For Americans looking for a rewarding career in a struggling job market and down economy, a career in physical therapy could be the perfect answer, says the American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, Va, which is hosting its Combined Sections Meeting in San Diego through February 20.

Boasting plentiful job openings, strong job security, flexibility, and a high satisfaction rating among those working in the field, a career in physical therapy has been ranked among the best jobs in America by major publications, including, Forbes, and US News & World Report.

As highly educated, health care professionals, PTs help patients maintain mobility and quality of life without surgery or prescription medications, in many cases.

The soaring demand for physical therapists can be attributed to the aging American population, particularly Baby Boomers who are more vulnerable to chronic and debilitating conditions that require physical therapist services. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the demand for PTs is expected to spike upward by an astonishing 30% between 2008 and 2018—a much quicker rate than average. Currently, there are approximately 185,500 licensed PTs in the United States, and that number is expected to jump to 241,700 over the next 10 years.

Now a doctoring profession, PTs must graduate with a master’s degree at a minimum; however, the majority of PTs graduate today with a doctorate of physical therapy degree (DPT). Subsequently, one must pass the national licensure examination in order to practice. Other requirements for physical therapy practice vary from state to state according to physical therapy practice acts or state regulations governing physical therapy. With additional expertise, you can become an expert specialist in a number of areas such as geriatrics, research, orthopedics, neurology, sports, and more.

Adding to the profession’s appeal, physical therapy touts desirable salaries and a flexible lifestyle. Depending on experience, the median income for a physical therapist is between $60,000 and $86,000 a year. PTs can choose from a wide range of work settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, employer settings, and nursing homes.

[Source: American Physical Therapy Association]