A Physiotherapist's Pay Expectations - How much should you get paid?
- July 17, 2017 at 9:15am
- Ben Strachan
A Physiotherapist's Pay Expectations.
Are you considering physiotherapy as a career? Is university graduation in physiotherapy just around the corner? In either case, you deserve to know what kind of wages and benefits to expect from prospective employers. Similarly, physiotherapy clinic owners also need to know the going rate for talent.
In this article, I will review compensation scales for different categories of physiotherapists. We will also discuss common styles of employment and entitlements.
What exactly is a fair wage? In Australia, health professionals' worker rights – including employment income - are defined and protected under the Fairwork Commission, formerly known as Fairwork Australia. The specific information can be found in the “Health Professional and Support Services Award 2010”:
This useful but complicated document sets out your minimum entitlements (e.g. wages, leave, other work conditions). You can call Fairwork to get clarifications about specific information, although answers are not always consistent across the call centre board.
From the perspective of a physio clinic owner, employing recent graduates has its advantages and disadvantages.
Not surprisingly, the major advantage for business owners is lower wages; the average physiotherapy graduate today has a starting rate of about $25 per hour. However, being a source of cheap labour is not the whole story. Many new recruits rapidly become excellent employees, thanks to a high level of motivation and youthful enthusiasm.
The disadvantages include a lack of experience, and consequently no regular incoming patients. As new practitioners, graduates are unable to attract new clients to the clinic via reputation.
I would expect that most graduate physiotherapists are employed on a full time basis, with the usual superannuation, holiday, and sick leave entitlements.
Unlike graduate physiotherapists, the wages of experienced physiotherapists can vary greatly. Most experienced physiotherapists are paid using a commission model of employment (e.g. approximately 50% of service fees). All things considered, a rate of $50 per hour can be expected, but if they work out of a very busy clinic, experienced physios can earn upwards of $60-$70+ per hour.
Experienced physiotherapists are very valuable to business owners for several reasons. Many have a loyal patient following who follow them from other clinics. They are often quite adept at drawing new patients to your clinic with their established reputations.
On the other hand, these higher wage practitioners present a risk to owners, especially during quiet periods when employers are still obliged to pay personnel.
Personally, I preferred employing experienced physiotherapists, in spite of the higher wage risk. I expect that most experienced, private practice physiotherapists are employed under flexible work conditions (e.g. casual, contractor, or commission earnings). Unlike recent graduates, they are unlikely to get sick leave and holidays.
In Australian hospitals, however, experienced practitioners are likely to be full time employees with added benefits.
This is the grey zone of the physiotherapist labour pool, and predictably, the hardest in which to predict wages. More often that not, earnings will be a reflection of how the employer sees them. On average, intermediate experienced physiotherapists are paid approximately $30-$40 per hour.
If you have been employed since graduation within the same company, you’re probably receiving a lower wage than what you're really worth. The business owner might still view you as an inexperienced practitioner as opposed to a valued asset. However, rest assured that if you're earning significant patient fees for the clinic, the time is ripe for negotiating a pay rise. Otherwise, consider offering your skills in the open market.
How to Negotiate a Pay Rise?
As an employer, I have had three (3) discussions with staff members who requested pay rises. I would recommend that physiotherapists do their homework and take a business-like approach to negotiations. The following factors build your case for a pay rise:
- Take a hard look at the service fees you’re providing the clinic. Consider wages of 45% as your bottom line request.
- Highlight specific examples of your most valuable clients to demonstrate personal and monetary worth to the clinic owner.
- Demonstrate to the owner how you’ve performed senior tasks, and relieved him/her of daily responsibilities to make their life easier.
At the same time, I don't recommend that you complain about colleagues who are paid more, since your value has nothing to do with theirs. Also, don't threaten to leave an employer, especially without a viable backup plan. I for one wouldn't respond to this tactic very well.
Focus more on the opportunity for long term employment stability within a clinic. Remember that it's very expensive to find and train new staff, so if you're a good employee, the owner is likely to compromise by rewarding your value and loyalty.
Today, the physiotherapy profession in Australia and other nations is undergoing rapid change, and the long term effect on practitioner wages is unpredictable. Hopefully from the employee standpoint, they will increase, subject to the law of supply and demand.
In my view, if more students enter and finish physiotherapy studies, and health insurance companies continue to reduce partial payments - which decreases patients' uptake of services - wages will either stay flat or start dropping. Others feel that an aging population will be the catalyst for rising wages.
Based on your experiences as a physiotherapist or clinic owner, where do you think wages are headed? Please leave your comments below.
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