Your Path to Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant

Required Courses
  • Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • Neurological Concepts
  • Physical Therapy Techniques
  • Orthopedics and Pediatrics
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Biology

Physical therapy assistants aid physical therapists in treating patients. They work to improve patient's mobility, relieve pain, and prevent physical disabilities. As an assistant you will help patients exercise. You will provide instruction, electrical stimulation, massage, and balance training. Records must be kept of patient's treatment and progress.

Assistants sometimes manage clerical duties within the physical therapy office or hospital. You will order supplies, answer phone calls, fill out insurance forms, and schedule appointments. Your specific responsibilities vary depending on the facility.

To become a physical therapy assistant, you must complete formal training. Employers prefer certified assistants. The medical industry is growing rapidly. There are great advancement opportunities and job stability in career as a physical therapy assistant.

Step 1 Education

Most states require physical therapy assistants to hold an associates degree. Enroll in a degree program accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. These programs generally take 2 years to complete. They include both classroom and lab work instruction. The majority of training is learned on the job.

You must be CPR certified. Most programs include CPR courses and first aid. Licensure is necessary in some states. There is a National Physical Therapy Exam. To remain licensed continued education is often required.

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Step 2 Job Search

Most physical therapist assistants work in nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and home healthcare services. Some programs offer internships that provide hands on training and experience in such health care centers. These experiences look good on a resume and allow you to form relationships with medical professionals. After completing your degree program you have a network of people to help you find a job.

Another way to get your foot in the door is to volunteer. You could help out in a local hospital or clinic. You will learn what is expected of a physical therapy assistant. Your increased skills and experience will give you an edge up on your competition. Employers prefer those with clinical experience.

Step 3 Career

Employment is expected to grow much faster than average according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. To reduce the cost of physical therapy services more assistants are being hired. Assistants are performing much of duties previously performed by physical therapists. However finding a job is highly competitive.

Your salary ranges between $37,170 and $54,900 a year. Those with advanced degrees and experience have higher earning potential.

Physical therapy assistants can advance their careers. The American Physical Therapy Association recognizes assistants that have developed additional skills in various therapy types. Assistants sometimes work more in administrative positions. They organize the activities and functions of large physical therapy offices. Most therapy assistants work part time. Work schedules may include evening and weekend hours to accommodate patient's personal schedules.