Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants: The Differences and Similarities

Working in the field of physical therapy has a number of entry points, all which come with varying requirements in terms of education, certification, and experience. This enables individuals of many different backgrounds and ambitions to get involved in this engaging field and best develop a long-term plan of action for further involvement and the most fulfilling career. It’s important though to know the distinction between physical therapy aides and physical therapy assistants, as well as what they have in common. Below we’ve outlines some of the requirements of getting into various positions and what responsibilities are entailed within each:

Physical Therapy Aide

Becoming a physical therapy aide typically requires a high school diploma or a GED and makes a great entry point into the field. Aides aren’t required to have previous experience, although it helps, and will receive on-the-job training to prepare them for the role. Physical therapy aides are often much more restricted in their responsibilities due to their limited education. Tasks include helping patients into or out of the therapy area, cleaning treatment areas, washing linens, and the handling of clerical tasks. The average salary for physical therapy aides typically is around $23,880.

Physical Therapy Assistant

Obtaining a position as a physical therapy assistant is often much more desired than an aide position, namely because of the increase in pay and responsibilities. The education required for physical therapy positions is typically an associates degree from an accredited college or university, along with certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, among others. Additionally, in order to work as a physical therapy assistant, licensure must be acquired by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. The mean annual wage for physical therapy assistants is $52,160, which places it as one of the most lucrative wages in terms of positions acquired with associates degrees.

Similarities Between Positions

Both physical therapy aides and assistants work in the same environment, which definitely creates some overlap in terms of responsibilities and traits needed to be successful in either position. Job outlook in both positions has an optimistic outlook of 40% for aides and 41% for assistants, which creates appeal and availability to transition from the role of aide to assistant. Useful traits in either profession include things such as compassion, due to the need patients often have to have their concerns heard and tactful support administered. Additionally, an ability to pay attention to detail equips both aides and assistants with the skill-set to ensure patients get all the care needed in an environment that has all the particularities they might require. Possessing a refined sense of altruism is also very handy in both positions and emphasizes to patients how much attention is focused on helping them feel better.

Guide to Physical Therapy Assisting Programs

Purdue University – Purdue University is one of the nation’s largest providers of online education. The school has a bachelor program for Health and Wellness as well as Health Science. While these programs will help students in learning many of the credentials needed for physical therapy assisting, on the job training and further education may be required.
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South University – South University offers an AS degree in Physical Therapy Assisting that is designed to be completed in about two years. This program teaches students skills needed to be successful including patient interaction, preparing patients as well as equipment for testing or exams, verifying insurance coverage, filing reports, and ordering supplies. South also offers an AS in Occupational Therapy Assisting and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy
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AT Still University – For students who wish to obtain their education while holding part- or full-time jobs, AT Still University makes that possible by offering an online program for their MS in Physician Assistant Studies. This program is designed for students seeking a career in healthcare and helps prepare them for various positions like Physical Therapy Aide.
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