Long-Term Career Earnings in Academia Might Offset the Opportunity Cost of Full-Time PhD and Postdoctoral Education for Physical Therapists Who Hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

Alexander J. Garbin, Jennifer E. Stevens-Lapsley, R. Mark Gritz, Carole A. Tucker, Michael J. Bade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective. Rigorously trained physical therapy researchers are essential for the generation of knowledge that guides the profession. However, there is a current and projected dearth of physical therapy researchers capable of sustaining research programs in part due to perceived financial barriers associated with pursuit of a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree, with and without postdoctoral training, following doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree completion. This study aimed to evaluate the financial impact of PhD and postdoctoral training, including opportunity cost, years to break even, and long-term earnings. Methods. Clinical and academic salaries were obtained via the 2016 APTA Median Income of Physical Therapist Summary Report and 2019 CAPTE Annual Accreditation Report. Salaries were adjusted to total compensation to account for benefits and compared over a 30-year period starting after DPT education. Total compensations were also adjusted to the present value, placing greater weight on early career earnings due to inflation and potential investments. Results. Relative to work as a clinical physical therapist, 4 years of PhD training result in an earnings deficit of $264,854 rising to $357,065 after 2 years of additional postdoctoral training. These deficits do not persist as evidenced by a clinical physical therapist career earning $449,372 less than a nonmajority scholarship academic career (DPT to PhD to academia pathway) and $698,704 less than a majority scholarship academic career (DPT to PhD to postdoctoral training to academia pathway) over a 30-year period. Greater long-term earnings for PhD careers persist when adjusting to present value. Conclusions. Although there is an initial opportunity cost of PhD and postdoctoral training represented by a relative earnings deficit, advanced research training results in greater long-term earnings. Impact. The findings of this study allow physical therapists interested in pursuing PhD and postdoctoral training to be better informed about the associated financial ramifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzad015
JournalPhysical therapy
Volume103
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023

Keywords

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Education: Faculty
  • Education: Professional
  • Physical Therapists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine

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