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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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Median Salary $
44,000
Jobs Available
5,200+
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)
Duties + 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

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Delta College
University Center (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapy Assistant, A.S.

Community College of Allegheny County
Pittsburgh (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.S.

Pensacola State College
Pensacola (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

South Texas College
McAllen (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Waukesha County Technical College
Pewaukee (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

College of Southern Maryland
La Plata (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant Dual with Health Fitness Specialist, A.A.S.

Delta College
University Center (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.S.

Polk State College
Winter Haven (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute
Hudson (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Tulsa Community College
Tulsa (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapy Tech/Aide Continuing Education Certificate

Community College of Baltimore County
Baltimore (0.0 Miles)

Physical Therapist Assistant, A.A.S.

Henry Ford College
Dearborn (0.0 Miles)
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Physical therapy assistants like Brandon Shreve help people who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement.
Meet Ambassador Brandon Shreve

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.
 

Find Physical Therapy Assistant Jobs in Your Area

Coordinates

Physical Therapist Assistant

Stonerise Therapy
Moundsville ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 3 weeks ago

CG - Physical Therapy Assistant

Midwest Health
Chariton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 3 weeks ago

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Genesis Healthcare LLC
Claremont ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year ago

2019 Physical Therapist Assistant Adjunct Faculty

Bryant & Stratton College
Parma ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year 5 months ago

Physical Therapist Assistant

National Healthcare Corporation
Sparta ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months ago

Physical Therapist Assistant

Amedisys Home Health Services
Glasgow ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months 3 weeks ago

Physical Therapist Assistant

National Healthcare Corporation
Mountain Home ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months 2 weeks ago

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Genesis Rehabilitation
Angleton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 1 week ago