Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

See all Physical Therapist Assistant jobs

Top 3 Physical Therapist Aide Jobs

  • Pediatric Home Health Physical Therapist - Bonus $ - Thrive Skilled Pediatric Care - San Antonio, TX

    Must have current CPR and First Aid Certification. We understand your need to balance work, family

  • Physical Therapist Aide - THERAPEUTIC SOLUTIONS PHYSICAL - Merrick, NY

    Exercise Specialist degrees are a plus. Mutli-tasking, good interpersonal skills and verifiable history of getting things done are a must. This is a

  • Physical Therapist - Sweetbrook Rehab & Nursing Center - Williamstown, MA

    Must be a graduate from an American Physical Therapy Association accredited school of

See all Physical Therapist Aide jobs

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 the patient's 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 patients 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 aides hold about 52,000 jobs. The largest employers of physical therapist aides are as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 56%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 23
Offices of physicians 7
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 5
Government 3

Physical therapist assistants hold about 88,300 jobs. The largest employers of physical therapist assistants are as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 45%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 23
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 11
Home healthcare services 8
Offices of physicians 5

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 because 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.

Education and Training for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

All states require physical therapist assistants to have an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program. In 2017, nearly 350 associate's degree programs for physical therapist assistants were 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), basic life support (BLS), 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 for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

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. The exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states require that applicants pass an exam on the state's laws regulating the practice of PTAs, 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 by state law.

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 patients, their families, and other healthcare practitioners; therefore, they 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 aides is $25,680. 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 $19,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,340.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants is $56,610. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,040.

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) $28,630
Hospitals; state, local, and private 28,620
Offices of physicians 26,810
Government 26,770
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 24,160

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) $65,240
Home healthcare services 63,030
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 54,840
Hospitals; state, local, and private 54,490
Offices of physicians 53,120

Most physical therapist assistants and aides work full time. Some night and weekend work may be required because 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 31 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 29 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for physical therapy 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 did. However, many baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks, strokes and mobility-related injuries, increasing the demand for physical therapy needed for rehabilitation.

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. Moreover, 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.

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.

Job Prospects for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to be 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 because 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 because many physical therapists cluster in highly populated urban and suburban areas.

Employment projections data for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Physical therapist assistants and aides 140,300 182,600 30 42,300
  Physical therapist assistants 88,300 115,500 31 27,200
  Physical therapist aides 52,000 67,100 29 15,100


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

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: