scared to- they were scared ( like I was) to leave their home, their friends, their family, a decent paying job. Basically everything that people are scared of when they start as new travelers. In their research, they came across the WanderlustPTs blog, we scheduled a coaching call, they joined my travel therapy mentorship program, and I mentored them through their travel therapy journey.

Fourteen months after starting their travel journey, I receive a text from them with a note thanking me for inspiring them to travel. Most importantly though, their student loans were completely paid off completely. How much?!


$133,000 in 14 months.

Pretty crazy, right?! 🤯


Time is Money

It was these financial benefits that allows travel therapists to pay-off student loans, buy cars, build a campervan, save for retirement, travel for leisure, and most importantly have more time. In other words, time is money. It allows us the freedom to take extended periods of time off to do the kinds of things we want to do.

If you want step-by-step guidance on how to become a travel PTs so you can pay off your student loans like Geena & Garrett did, click HERE to grab The Travel Therapist’s Checklist.



In addition to salary compensation, the travel agencies may offer additional benefits too such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Travel reimbursement
  • License reimbursement
  • CEU reimbursement
  • Housing
  • Rental car
  • 401K
  • And more…

However, it’s important to think of your pay package as a “pie,” and understand that nothing is free. If a company offers you reimbursements for licensing, CEU, or tuition reimbursement, know that this is still coming out of your piece of the “pie” – they are just slicing the pie differently. Whereas if you don’t need those things, they may offer you that money in your housing stipend, or your hourly wage.


Ready to learn more about travel PT?

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