Physical Therapy Assistant Jobs
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Overview
Physical therapist assistants work directly with physical therapists. While physical therapist aides are indirectly involved with patient care such as performing clerical and cleaning duties, physical therapy assistants are directly involved with helping the patients, including those that are recovering from major surgery, severe injuries or chronic illnesses. The primary goal is to help patients manage pain and regain movement.
Tasks for physical therapist assistants typically include observing patients during therapy, helping patients perform specific exercises as part of their recovery, using devices and equipment to help facilitate a patient’s treatment, and educating the patient about what to do after treatment. Physical therapist assistants are most often employed by physical, occupational, and speech therapists. However, they can also work in hospitals, home health care services, and in the offices of physicians.
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Education Requirements
Though the requirements vary from state to state, most states require physical therapist assistants to have an associate’s degree from an accredited physical therapy assistant program. A typical physical therapist assistant program lasts about two years and includes classroom and on-the-job learning. Programs usually include classes in anatomy, physiology, and psychology. With the exception of Hawaii, all states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed or certified, which requires passing the National Physical Therapy Exam that is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. To be a successful physical therapist assistant, applicants should be detail oriented, have good interpersonal skills, and demonstrate compassion toward their patients.
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Market
Employment opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to grow 41 percent by 2022. With the demands of an aging population, physical therapists are expected to hire more physical therapist assistants to help them with their practice. Job opportunities are expected to be most abundant in acute hospital, outpatient orthopedic, and skilled nursing settings. Because physical therapists are often clustered in highly populated urban and suburban areas, employment opportunities are expected to be most plentiful in rural settings.
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Salary Information
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for physical therapist assistants in 2012 was about $52,000. The lowest 10 percent earned $32,000, and the highest paid 10 percent earned $72,000. Most physical therapist assistants work full-time and are sometimes required to work evening and weekend hours to accommodate the schedules of their patients.