Physical Therapist Assistants Overview

Though there is a lot of competition from qualified applicants, job prospects should be good for physical therapist assistants. Physical therapist assistants are different than aides that learn on the job because they obtain an associate’s degree. Physical therapist assistants usually work in hospitals or offices of healthcare practitioners.

Nature of the Work for Physical Therapist Assistants

Physical Therapist Assistants

The work of a physical therapy assistant involves assisting physical therapists who are helping patients improve mobility, relieving pain and preventing physical disabilities. Those who have been in accidents or with disabling conditions such as heart disease or arthritis might see a physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants can also help patients exercise as well as teach patients how to use aides, such as crutches. They can also help patients exercise, help with massages, as well as gait and balance training. Physical therapist assistants will also record how the patient responds to treatment and report the findings to the physical therapist.

Lifting, kneeling, stooping, bending, and standing are a part of the job for physical therapy assistants. Hours vary for physical therapist assistants especially for those working part-time. Evening and weekend hours may occur for those working in outpatient offices.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Physical Therapist Assistants

Physical therapist assistants earning associate’s degrees must earn them from an accredited physical therapist assistant program. Most states will require physical therapy assistants to be licensed. Most programs are accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. With over 223 programs from physical therapist assistants to choose from, physical therapist assistants usually complete the program in 2 years and receive an associate’s degree from the program.

The program allows students to complete academic coursework as well as participate hands-on. Academic coursework includes anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Clinical coursework includes CPR certifications and first aid. Clinical experience is seen as essential by both employers and educators to ensure that physical therapist assistants understand their job responsibilities.

Licensure, registration or certification is usually required for physical therapist assistants in most states. Physical therapist assistants must pass the National Physical Therapy Exam after graduating from an accredited education program. Some physical therapist assistants in certain states are also required to pass a State exam. Continuing education credits may also be required by some states.

Physical therapist assistants should take direction well, work well in teams, have strong interpersonal skills, a desire to help people in need, be well-organized and detail oriented.

Physical therapist assistants who have gained additional skills in geriatric, pediatric, musculoskeletal or cardiopulmonary physical therapy recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association can advance in their careers. Physical therapy assistants can also advance to administrative positions, such as a director for a specific department.

Physical therapist assistants can work at an accredited physical therapy assistant academic program as a teacher as a way to advance in their career.

Top 10 Most Popular Physical Therapist Assistant Schools

1. Academy for Nursing and Health Occupations (West Palm Beach, Florida)
2. Carrington College, Phoenix North (Phoenix, Arizona)
3. ICDC College, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
4. Greenville Technical College (Greenville, South Carolina)
5. GateWay Community College (Phoenix, Arizona)
6. Unitech Training Academy, West Monroe (West Monroe, Louisiana)
7. Oakton Community College (Des Plaines, Illinois)
8. Central Penn College, Summerdale (Summerdale, Pennsylvania)
9. Baker College, Muskegon (Muskegon, Michigan)
10. University of Puerto Rico, Humacao (Humacao, Puerto Rico)

See All Physical Therapist Assistant Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Physical Therapist Assistant Schools

1. Medical Careers Institute - Online School
2. Ashworth College - Online School

Employment and Job Outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

Out of the 63,800 jobs held by physical therapy assistants, 72 percent worked in hospitals and health practitioner offices.

Increasing demands for physical therapy services will create more jobs for physical therapy assistants. Due to reimbursements for physical therapy services, patient access to physical therapy services will increase. An increase in the elderly population will also create jobs for physical therapy assistants.

Developments in medicine and technology will help trauma victims and newborns with birth defects survive, hence the need for rehabilitative services such as physical therapy.

To reduce the costs of physical therapy services, more physical therapists will use physical therapy assistants when practicing. The physical therapist, with the treatment plan from the physical therapist, can provide many parts of the treatment to the patient.

Skilled orthopedic and nursing settings as well as acute hospitals will offer the most job prospects for physical therapy assistants as well as jobs in rural areas. Physical therapists assistants who leave the workplace as well as retire will also create new job opportunities for physical therapist assistants.

Earnings and Salary for Physical Therapist Assistants

Median annual wages of physical therapist assistants are $48,290. The middle 50 percent earn between $39,070 and $57,780. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $30,400, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $66,460.

Annual Salary for Physical Therapist Assistants

On average, Physical Therapist Assistants earn $48,290 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $30,400/yr $39,070/yr $57,780/yr $66,460/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook