Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

  • Physical Therapist Assistant - Sign On Bonus - Kissito Healthcare - Fincastle, VA

    Implementation – Assist the Physical Therapist in implementing

  • Physical Therapist Assistant / PTA - Full Time - HCR ManorCare - Buchanan, VA

    Working in the health care environment can be very demanding, and it is our goal to provide the tools to help our Physical Therapist Assistants / PTA

  • Physical Therapist Assistant - Mid South Rehab Services, Inc. - Columbia, MS

    To attract and retain the best clinical professionals, Mid South Rehab Services, Inc. offers a comprehensive competitive Benefits package that

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Top 3 Physical Therapist Aide Jobs

  • PHYSICAL THERAPY ASSISTANT - South Peninsula Hospital - Homer, AK

    KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE: • Must possess a Physical Therapy Assistant license and be certified to practice in the State of Alaska. • Must be

  • Physical Therapist - Home Health - PeaceHealth - Ketchikan, AK

    Provides oversight to therapy assistants and students in following the plan-of-care and treatment of patients appropriate to the age of the patient

  • Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist - PRO Sports Club - Bellevue, WA

    Treatment is provided at the therapists’ discretion and/or as requested by their physician. The Women’s Health Physical Therapist performs an initial

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What Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Do[About this section] [To Top]

Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain. Physical therapist assistants are involved in the direct care of patients. Physical therapist aides often do tasks that are indirectly related to patient care, such as cleaning and setting up the treatment area, moving patients, and performing clerical duties.

Duties of Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants typically do the following:

  • Observe patients before, during, and after therapy, noting patient status and reporting it to a physical therapist
  • Help patients do specific exercises as part of the plan of care
  • Treat patients using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
  • Use devices and equipment, such as walkers, to help patients
  • Educate a patient and family members about what to do after treatment

Physical therapist aides typically do the following:

  • Clean treatment areas and set up therapy equipment
  • Wash linens
  • Help patients move to or from a therapy area
  • Do clerical tasks, such as answering phones and scheduling patients

Physical therapist assistants help physical therapists provide care to patients. Under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, they treat patients through exercise, massage, gait and balance training, and other therapeutic interventions. Physical therapist assistants record patients’ progress and report the results of each treatment to the physical therapist.

Physical therapist aides work under the direct supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. They usually are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized, and preparing for each patient's therapy. They also help patients who need assistance moving to or from a treatment area. In addition, aides do a variety of clerical tasks, such as ordering supplies, scheduling treatment sessions, and filling out insurance forms. The types of tasks that physical therapist aides are allowed to perform vary by state. Contact your state licensing board for more information.

Work Environment for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Physical therapist assistants hold about 78,700 jobs. Physical therapist aides hold about 50,000 jobs.

The industries that employ the most physical therapist assistants are as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 43%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 23
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 11
Home healthcare services 9
Offices of physicians 5

The industries that employ the most physical therapist aides are as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 55%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 21
Offices of physicians 8
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 6
Government 3

Physical therapist assistants and aides are frequently on their feet and moving as they set up equipment and help and treat patients. Because they must often lift and move patients, they are vulnerable to back injuries. Assistants and aides can limit these risks by using proper techniques when they assist patients.

Physical Therapist Assistant and Aide Work Schedules

Most physical therapist assistants and aides work full time. Some night and weekend work may be required as many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides near you!

Physical therapist assistants entering the profession need an associate’s degree from an accredited program. All states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed or certified. Physical therapist aides usually have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training.

Physical Therapist Assistant and Aide Education and Training

All states require physical therapist assistants to have an associate’s degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program. There are more than 300 associate’s degree programs for physical therapist assistants accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Programs typically last about 2 years. Classroom study includes courses in algebra, English, anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Assistants also gain hands-on experience during supervised clinical work. They may earn certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other first-aid skills.

Physical therapist aides typically have a high school diploma or the equivalent. They usually gain clinical experience through on-the-job training that can last from about a week to a month. Employers often prefer to hire applicants with computer skills.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed or certified. Licensure typically requires graduation from an accredited physical therapist assistant program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for physical therapist assistants administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states require that applicants pass additional state-administered exams, undergo a criminal background check, and be at least 18 years old. Physical therapist assistants also may need to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Check with your state board for specific licensing requirements.

Physical therapist aides are not required to be licensed.

Important Qualities for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Compassion. Physical therapist assistants and aides should enjoy helping people. They work with people who are in pain, and they must have empathy to help their patients.

Detail oriented. Like other healthcare professionals, physical therapist assistants and aides should be organized and have a keen eye for detail. They must keep accurate records and follow written and verbal instructions carefully to ensure quality care.

Dexterity. Physical therapist assistants should be comfortable using their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. Aides should also be comfortable working with their hands to set up equipment and prepare treatment areas.

Interpersonal skills. Physical therapist assistants and aides spend much of their time interacting with clients, their families, and other healthcare practitioners; and therefore should be courteous and friendly.

Physical stamina. Physical therapist assistants and aides are frequently on their feet and moving as they work with their patients. They must often kneel, stoop, bend, and stand for long periods. They should enjoy physical activity.

Physical Therapist Assistant and Aide Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants is $55,170. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,940.

The median annual wage for physical therapist aides is $25,120. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,040.

The median annual wages for physical therapist assistants in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) $64,030
Home health care services 60,680
Hospitals; state, local, and private 53,110
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 53,000
Offices of physicians 52,210

The median annual wages for physical therapist aides in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) $28,400
Hospitals; state, local, and private 27,810
Offices of physicians 26,220
Government 25,710
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 23,760

Most physical therapist assistants and aides work full time. Some night and weekend work may be required as many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

Job Outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 41 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 39 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for physical therapy services is expected to increase in response to the health needs of an aging population, particularly the large baby-boom generation. This group is staying more active later in life than previous generations. However, many baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Older people also are particularly vulnerable to a number of chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services. These patients often need additional help in their treatment, making the roles of physical therapist assistants and aides vital.

In addition, a number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. More physical therapist assistants and aides will be needed to manage the effects of such conditions and help patients maintain their mobility.

Medical and technological developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services. In addition, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform.

Physical therapists are expected to increasingly use physical therapist assistants, particularly in long-term care environments, in order to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. Once the physical therapist has evaluated a patient and designed a plan of care, the assistant can provide many parts of the treatment, as directed by the therapist.

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Job Prospects

Opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to be very good. Physical therapist assistants will be needed to help physical therapists care for and manage more patients. However, physical therapist aides may face strong competition from the large pool of qualified people since requirements for entry are low.

Job opportunities should be particularly good in settings where the elderly are most often treated, such as skilled-nursing homes, home health, and outpatient orthopedic facilities. Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural areas, as many physical therapists cluster in highly populated urban and suburban areas.

Employment projections data for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Physical therapist assistants and aides 128,700 180,200 40 51,400
  Physical therapist assistants 78,700 110,700 41 31,900
  Physical therapist aides 50,000 69,500 39 19,500


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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