Physical Therapist Assistant as a Career

From Job Responsibilities to Work Environment

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Physical therapist assistants work with physical therapists, assisting them with implementing the rehabilitation exercises and therapies associated with recovering from an injury or disability. Working as a physical therapist assistant could be a great alternative to working as a physical therapist, as it does not require as many years of college. Also, a job as a physical therapist assistant could be a great stepping stone to a career as a physical therapist, while you complete the additional years of school and training required to be a physical therapist.

Job Duties and Responsibilities

Physical therapy assistants may perform many of the same tasks as physical therapists, such as helping patients through various exercises, workouts, massages, hot or cold packs, electric stimulation, or paraffin baths. PTAs perform these tasks at the direction of the physical therapist who is ultimately responsible for determining the patient's treatment plan and evaluating the patient's progress. The physical therapist assistant does participate in patient documentation and monitoring.

Work Environment

Work environments for physical therapist assistants could include medical offices, clinics, rehabilitation centers, or hospitals. No matter where you work, any career in physical therapy requires physical strength, including supporting or lifting disabled patients, and operating or moving heavy equipment. Therefore, a physical therapist assistant should be in good physical shape.

Schedules vary based on the needs of the employer and the patient base, but jobs are available in full- or part-time schedules. Some PTA positions may require night or weekend shifts, according to Moberly.

Education and Training Requirements

Physical therapist assistants hired by MedTravelers typically earn an associate's degree from an accredited program. An accredited PTA program usually entails two years of undergraduate education, and there are more than 200 such programs nationwide. Most PTA programs include a combination of classroom and clinical instruction. As with many allied careers, the curriculum includes life sciences such as anatomy and physiology, as well as CPR and basic lifesaving and first aid skills.

Average Annual Salary and Benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for physical therapist assistants is $58,040. Pay scale can vary according to the industry, employer, and state where you work. For example, California, Nevada, and Texas are the highest paying states, along with Florida and Tennessee which rank slightly lower.

Additionally, the highest paying employers are those in nursing care facilities, with an average of over $66,440 annual salary, according to the BLS as of 2018.

In addition to salary, PTAs typically earn standard benefits such as paid vacation, and health insurance coverage.

Where the Jobs Are for Physical Therapist Assistants

More than one-third of the more than 60,000 PTAs in the United States work in medical offices of physician practices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical and surgical hospitals are the second-largest employer of physical therapist assistants, with over 17,000 PTAs employed.

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