Written by Yonas Tekeste, PT, DPT 5/5/23
Do you feel like you are stuck in a monotonous routine of treating patients day in and day out? Are you struggling to pay off student loans and living paycheck to paycheck? Are you yearning for adventure and the chance to explore new places? If so, then travel therapy may be the answer to your prayers. In this article, we will share the pros and cons of travel therapy, who would do well with this lifestyle, and who would not. Aspiring travel physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and assistants this is the ultimate guide for you to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Yonas Tekeste is a travel physical therapist from Chicago, IL. He has worked in nearly every setting as a traveler and has traveled to many cool places while on assignment. He has created, Rate My Therapy Company, a community of 9,000+ therapists to rate and review facilities and improve transparency. He recommends all therapists to check the Facebook community before accepting a job. Read below to see if travel therapy is right for you!
Pros of Travel Therapy
1. Explore New Places: One of the most significant advantages of travel therapy is the opportunity to explore new cities and cultures. You can immerse yourself in different communities, learn new cultures, and make lifelong memories. Every assignment presents a unique experience to broaden your horizons. My most unique contract was in the US Virgin Islands on the island of St. Thomas. I truly enjoyed my outpatient four ten-hour work week schedule and would go to amazing beaches nearby on my day offs.
2. Higher Pay and Benefits: Travel therapists are in high demand, and they are often offered more competitive pay packages making it a financially viable option for those who want to save up while exploring new places. I have made 2x more money on average on travel assignments than what my first new graduate permanent job offered as a physical therapist. My first travel contract was the lowest paid one at 1500 after tax weekly. My highest paid travel contract paid 2700 net after tax weekly. However, with OT I have made 4k net weekly at times. It is not uncommon to make 2,000+ weekly net for a travel contract. The increase in pay has allowed me the opportunity to invest in real estate and invest in other businesses all while paying off my student loans. This would not have been possible from the income of my first permanent job.
3. Professional Growth: Working in different settings and with diverse populations can enhance your professional skills and expand your knowledge. You will face new challenges that will help you become a more well-rounded and adaptable therapist. I have worked in many settings on my travel contracts to include Acute care, ICU, SNF, ALF, Home Health, and outpatient. I have learned something different with each travel contract that has made me a better therapist.
4. Flexibility and Autonomy: Travel therapy provides a level of flexibility and autonomy that is rare in traditional therapy jobs. You can choose the locations, assignments, and schedules that suit your preferences and needs. Initially when starting out I would rarely take breaks however now I always try to end an assignment with some sort of trip. I recently ended a travel contract and went on a trip to the Dominican Republic with a group of friends. I did not have to request paid time off since it was the end of my contract. I am able to start a new contract whenever I want and, on my time, not an employer’s time. If you desire to take a 2-month trip to Europe after an assignment you can.
5. Networking and Career Opportunities: Each new assignment brings the opportunity to network with professionals in your field, which can lead to new career opportunities or even a full-time job offer. I love meeting new people and have met many people on my assignments. I am also a real estate agent and connect with new people in real estate everywhere I go. If you are interested in buying or selling a home I am happy to chat about the process if you message me on Instagram @yonasthept
Cons of Travel Therapy
1. Lack of Stability: Travel therapy assignments are typically short-term on average of 13 weeks which means you will have to constantly adapt to new environments, new documentation systems, and new patients. This lifestyle may not be suitable for those who crave stability and consistency in their personal and professional lives. Most of the time there is a chance to extend a contract at the end of the assignment. I have extended 90 percent of my contracts.
2. Housing and Logistics: Finding suitable housing and navigating new cities can be challenging and stressful, especially if you have pets or family members to consider. Read this article on how to find housing quickly and safely as a traveler. Finding housing gets easier with time.
3. Emotional Toll: Travel therapy can be emotionally taxing, as it requires leaving behind loved ones and familiar environments. Homesickness, loneliness, and culture shock are common challenges that may arise. To combat the emotional toll there is great app called MedVenture to connect with other travelers in your area.
4. Lack of Job Security: Travel therapy is not a guaranteed job, and the availability of assignments varies based on the demand and location. There are times when an assignment can get cancelled if the facility does not have a need anymore. Always request a 30-day cancellation clause in your contract which means the facility has to give you a 30 day notice if they cancel an assignment. I have never had a contract cancelled in my experience but have had friends where this did happen. It is not as common. As a travel therapist you can have more job security the more flexible you are on location and setting.
Who Would Do Well with Travel Therapy?
Travel therapy is ideal for those who crave adventure, flexibility, and professional growth. If you enjoy meeting new people, exploring new places, and challenging yourself professionally, then travel therapy may be the perfect fit for you.
Who Would Not Do Well with Travel Therapy?
If you prioritize stability, routine, and long-term in person relationships with friends/family, then travel therapy may not be the best fit for you. Additionally, those who have family obligations, pets, or health concerns that require regular medical attention may find travel therapy more challenging.
If you are interested in a trusted recruiter for travel therapy fill out this form to get connected to a trusted recruiter.
Travel therapy is a path of adventure and self-discovery that offers unique opportunities for personal and professional growth. While it may not be the right fit for everyone, it can be an excellent option for those who are seeking new challenges, higher pay, and the chance to explore new places. We hope this article has helped you decide if travel therapy is right for you! You can follow Yonas’s travel journey and ask questions on Instagram @yonasthept.