Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)
Learn about the different career options and job responsibilities of a physical therapy assistant.
What you'll do: PTAs help physical therapists in their daily activities which include assisting patients during rehabilitation. You'll be trained to conduct therapeutic exercises, provide therapeutic massage, observe patients and evaluate data on a patient's progress. You may fit or adjust supportive devices such as leg braces or crutches. You may also perform clerical duties such as answering phones, ordering supplies and completing forms.
Where you'll work: Health practitioner offices, hospitals, nursing care facilities, home health care
Degree you'll need: Associate's degree
Median annual salary: $37,710*
Cities with high employment levels: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa
Gain Real World Experience
To gain some experience before you start the program, volunteer with a physical therapist, health care practitioner or at a local nursing home.
It will also help to have a strong, well-rounded academic background in biology, chemistry, physics, health, art and the social sciences.
Physical Therapist Assistant Training & Licensing
Physical therapist assistants must earn an associate's degree in physical therapist assisting in order to practice. Currently there are over 250 accredited physical therapist assistant programs in the country.
Curriculum varies from program to program, but in addition to the theory and practice of physical therapy, you'll probably study the basic medical sciences and other general education courses. You'll also gain plenty of hands-on experience in a clinical internship.
Aside from earning a PTA degree, licensing requirements vary from state-to-state. Most states require passage of a state examination, CPR and First Aid certification, and completion of a minimum number of fieldwork hours.
Physical therapist assistant curriculum differs from that of the physical therapist and does not provide the needed prerequisites required for physical therapist education. However, if you do decide to become a PT after you are an experienced PTA, you may want to enter an accredited PTA-to-PT program.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data published March 27, 2012; Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides.
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Education and Career Guide
- Training & Education Time to completion, what you'll study and more.
- Physical Therapist Assistant How to become a PTA.
- Guide to Degrees From DPTs to Transitional MPTs, we’ve sorted it all out for you.
- Financial Aid Questions? We've got answers.
- Student Interview Find out what physical therapy school is really like.
- All About Physical Therapy Jobs What is a physical therapy job like?
- Salary Information How much can you earn as a physical therapist?
- Licensing Guide to physical therapy licensing requirements & exams.
- Physical Therapist Assistant Profile An inside look at physical therapy assistant careers.
- Accreditation & Organizations Physical therapy resources.