Bethanie Funderburk has hiked ice-laced mountains in Alaska.
Trekked through fields of snow in Canada.
Reeled in fish from cold waters in Montana.
And climbed rust-colored boulders in Colorado.
She’s done it all as a traveling physical therapist.
It’s a degree Funderburk earned from Missouri State University in 2017.
While a student at MSU, this Nixa native attended a conference and discovered that traveling physical therapists can explore the world.
And make great money.
When housing allowances and benefits are factored in, traveling physical therapists may make as much as $100,000.
And demand in the field continues to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for physical therapists is expected to increase by 22 percent between 2018-2028.
Missouri State helped prepare her for success. Here, she gained real life experience, early on.
Funderburk says something she appreciates about the program is the internships started early and were spread out.
“I know a lot of other PT programs wait to do the internships all within the last year, but MSU’s program starts the first internship during the summer following your first year of completion and then spans them out from there into your second and third year. I think this allowed for a lot of growth and learning experiences early on during the program,” she said.
Discovering her passion
During her undergraduate degree, Funderburk initially wanted to be a forensic profiler for the FBI.
“And then about halfway through I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s not for me.’ So, then I’ve always been super active and liked playing sports my whole life. Health and fitness are very important to me, so I knew I wanted to do something with that. And then I’m a big people person so I knew I wanted to do something helping people. I was between being a physician’s assistant, and physical therapy. My conclusive result was that I hate blood so I chose physical therapy,” she said.
She selected Missouri State for graduate school because of the stellar program and because it was close to home.
It was challenging, but rewarding.
“It was a lot of studying,” she said. “It was a tight–knit group. We started with 41 and 39 graduated. I made really good connections. Actually, my boyfriend was in school with me, we met in the program. It was a great experience. Seriously it was just an eyeopener to how intense studying can be, but in a good way because that all paid off.”
“MSU’s (physical therapy) program starts the first internship during the summer following your first year of completion and then spans them out from there into your second and third year. I think this allowed for a lot of growth and learning experiences early on.”
After graduation, she and her boyfriend Brad Keenan, an Illinois native, decided to become traveling physical therapists together.
They landed jobs in Montana, Alaska, Colorado, California, and then at Barnes–Jewish Hospital in Saint Louis.
Both outdoor enthusiasts, they’ve been able to explore Glacier National Park, hike in Banff National Park in Canada, camp around Lake Tahoe, and were even stalked by a bear on their last hike in Alaska.
“Yeah, it was not a good thing. We ran into six moose, about five feet away on that hike. Then we kept going, looked behind us, and there was this bear and it followed us on this trail. It kept its distance but the scary thing was it just kept following us,” Funderburk said.
After traveling the country, the couple are settling down in Montana for permanent jobs. They are ready to put down roots and have fallen in love with Montana – a destination she discovered on her first traveling physical therapy gig.
Her degree from Missouri State University, coupled with her career choice, has allowed Funderburk to pursue her passion of travel and the outdoors, while helping others.
“I’ve seen so many things and had so many experiences,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”