Physical Therapy Assistants
Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Associate|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||69,810|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||5.0%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||4,120|
What's Needed: In most states physical therapy assistants are required to obtain an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Perspective students should look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Associate in Physical Therapist Assistant degree programs focus on rehabilitation methods. These programs include academic coursework and clinical experience. Most include three clinical practicums in the last three semesters of the program. Clinical experience is vital to most employers.
Students acquire certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other types of first aid. Some physical therapist assistants obtain additional education to obtain jobs in management, administration and education.
What you study:
- Therapeutic exercises
- Medical terminology
- Healthcare law
- Rehabilitation procedures
- Human development
- Human anatomy
An introduction into the work of physical therapy assistants. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a physical therapist assistant (PTA), you will be directly involved in treating patients, working under the supervision of licensed physical therapists (PTs). You will be providing rehabilitation services to those with limited mobility or function by following a physical therapy plan of care established by a PT. Your work will including teaching patients therapeutic exercises, monitoring patient performance and operating medical equipment.
Physical therapist assistants differ from physical therapist aides in that assistants are usually licensed and perform more clinical work. Physical therapist aides focus on clerical work and don't need a license.
Your typical day as a PTA includes variety, one-on-one interaction with patients and the satisfaction of spending a workday filled with purpose. Each day is usually different from the next day, however usually the day includes a pre-planned schedule.
You may, for example, work with a patient who uses a wheelchair or a patient learning to walk with crutches. You'll typically use massage or therapeutic heat to increase circulation in injured or sore muscles. You may help a client with a replacement hip strengthen his muscles or work with patients with broken bones, back pain, a torn rotator cuff, strains and pains, cerebral palsy or heart disease. As a physical therapy assistant you'll help patients increase their range of motion, their strength, coordination, motor function and endurance. You'll likely perform diverse work throughout the day.
You'll provide encouragement during difficult times and celebrate their success. Due to a busy schedule and rewarding work the day passes quickly.
Certifications and Licensing
In most states physical therapy assistants are required to complete a postsecondary program accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. There are more than 270 physical therapy assistant programs approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education organization. Most of these programs provide an associate's degree.
Physical therapist assistants are required to have licensure or certification in every state except Hawaii and Colorado. Licensing requirement vary by state. Candidates are required to pass three National Physical Therapy examinations provided by the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy, however some states provide their own exams.
Physical therapist assistants may have to obtain continuing education credits to regularly renew licensure or certification. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides a certification program for specialists with at least 2,000 hours of relevant work experience and 60 hours of continuing education in the last five years.
Full-time versus part-time: Most physical therapist assistants work full-time. About 25 percent work part-time. Many physical therapy offices and clinics have weekend and evening hours.
Work location: PT assistants work in hospitals, clinics, fitness centers, physical therapy offices, nursing homes and patients' homes.
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides information about PTA careers and surveys and statistics. The APTA provides useful information for prospective students and also career development information. The American Physical Therapy Association website also provides information about courses and conferences. Also, job seekers can browse available jobs at the website.
- The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy promotes safe and competent physical therapy practice. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy develops and administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapist assistants in all 50 states. The website also provides helpful hints. The APTA student assembly focuses on issues related to students. The organization represents students from accredited or developing education programs across the nation.
- PhysicalTherapist.com provides a discussion board and an array of articles. The website also offers important resources for people interested in beginning a career in physical therapy, studying for a degree and for those already in the profession. Job seekers can also search for jobs at the website.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook -- This US Department of Labor resource covers in a textbook like manner the PT assistant (and PT Aide) occupation. It offers a broad set of statistics and descriptive information about this career.