Physical Therapy Assistant


A career as a physical therapist assistant, or PTA, provides involvement in the guidance of preventive care and treatment to maintain movement and functionality for daily routines. A physical therapist works with people of all ages with a range of problems from a broken ankle to loss of movement from a stroke and according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics job prospects are expected to be very good. Under the supervision and direction of a physical therapist, a physical therapy assistant becomes the person to carry out the physical therapy service which can include moving the patient, setting up materials, explaining exercises, provide electrical stimulation, create reports on patient treatment, and a lot of others. What a physical therapist assistant cannot do is diagnose and formulate a treatment plan themselves without supervision or direction from a physical therapist.

Since physical therapists deal with a wide range of cases, physical therapy assistants will also have a part in many different problems and treatment options. They are educated and trained in physical therapy techniques and terminology. A physical therapy assistant is trained in exercises that strengthen, increase mobility, ease pain, stimulate blood flow, and increase coordination and balance. They apply this knowledge in treating various patients with unique traits even with similar problems.

The work environment for physical therapy assistants will be exactly the same as those for physical therapists. This includes mainly outpatient clinics or physical therapy offices, hospitals, nursing facilities, and home health.  The BLS reported that 28 percent of physical therapy assistants held part time jobs which mean they can also hold contracts with various organizations. Home health is a good example where a physical therapy assistant may be sent to several patients to perform physical therapy services. Physical therapist assistants can advance their career to become a physical therapist, be part of administrative department, or go into teaching.

Physical Therapy Assistant License and Education

The movement to have physical therapy assistants licensed has been successful and 48 states and the District of Columbia require a license, certification, or registration according to the states physical therapy act or state regulations. Each state has their own requirements including education and examinations. Graduation from a physical therapy school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education and passing of the National Physical Therapy Exam are accepted in a majority of the states.

There are over 200 accredited physical therapy assistant schools that provide education and training that accumulates to an associate degree. Physical therapy education programs are offered through community colleges, 4 year colleges, universities, and technical facilities. Visit the physical therapy assistant schools page for detailed information and school listings.

Physical Therapy Assistant Salary

The salary of a physical therapy assistant varies by location, contract types, experience, and employer. According to the BLS May 2009 report, the median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $48,590 with the middle 50 percent earning between $39,070 and $57,780. For a detailed breakdown including a state by state view, check out the physical therapy assistant salary page.