A Guide To Working As A Physical Therapy Assistant

The market for physical therapy assistants (PTA) is growing rapidly. Employed is to increase by 41% between 2012 and 2020, according to recent statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Not only are assistants in demand they are also performing a highly critical task. By helping people to regain mobility and reduce pain, they make a major difference to their patients.

Below you can learn more about working as a PTA including where they work, how much they get paid, what they do and how you can become one.

Job Overview Of The Physical Therapy Assistant

Physiotherapy assistant

Life As a PTA

Also called a PTA, the assistant works with a Physical Therapist assisting them with their work.

Directed by the therapist and told what tasks they need to do to help people who have suffered from either illnesses or injuries to improve and restore their physical abilities.

PTAs will also usually be required to do work that helps in the care of the patient. This can include maintaining and setting up a clean work environment, performing office related duties and moving the patient to the treatment area.

Where Do PTAs Work

Working in a range of settings including in private clinics, out-patient facilities, schools, hospitals, sports facilities, workplaces and nursing homes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 40% work in either a physical or occupational therapists office, and 27% work in either a state, local or private hospital.

What Hours Do Assistants Work

Most PTAs will work full-time, but some may choose to work part-time hours instead. You maybe required to work in the evening or the weekend to accommodate the schedule of clients. This will depend on where the PTA is working, with private clinics being the most likely to need weekend work.

Are There Any Workplace Dangers ?

PTAs  setup and move equipment to ready it for the patients. They are also required to help move the patients and because of this back injuries can occur if proper care isn`t taken.

The danger of these back injuries minimized by using the proper techniques to move the patients.

How Much Are PTAs Paid?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median wage in 2012 was $52,160. The highest paid 10% earned over $72,000 and the lowest 10% earned less than $32,400.

This compares to an average wage of $34,750 for all occupations in the United States. Assistants working in nursing care facilities earned on average $55,720 a year. This compared to an average salary of $48,800 a year for those that work in medical hospitals. The highest paid were those working in home health care who earned on average $60,090 a year.

How To Start Your Career

First you would need to get a high school diploma or pass their General Education Development (GED) equivalent test. If you are at high school and considering a career as a PTA then you should strongly consider taking science classes such as anatomy, biology and physics. These can give a good foundation for your studies.

Next you need to apply to a PTA program with a properly accredited school. For students in the United States this means studying at a school recognized by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Finding Out About Degree`s And Course Work

You can find a list of schools which are properly accredited at www.Capte.org. This will usually involve studying for a two-year degree. A standard course will last for five semesters and will include a range of classroom and clinical work.

During your study you will learn what you need to know to correctly do your tasks as a physical therapy assistant. You will also be required to undertake clinical practicum training. This takes sixteen weeks where you will shadow and work under a licensed physical therapist.

Licensing Requirements

Before you can practice as a PTA you need to a state issued licence. You take either the National Physical Hearty Exam or a state chosen exam.

If you are in Colorado or Hawaii you are not required to take an exam before taking up practice. In order to keep up your certification you need to take education credits each year, taking classes locally or attending psychical therapy conferences.

What Are The Future Prospects ?

Physiotherapy Assistant


As noted in the introduction to this article the number of employed PTAs will grow over the coming decade. The reason for the growing demand for is largely due to demographic changes in society.

The US population and other developing countries is rapidly aging. Estimated that over the coming two decades 10,000 baby bloomers will cross the 65-year-old threshold every single day.

Careers Related With A Physiotherapy Aide Degree

Careers sometimes change direction as we move forward and this is true for physiotherapy students but the great thing is there are many fields in which a person with a physical therapy aide degree can work in such as..

Physiotherapy Aides

  • Their core role is therapy services. They are however supervised by licensed therapist in performing these roles. Estimated that demand for workers grows annually by 8%.
  • What makes it even more promising is that in the next 8 years, demand for these services will have increased by about 30%.

Licensed Physiotherapy Assistants

  • First enroll for an associate degree, diploma or a certificate program. Most of the programs take 2 years after which one can sit for a licensing exam.
  • It is after having the license that you become certified to work in a particular state.

Physical Therapist

  • High profile job, For you to work as a physiotherapist, you need to have enrolled for a degree or above in this area.
  • Having a large scope of skills in orthopedic, geriatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurology and many other areas .
  • The bachelors’ degree from accredited institutions. You can check online on some of the universities authorized to teach it in your state.

 Rehabilitation Aide

  • A very interesting job assisting physiotherapist in rehabilitation centers. They are in charge of ensuring good progress of the client under treatment.

Rehabilitation Assistant

  • Has the same duty as those of an aide but has more personal interaction to understand the patient’s progress.

Occupational Therapist Aide

  • They work directly with patients to ease pain and aid those with physical disabilities. Due to the skills and training they have, this specialists earn much more than aides.
  • Apart from the basic associate degree needed, states can dictate other conditions required to work as in occupational therapy.

Occupational Therapist Assistant

  • Requires a person to have similar qualifications as aides, Although conditions to work in different states can vary.
  • To be considered one, you must have an associate degree from a certified institution.

Heart Attacks And The Baby Boomers

These baby boomers are looking to enjoy a more active life later than earlier generations have enjoyed. At the same time they are also entering a period when they are in danger of cardiac problems. These can lead to the need for rehabilitative work after a stroke or heart attack.

As well as these demographic changes the number of people suffering from obesity and diabetes is also increasing. PTAs will play an important role in ensuring a good quality of life for these patients.

Finally, thanks to improvements in medical technology more people are surviving serious trauma accidents. This also increases the need for rehabilitative services to help these people.

Where to find scholarships and grants for physiotherapist aide programs

These programs are with no doubt very expensive to fund. Students should seek financial help through the following institutions:

  • The Tylenol scholarship: Famous for its support of students. Based on your class performance and some leadership skills, it selects 40 students in any medical field for sponsorship. Those that qualify are given scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Scholarships of Excellence: Students currently studying in any health related field can apply for grants from The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions. It offers scholarships to the limits of $1000 to qualified candidates.
  • PTCAS: A centralized application service that avails many tools and resources needed by physiotherapy students. In addition, it also provides fee waivers to those who qualify.


The demand will only grow in the future. If you would like a fulfilling career, that can make a meaningful difference for the life of your patients, then you may want to consider the benefits of becoming a physical therapy assistant.