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Physical Therapist Assistant: Career Information


Physical Therapist Assistant: Career Information

Job Description:

A physical therapist assistant (PTA) provides therapeutic care to patients under the supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who have been injured in accidents, have had surgery or who are ill regain mobility or manage their pain. They also supervise physical therapist aides.

Employment Facts:

Physical therapist assistants held over 67,000 jobs in 2010. More than half were in outpatient facilities and over a quarter were in hospitals. A small number of PT assistants work in nursing and residential care facilities.

Typically, PTAs work full time. There are some, but not many, part time jobs. PT offices must be staffed on weekends and evenings to accommodate clients' schedules.

Educational Requirements:

One needs to earn an associate degree from a physical therapy assistant program that combines academic coursework with clinical training. Students take courses in algebra, English, psychology and anatomy and physiology.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Most states require physical therapist assistants to be a licensed. Use the Licensed Occupation Tool from careeronestop to find out if the state in which you plan to work is one of them. To get a license, you will need to earn your degree from an accredited program. PTAs are also required to have certification in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and other first aid procedures.

A degree and license allows one to be a physical therapist but it does not make one good at this job. For that you need certain characteristics. You must be compassionate. Your patients, many of whom are struggling to recover from illnesses and injuries, are relying on you to help them and you should enjoy doing so. For treatment to be successful, health care providers must keep accurate records and follow instructions to the letter. Therefore attention to detail is imperative. Good interpresonal skills will help with your interactions with clients and colleagues. Spending hours on your feet and moving around a lot can be exhausting but as a physical therapist assistant, that is what you will be doing. If you don't have physical stamina, you will be unable to withstand this. You need manual dexterity to provide therapy and help patients with their exercises.

Job Outlook:

The job outlook for physical therapist assistants is excellent with projections of much faster than average job growth, as compared to other occupations, through 2020. In addition, it is predicted to be, by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the fastest growing occupations that requires post-secondary training or an associate degree.


Physical therapist assistants earned a median annual salary of $51,040 and median hourly wages of $24.54 in 2011.

Use the Salary Calculator at Salary.com to find out how much physical therapist assistants and physical therapist aides currently earn in your city.

A Day in a Physical Therapist Assistant's Life:

On a typical day a physical therapist assistant will:

  • receive instructions from a physical therapist
  • treat patients using massage and stretching
  • assist patients with exercises prescribed by a physical therapist
  • instruct patients and their caregivers in doing exercises at home
  • observe patients during treatment
  • instruct and supervise physical therapist aides

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm (visited December 19, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Physical Therapist Assistants, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/31-2021.00 (visited December 19, 2012).

Should You Become a Physical Therapist Assistant? Take a Quiz to Find Out.

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