A physical therapy assistant (PTA) is an individual who works in a subordinate position under the supervision of a fully licensed physical therapist. Physical therapy assistants assist the senior physical therapist in their work of helping physically, mentally, and developmentally disabled patients function as normally and healthily as possible. For example, a physical therapy assistant will help suffering patients as they embark upon a regimen of exercise designed to get them mobile again. They also help them regain their health after periods of prolonged illness or injury.
National Average Physical Therapy Assistant Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $36.31 $75,530
Median: $26.16 $54,410
Lower: $15.31 $31,840
States With Highest Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- Texas $33.35 $69,370
- California $31.18 $64,850
- New Jersey $29.63 $61,630
- Alaska $29.58 $61,520
- Florida $28.99 $60,290
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
A physical therapist assistant will perform a wide and diverse series of tasks during the course of their work, which may include some, or all, of the following activities.
- A physical therapist assistant will help their superior observe patients during the course of the prescribed therapy, and offer any assistance that is required.
- Assisting patients in the course of their prescribed exercise, and assist them if they falter or injure themselves during the course of the routine.
- A physical therapy assistant will make use of a wide variety of methods to treat their patients. This may include specific techniques, such as massage or stretching, which are carried out during a course of physical rehabilitation.
- Making use of specific devices and equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, or exercise equipment, in order to assist the senior physical therapist in treating the patient.
- Assisting the senior physical therapist in educating the patient, as well as their spouse, family, or employer, in the proper course of treatment required, as well as how to proceed after the treatment has ended.
The majority of physical therapy assistants will work in the private offices of health care specialists such as physical, occupational, and speech therapists. These may be inpatient or outpatient facilities. Another large proportion of employment comes from hospitals, whether local, state, or private.
Skilled nursing facilities, such as nursing homes, will offer employment to many. Finally, a minority of trained physical therapy assistants will work for private home health care services, or be employed by a single individual or family in a private home.
Physical therapist assistants tend to work full time, i.e., a 40 hour week. Because hospitals tend to work on a 24 hour schedule, the hours worked may include late night or early morning shifts, weekends, and holidays. Many physicians and private outpatient facilities will likewise tailor their services to the needs of a specific patient, which may involve those tending to them working similarly odd hours.
Physical therapists and their assistants will spend a great deal of time on their feet, and may find themselves having to deal with patients who are unable, or nearly unable, to perform basic tasks such as moving by themselves, or feeding themselves. The demands on the caretaker’s physique and patience may be considerable at times.
How To Become A Physical Therapy Assistant:
Physical Therapy Assistant Schools:
Most states will require a physical therapy assistant to have received at least an Associate’s (two year) degree from an accredited institution. As of 2014, there were 298 Associate’s degree programs available for this purpose. In addition, there were a number of special physical therapist and physical therapy assistant schools throughout the country.
Physical Therapy Assistant Certification and License:
Every state with the exception of Hawaii will require a prospective physical therapist assistant to be specially licensed or certified. This process involves taking a National Physical Therapy Exam, which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.
Many states will require that a prospective physical therapy assistant also pass a number of additional exams (these will vary according to the individual state), and also undergo a full background check. Applicants for this position will need to be a legal adult (18 years old in most states). Physical therapy assistants will also, from time to time, be expected to undergo further courses of training in order to be fully up to date on new developments in the field.
Who Should Become A Physical Therapy Assistant?
Persons applying for physical therapy assistant jobs need to possess a great deal of patience, physical energy and stamina, and compassion. Many patients are under a great deal of stress, as well as pain, and this can make them short tempered and hard to deal with.
In addition, a physical therapist assistant will sometimes be expected to work very long or odd hours, sometimes spending holidays in the company of a bedridden patient who is depressed or very irritable. Physical therapist assistants also need to be extremely goal and detail oriented, and quick to adapt to the needs of the patient, as well as their presiding superior on the job.
How Much Does A Physical Therapy Assistant Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median physical therapy assistant salary is $54,330. The bottom ten percent of all employed physical therapy assistants earned $31,840, while the top ten percent of earners took home $75,530. The state with the highest average salary is Texas with an annual mean salary of $69,370.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
The rate of salary that a physical therapy assistant receives will vary according to the location they work at. For example, a state hospital in a major metropolitan area will pay more than a local hospital in a smaller area. Physical therapy assistants who work for a private employer may be able to negotiate a higher than average salary, or one that is at least competitive with what they might earn at a state or local hospital or physician’s office.
Employment as a physical therapy assistant can lead to rich and rewarding careers in other sectors of the health care field. For example, a physical therapy assistant can upgrade their certification to become a full physical therapist. They can also parlay their skills and training to become nurses, orderlies, dental assistants, and many other professional avocations within the medical industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for physical therapy assistants is expected to grow around 41% between 2014 and 2024. This is almost four times the 7% average growth rate predicted for all careers in the United States during this same time frame.
Due to an aging baby-boom population, the demand for health services will continue to increase at a very fast pace. Physical therapy is one area that will see dramatic growth as older individuals continue to lead active lifestyles much later into their lives. Rehabilitation due to cardiac issues and chronic conditions such as diabetes will make certain the demand for qualified individuals remains high. This represents an excellent opportunity for those looking to get into a growing field with lots of jobs.
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median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*