Physical Therapist Assistant

Last Updated:
April 27, 2023

Job Description Overview

As a Physical Therapist Assistant, you'll work alongside licensed Physical Therapists to help patients regain mobility and reduce pain. Your role involves promoting physical fitness and restoring physical function to individuals who are experiencing injuries, disabilities, or illnesses. You'll provide personalized care, create exercise plans, and closely monitor patients' progress. 

Specifically, you'll assist therapists with evaluating patients and creating treatment plans, documenting treatment and patient responses, and guiding patients through therapeutic exercises. You'll also use modalities like hot and cold packs, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation to help patients with pain management. 

In addition, you'll educate patients and their families about the importance of proper exercise and postural habits, and monitor progress toward goals. Thus, being an integral part of the healthcare team, a Physical Therapist Assistant job description includes excellent communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to motivate others to achieve their goals.

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Job Duties and Responsibilities

  • A physical therapist assistant helps patients regain strength and mobility after an injury or illness.
  • They work closely with physical therapists to implement treatment plans and exercises.
  • Physical therapist assistants help patients with stretches, exercises, and other therapeutic techniques.
  • They monitor patient progress and make adjustments to treatment plans as needed.
  • Physical therapist assistants also educate patients and their families on effective at-home exercises and techniques.
  • They help administer modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and hot/cold packs.
  • Physical therapist assistants help with patient movement during rehabilitative exercise.
  • They help maintain the cleanliness and organization of the physical therapy office or facility.
  • Physical therapist assistants may also assist in administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments and maintaining patient records.

Experience and Education Requirements

To work in the healthcare industry as a Physical Therapist Assistant, you typically need a mix of education and experience. First, you need to earn an associate's degree from an accredited program that includes coursework in subjects like anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. During your studies, you'll also need hands-on clinical experience to develop your skills. After graduation, you generally need to pass a licensure exam to become a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant. Once you're licensed, you can start working in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics. Experience in working with patients with physical conditions is also important to succeed in this field.

Salary Range

Physical Therapist Assistant salary range in the United States is between $33,000 to $63,000 per year, with an average salary of $47,000. The salary range varies depending on geographical location, years of experience, and industry sector. In California, Physical Therapist Assistants can make between $54,000 to $74,000 per year. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, have average salaries ranging from £18,000 to £35,000 ($23,000 to $44,000) and AU$42,000 to AU$70,000 ($30,000 to $50,000) respectively.



Career Outlook

The career outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) is looking to be growing in the healthcare industry over the next 5 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of PTAs is projected to increase by 33% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. 

The demand for PTAs is expected to rise as the population ages and the incidence of chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, increases. As people age, they are more likely to experience mobility problems, which may require physical therapy.

Additionally, advancements in medical technology have allowed for more life-saving treatments, meaning there are more survivors of critical illnesses and injuries who require ongoing physical therapy to regain their strength and rebuild their lives.

Overall, PTAs are in demand and are projected to continue being in demand in the future, making it a promising career for those interested in helping others through healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What does a Physical Therapist Assistant do?

A: A Physical Therapist Assistant works with patients under the guidance of a licensed Physical Therapist, helping them regain movement and manage pain through exercises, stretches, and other physical therapy interventions.

Q: What kind of education do you need to become a Physical Therapist Assistant?

A: You need an Associate's degree from an accredited Physical Therapist Assistant program, which typically takes two years to complete.

Q: What kind of patients do Physical Therapist Assistants work with?

A: Physical Therapist Assistants work with patients of all ages who have a wide range of conditions or injuries impacting their mobility, such as stroke, arthritis, back pain, or sports injuries.

Q: Where do Physical Therapist Assistants work?

A: Physical Therapist Assistants work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and schools.

Q: What kind of skills do you need to be a successful Physical Therapist Assistant?

A: Physical Therapist Assistants need strong communication skills, empathy, patience, attention to detail, and physical stamina to help patients through often-challenging exercises and stretches. They also need to be comfortable working as part of a healthcare team while maintaining patient confidentiality.

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