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What Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Do?

If you get satisfaction out of helping someone reach a goal, here’s a job to consider. Physical therapy assistants, sometimes called PTAs, work one-on-one with patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement and manage pain. They help people live healthy, active lives.

Physical therapy assistants work under the direct supervision of a physical therapist. Assistants’ tasks vary by state, but they often include exercise, massage, balance training, stretching and resistance training. 

A related job is a physical therapy aide, who performs tasks indirectly related to patient care, such as setting up the treatment area.

PTAs provide patient care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports facilities, work settings and nursing homes.

Demand for this industry is expected to grow 33% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

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$ 30,000 - $ 81,000
$ 59,000
14,160+
A physical therapy assistant helps a woman keep her balance as she tries to walk in the hospital
Physical therapy assistants possess the compassion and skills to help patients get back to normal daily activities. (Credit: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)
A Day In the Life
Image
Physical therapy assistants like Brandon Shreve help people who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement.
A Day In the Life

Brandon Shreve says he always wanted to work in a helping profession. The secret for him was finding the right one. 

Through his work in human services as a case manager, he saw the tangible benefits of physical therapy in his clients and decided to switch careers. 

Now he works at Mountain State Physical Therapy in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he see how patients benefit from his help — something he finds extremely satisfying.

He also loves the constant change of pace. "Every patient and every day is different," says Brandon.
 

Job Responsibilities
  • Observe patients before, during and after therapy
  • Communicate that information to a physical therapist
  • Treat patients using massage and other techniques that include use of specific equipment
  • Teach patients how to do specific exercises and and stretches 
  • Educate patients about how to care for themselves after treatment, or work with family members to do this
  • Document treatment and patient’s progress
  • Set up and maintain room and equipment used for treatment
Education + Training

A high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training is typically required for entry-level physical therapist aides. Physical therapy assistants must earn an associate degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Programs for physical therapy assistants offer coursework in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. During this time, assistants gain clinical experience through hands-on, supervised work.

All states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed or certified. Licensure typically requires graduation from an accredited program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam. Most states do not require physical therapy aides to be licensed. Some states require students to pass an additional exam, undergo a background check and be at least 18 years of age.

Many assistants take continuing education courses to keep their licenses and to stay up to date.

You May Be a Good Fit for This Position If You
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Have excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Are compassionate and enjoy helping others improve their health
  • Have good dexterity
  • Have the physical stamina to work with patients all day, including kneeling, stooping, bending and spending extended time on your feet.

Physical Therapy Assistant Training in Your Area

Coordinates
Hutchinson Community College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson (138.4 Miles)
Oklahoma City Community College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Oklahoma City Community College
Oklahoma City (156.7 Miles)
Mineral Area College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Mineral Area College
Park Hills (291.6 Miles)
Jefferson College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Jefferson College
Hillsboro (293.1 Miles)
Dallas College logo

Physical Therapy Aide Non-Credit Certificate

Dallas College
Farmers Branch (294.7 Miles)
Southwest Tennessee Community College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Southwest Tennessee Community College
Memphis (352.4 Miles)
Northeast Community College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Northeast Community College
Norfolk (354.2 Miles)
Amarillo College logo

Physical Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Amarillo College
Amarillo (366.5 Miles)
Western Iowa Tech Community College logo

Physical Therapy Assistant, A.A.S

Western Iowa Tech Community College
Sioux City (374.1 Miles)
West Kentucky Community and Technical College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Paducah (388.9 Miles)
Kirkwood Community College logo

Physical Therapy Assistant, A.A.S

Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids (397.5 Miles)
Black Hawk College logo

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Black Hawk College
Moline (413.5 Miles)

Find Physical Therapy Assistant Jobs in Your Area

Coordinates

Rehab Therapy Tech

Encompass Health
Wichita ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 3 weeks ago

Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) - Rehabilitation Services

Coffeyville Regional Medical Center
Coffeyville ( 6.2 ) Miles
Posted 1 month ago

PTA Physical Therapy Assistant - Bartlesville

AMITA Health
Bartlesville ( 27.3 ) Miles
Posted 6 days 4 hours ago

PTA Physical Therapy Assistant - Bartlesville

Ascension Health
Bartlesville ( 27.3 ) Miles
Posted 1 day 4 hours ago

Physical Therapist Assistant PRN

Therapy Management Corporation
Chanute ( 42.2 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Genesis Healthcare LLC
Collinsville ( 50.3 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 3 weeks ago

Physical Therapist Assistant PRN

Therapy Management Corporation
Baxter Springs ( 53.3 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) (Full Time)

Genesis Healthcare LLC
Iola ( 60.3 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 3 days ago