How To Become A Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants work in an office of physical therapy. They work under the direction of the main physical therapist, working directly with patients. They work to rehabilitate patients who have injuries.

This is a good entry-level career choice for somebody who is interested in physical therapy as a profession. Physical therapist assistants must take a program to become an assistant, and be licensed in their field.

Why Become A Physical Therapist Assistant

A physical therapy assistant works under the supervision of a physical therapist. They help patients who have come to the office. Patients come to a physical therapy office for many reasons. Many are suffering from illnesses or injuries. They have lost range of movement in some part of their body. They often are in pain. Physical therapy helps them to regain their life back to where it was.

Physical therapist assistants help patients during their appointment, doing specific exercises, stretches, and hands-on therapy. They use equipment and devices to help patients. They observe patients before, during and after their appointments, and take notes regarding progress. They communicate with patients regarding their individualized treatment plan and talk about goals for physical therapy.

Physical therapist assistants also have other duties such as cleaning treatment areas, cleaning therapy equipment, and setting up the room for each appointment. They help move patients to or from the therapy areas. Depending on the office, they may be responsible for checking people into their appointments, scheduling appointments, or answering phones. Physical therapist assistants always work in coordination with a physical therapist.

They discuss the individualized treatment plans with the physical therapist. They write notes about patients and discuss steps to provide care for patients and get them the best results possible. The physical therapy assistants report all progress and notes to the physical therapist.

This is a great career field for somebody who is just starting out in the field of physical therapy. It is a good career choice for somebody who wants to work directly with people, form long-term relationships in a patient’s care, and help a patient get results in their physical well-being.

Physical Therapist Assistants should possess the following qualities and skills:

Physical Therapist Assistant Work Environment

The majority of physical therapy assistants work in the private offices of physical therapists. Besides this, some may work in physician offices, nursing homes, or hospitals. This job involves working directly with patients.

Physical therapists must be able to move patients, lift them, assist them, and show them a variety of different exercises. All of this involves being on the feet throughout the day. Physical therapist assistants must have good stamina.

They must also be patient and good communicators, explaining what each exercise is for. Physical therapist assistants usually work full time with regular working hours.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary

The median salary for physical therapy assistants was $56,610 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are many factors to consider when thinking about salary. The salary for physical therapy assistants may vary depending on what type of setting a person works in. For example, nursing homes tended to be the highest paying jobs for physical therapist assistants, offering $65,000 annually in 2016, on average.

Those who worked in hospitals or in doctor’s offices earned about $53,000 annually in 2016. This is important to consider when thinking about what type of setting you would like to work at in your career.

Average Physical Therapist Assistant Annual Salary


The average annual salary for physical therapist assistants is $57,620 a year. Salaries start at $35,930 a year and go up to $79,380 a year.

Average Physical Therapist Assistant Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a physical therapist assistant is $27.70. Hourly wages are between $17.27 and $38.17 an hour.

Stats were based out of 90,170 employed physical therapist assistants in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Physical Therapist Assistants

Top Paying Cities For Physical Therapist Assistants

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Physical Therapist Assistant Career Outlook

Employment for physical therapy assistants is expected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026. There will be about 28,000 new jobs for physical therapy assistants within the next 10 years. This is a much greater rate of growth compared to other jobs. People who want to get a job as a physical therapy assistant will be sure to find a position.

Today there is a large senior citizen position. The need for adequate physical therapy has increased to address the needs of the aging population. People today are living longer, healthier lives and want to stay more active. Physical therapy helps people who have had injuries and may need rehabilitation.

Physical therapists will continue to rely on assistants. As the number of responsibilities in a facility increases, the main physical therapist will pass along responsibilities to the assistant. Assistants are able to provide many parts of the treatment procedure.

Physical Therapist Assistant Degree

All states require physical therapist assistants to graduate from a physical therapist assistant program.

Today there are more than 300 such programs in the United States. These programs take about two years to complete. Graduates take a combination of classroom lecture courses, plus supervised clinical work.

At the end of the program, physical therapist assistant must take an exam and pass in order to receive their licensing. They must also take continuing education classes in order to keep their license.

Physical Therapist Assistant Coursework

Here are some examples of classes found in a typical physical therapy assistant class.

Introduction to Physical Therapy: Students will learn the basics of physical therapy, the purpose of the program and the main techniques involved. This course lays the foundation of the program.

Anatomy and Physiology: Students learn about human anatomy, the major organ systems of the body, and how everything in the human body is interconnected.

Human Growth and Development: Students learn about humans, from the days of infancy until aging and death. All phases of human development are explored, and the role they play in physical therapy.

Physical Therapist Assistant Career Path

Career Overview Responsibilities Education Required Benefits
Physical Therapist Physical therapists help injured people improve the movement of their body and manage their pain. Physical therapists develop an individualized plan of care for each patient, and use exercises, stretches, and hands-on therapy to help patients reach their goals. Physical therapists are required to have a bachelor’s degree, as well as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). This program takes an additional three years, plus a clinical residency. A physical therapist is a great promotion and advanced career choice for somebody who has spent years as a physical therapist assistant. There is opportunity to have your own office and set your own hours and rates.

Related Physical Therapist Assistant Careers

If you think a career as a physical therapy assistant sounds rewarding, there are many other careers you may be interested in. Here are some listed below.

Dental Assistant: A dental assistant works in a dental office, providing direct care to patients, setting up rooms, taking X-rays, and more. They also provide administrative work such as scheduling appointments and medical billing.

Medical Assistant: A medical assistant provides an array of clinical and administrative tasks. They take vitals for patients and update medical history. They schedule appointments and also do medical billing.

Psychiatric Aide: Psychiatric aides take care of patients who have mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. They provide care and monitor the conditions of their patients.

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