Can You Work During PT School?

By Joseph Reinke, CFA, CEO of FitBUX

When FitBUX discusses physical therapy student loan repayment with SPTs, we are consistently asked, “What is the best way to reduce the amount of student loans while in school?”  Being finance minded, the first response we often come up with is…work during school.  The follow up question from there is “Realistically, how much can I work while getting my DPT?”

As Joe Lipsky, SPT Columbia University, pointed out…it depends on the program.  To get a realistic answer, we thought we would ask current DPTs about working while being a student physical therapist.  We put out a survey in which 4,000 DPTs responded.  In short, 94% said its impossible to work full-time during your studies.  However, 82% said some part-time work could be done.  Based on the comments we received back, the go to part-time job (or most popular) is athletic training.

Below are the results of the survey as well as some comments:

You can’t work full-time at all: 94%

You can work full-time throughout the duration of your program: 4%

You can only work full-time the first and second year of the program: 3%

You can only work full-time the first year of the program: 1%


You can’t work part-time at all: 18%

You can work part-time throughout the duration of your program: 61%

You can only work part-time the first and second year of the program: 19%

You can only work part-time the first year of the program: 2%


Comments from DPTs:

@jaredcassaza It depends on the program.  In my program even 20 hours per week would have been difficult.

@chrislimoncelli I worked two part time jobs year 1. Followed by 1 part-time job years 2 – 4. Being a 4 year program probably helped.

@sarahphan I worked full-time the first 2 years, was forced to go part-time during clinicals.

@dariaoller I'm also an AT. I worked part-time as an AT at NYU the entire time I was in school, excluding the last semester when I was in other state for an internship. I also had 2-3 per diem AT jobs for my 2-4 years (Seton Hall has a 4 year program). Though I worked part-time, if I wasn't already an AT and was doing a job that wasn't AT, I think it would have been near-impossible.

@austintucker Working full time for most programs is probably not realistic. But I worked part time almost every day throughout all 3 years of the program. Due to my work and class schedule combined with studying and assignments, there were very few nights that I got more than 4-5 hours of sleep. That being said I did not accumulate any additional debt outside the cost of tuition.

@charrose Even though I was jealous of classmates that did not work I do not regret it.

@samanthalemke I worked part time at a PT clinic and PRN as an ATC. I also have 2 kids, one with special needs. Things I ran into. You are going to need a very flexible employer.

@zachfox 24 hrs a day. 8hrs for work. 8hrs for class. This leaves 8hrs for sleep/studying. Thats also if you dont assume working 12hr weekend shifts. EASILY you have the time, its a matter of want and dedication

@traviskemper I worked 30 hours per week and 50+ over the summer. It can be done, but I also wasn't the best student in class because grades matter very little to me. I managed a 3.3 though, wasn't bad, just did the minimum and skipped a lot of classes.

@Afolabiagunnusi  I’m in my 3rd year and go to a weekend format DPT program. Everyone in my class works during the week I avg 20-25 hours per week. Some do more even full time.

@nicholasrolnick I worked part time throughout school.

@nataleecifuentes I worked between 20 and 30 hours the whole 3 years, I survived. But I don't know that I would have been able to work most jobs due to my school schedule.

@ryanchow I worked 60 hours a week, got promoted twice, became a manager, got a NY state teaching license, started my own business and kept that up while studying NPTE and passed on my first attempt. I also achieved many fitness goals, participated in the APTA, and I made more than 70k as a student and I was working full-time and schooling full-time. Too many people just accept what people give them.

@lexieburch It depends on the program, the employer, and the person. 
In my program we averaged 20-25 hours a week of class the first 9 semesters, including summers. We also had mandatory research, volunteering, and out of class work to do. T

@timothyjames I worked full-time all three years, through a combination of part-time jobs. I can't say I'd recommend it though…

@jonathanstehlik Your school is a traditional program like mine, and I believe some other programs aren't requiring the same level of class time or outside of class event attendance which is why people are able to work so much and state that it's not that big of a deal.

@maryannfenner This is all relative depending on your background, energy level, drive, external and internal motivators, and personal goals. It's definitely doable, but it does come with consequences.

@katherinechavez I didn't vote, because I went to a hybrid program, and I felt that would skew the results. it was definitely possible to maintain a full time job during PT school.

@donreynolds I had to work full time to pay my bills. It was a PTA to DPT weekend program. It was a full time 3 year program.

@nickolaspreciado I’m currently going into my 2nd year, I work full time(36+) between 4 different jobs. Its definitely possible.

@anikajo  No, definitely cannot work full time BUT many of my cohorts do work part-time, 5-15 hours/week. That's a more feasible range than 40 hours a week and if you're willing to work on your weekends.

@vincentgutierrez I worked full time overnights.

@willbutler Uber/Lyft... I wish it had been a thing when I went to PT school.

@hannahwilliams I work 10 to 15 hours per week and my coursework doesn't suffer. If you can get a part time job that uses your PT knowledge, it can actually help. I work in a hospital fitness center. That said, I really don't see how working full time would jive with my program.

@juliasmetanahoelter I worked 2 part time jobs while in PT grad school for a total of ~15 hours per week and my grades were always best the semesters I worked more. For me personally, I time manage better with stress and procrastinate if I believe i have time so it worked.

@lindsaydavis I've worked part time all of year 1 and 2. It wasn't easy, but if you have to like I did, it's manageable. 3rd year gets harder to balance, but I am still currently doing it. Around 15-20 hours a week on average.

@karylnstroope I was licensed as a PTA prior to starting PT school - I worked almost every other weekend through year 1 and 2. Not nearly as much as that in year 3. I don't think I would have done it if it wasn't experience towards my furture position as a PT. Also it was more worth it since it wasn't a minimum wage job.

@christaschutte Depends on the job. Our valedictorian worked full time as a PCA. I worked close doing similar work. I was in a group home that had sleeping shifts. I have no loans by working through college and PT school.

@alanfredendall Worked almost every weekend years 1 and 2 as well as evenings and gaps in the schedule during the day. The time required during school was very minimal and largely a review of undergrad for most topics. You can work to tolerance I would say. Definitely worth it to come out of school with no loans.

@aprillynn I worked 2-3 part time jobs during grad school ~20 hrs a week and did fine. I couldn't imagine a full time job.


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