Late Life Career Change
August 14, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Is it totally absurd to consider starting on the path to a degree in physical therapy/kinesiology at the age of 44?

I would need to start with probably two years of undergrad pre-requisites like anatomy/physiology, chemistry, bio, and statistics before even applying to the doctoral or masters programs, which themselves are 3 years usually. So let's say it's a 5 year investment and I get a degree and I go looking for jobs at the ripe age of 50. Am I kidding myself? Will I be too old to even be considered or does age not figure into a job like this. Anyone out there done this and have experiences they can relate?
posted by spicynuts to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not to sound flippant, but are you independently wealthy? If you have to borrow any money to do this (and even if not) and are forgoing five years of income in order to take an entry level position as a PT at age 50, it really only makes sense if you're already comfortable and this is just sort of a fun way to wind down your working years after already having had a lucrative career.

If you have to work to support yourself or others, and are not completely set yet for retirement, then yes, it does sound totally absurd to me.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:19 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

How old will you be in 5 years if you don't do it? Do it. You're not dead yet. Let the cemetery figure out how to dig the grave. You just live your life as best fulfills you.
posted by inturnaround at 12:21 PM on August 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

First, it's never too late.

Second, it's not clear what kind of degree you want for what kind of job. Those particular circumstances will make a big difference in how doable this thing is. Do you want to be a practicing physical therapist? That would likely be master's program -- not a PhD. The differences between a masters program and a PhD are pretty substantial in terms of time and money, so figure that out first.

FWIW, I started a social sciences PhD program at age 38 and will be 44 when I graduate (good lord willing) this spring. I did not borrow money and funded my education with fellowships (which included living stipends) and teaching. I'm only slightly crazy.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:26 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah I would be looking to be a practicing physical therapist. I'm thinking at a place like a Veteran's Hospital.
posted by spicynuts at 12:39 PM on August 14, 2014

forgoing five years of income in order to take an entry level position as a PT at age 50,

Actually as far as I understand it, entry salaries for PTs aren't bad; they can make their median within a couple of years.

How's your own health? Not all, but a lot of areas within PT involve at least some hands-on work; musculoskeletal issues are an occupational hazard (ironically), and they retire kind of early, maybe for that reason. That's the one thing I'd be thinking about. Although they'll have been doing that job for years by the time you graduated (so if you're injury-free, maybe you'd be ok, if you were careful?). Of course there are areas that don't so much rely on hands-on work.

I am not too familiar with what a kinesiologist does, i.e. how hands-on it is (although I think they mostly do assessments, and not manual therapies?).

Have you talked to any PTs or kinesiologists yet to get their views?
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:41 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think you are too old to start this process, but depending on what your goals are/how long you want to be out of the workforce, have you looked in to Physical Therapy Assistant programs? It's usually an associate degree, and in my area, wages are in the $40K-$45K range. I know some Physical Therapists who actually wish they were Physical Therapy Assistants because they like the work (and lack of paperwork) better.
posted by mjcon at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why not start with the basics part-time (undergrad coursework) and see how you do? Then decide if you want to take it further. You have tons of good years left. Use 'em on your terms.

Good luck. If I ever went back to school, it would totally be for something like this.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:28 PM on August 14, 2014

Health care companies generally offer excellent benefits, pensions and retiree health care. If you worked at one hospital or care organization for 15 years you could get a very tidy retirement.

If you're light employer sponsored pension accounts, health care is a good place to work. And 15 years is plenty of time.
posted by 26.2 at 2:38 PM on August 14, 2014

A few things to think about from someone who has worked with PTs

1. It can be very hard on your body. One of the PTs I worked with was in her late 60s and that was unusual she said because all that work you do on other people's bodies is bad for you. Using correct techniques can help but just all the manipulation of body parts can wear into you. If you already have a bad back or weak knees it is something to think about.

2. It will be much harder to find employment. There's the normal questions about age, but because of the physical nature of PT there's going to be added doubt.

3. Have you seen PT in action? Hospital settings can be insane. You are squeezing every second out of the day and the pace can be daunting. The school PTs I work with complain about their workload but hospitals are at a whole different level.

I don't think you shouldn't do this, but do some research, talk to PTs (especially those in the setting you are interested in), and do some observation.
posted by Aranquis at 3:25 PM on August 14, 2014

I'm a pre-health advisor, but I'm not your pre-health advisor, &etc.. I don't think I've ever had a student in their 40s apply to PT school, but I have had some students that age (and older) get into other health programs. I don't think this is a crazy idea, but I think you should do some research.

The first thing you should do is shadow some physical therapists. You should try to shadow several different ones, who work in several different settings. (A lot of my students have had PT for sports injuries in free-standing PT clinics. That's a different experience from hospital physical therapy.) Talk to the people you shadow about what their jobs are like and, in particular, the physical demands.

The second thing you should do is try to find some stats for PT schools. PTCAS has a directory of programs. Find the ones you think you would be interested in. (State universities will probably heavily favor in-state students.) They may have an entering class profile that will tell you the age range of incoming students. If not, call them up and ask if they can give you the age range of students in the past few entering classes.

The third thing I think you should do is run the numbers. You should probably be able to find starting salaries of PTs at VA hospitals, and you can get an average for entry-level Physical Therapists in general. You can find tuition and fees at PT programs. How much would you have to take out in loans, and how long would it take you to pay them off? Would you have time to save for retirement? There may be a financial advisor at your bank or credit union who can help you with this.

Finally, I think you should research alternative careers, because it's always good to think about all of your options. Why PT? Are there any other fields that might appeal to you? is a good resource.

I found this relevant thread on the APTA website. You might be able to contact some of the people who used their full names and ask them if you can do an informational interview with them.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:50 PM on August 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

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