Explore Career Options, Jobs, Schooling, and Salary for an in Demand Career in Physical Therapy
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Career Overview for a Physical Therapy Assistant


A physical therapist assistant works under the direct supervision of a licensed physical therapist, main job duties include providing assistance with rehabilitation treatments for physical therapy patients. The types of treatments commonly performed by physical therapy assistants can include exercise, hands on rehabilitation techniques such as massage, the use of modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultra sound, as well as application heat and ice. The goal of physical therapy is to increase or return ones abilities back to the normal range or strength that is required for daily function, or pre injury.

A physical therapy assistant will have a very active role in assisting the physical therapists with treatments, actively teaching exercises which are components of the prescribed treatment plan. This can include teaching simple things such as showing a very injured patient to move from sitting to standing. Other work can be more general, such as helping a patient with their strengthening exercises to help them increase their physical recovery. Physical therapist assistants will have to have a wide range of knowledge with regards to muscle anatomy, stretching, and strengthening. Strong analytical skills are required to determine if a treatment plan is working as designed. Depending on the workplace setting, a physical therapist assistant may also assist with record keeping, and billing.

 Work Environment and Industries:

Physical therapy assistants can work in a number of different settings and locations within this specific Industry. Typical places that a PTA can find employment will include clinics, sports medicine practices, nursing & old age homes, home health care, as well as surgical and general hospitals. A small percentage of individuals also work in educational institutes that cater to those with disabilities or diseases of human development.

The work environment can be hectic in some locations, as where it can be quite relaxed in others. This really depends on the amount of patients that are seen at a given clinic, hospital, old age home etc. Generally this is a job that many would describe as more fast paced with a physical therapy assistant typically seeing many patients throughout their work day.

One of the questions that is often asked is if you need to be in good shape to work as a physical therapy assistant? The answer to that question is that a moderate degree of strength is required for assisting the patients. Patients may have injuries which require help with standing, moving from the bed to a chair, as well as those being taught how to use ambulation devices such as walkers, or prosthetics. A physical therapy assistant is taught many techniques for keeping a proper posture, as well as techniques for lifts during their 2 year associate degree education. Aside from lifting, the job does require a degree of kneeling, standing, as well as potentially demonstrating or leading exercises for patients. It is important in this career to take good care of oneself and stay healthy and fit, or else one increases their chances of injury.

Physical Therapy Assistant Education, Training and Licensing:

Education: An associated degree from an accredited physical therapy college is required to work in this field, an associate degree will require 2 years of study. CAPTE (The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) is the largest accreditation body, and accredits over 270 physical therapy assistant colleges across the United States.  Those who wish to work in the field must pass state license exams in order to work in the United States, as physical therapy assistant is a regulated profession. CAPTE accredited school graduates will have the ability to write state exams across the nation.

Training: Students will be receive at least 16 weeks of on the job clinical field work. This will give students the opportunity to gain hands on experience in this industry, as well as bring the skills and knowledge picked up in the classroom and apply those in clinical settings with patients.

Licensing: As mentioned above, physical therapy assistant is a regulated health profession, and has a requirement of a state license to be eligible to work. A state license will be an exam based test, and often part of the educational curriculum will prepare students for this test.

Physical Therapy Assistant Job Outlook and Salary:

physical therapy assistant careerThe job outlook for physical therapy assistant has been very strong in recent times. We are currently in a growth period (2008-2018) where we expect to see a 32% increase in the number of physical therapist assistants working in the United States, this should open the door for many new graduates to be in demand, as well as receive strong wages. The average salary for a physical therapy assistant in the United States is $48 000 – $49 000 per year, for more information on physical therapy assistant salary please visit the page on this site, which will give you a break down of the salary in each state across the nation.

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