Salary and Career Information for Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants

Physical therapy aides and assistants, also known as PTAs, are in charge of a variety of tasks within a physical therapy office. They’re usually under the supervision of a physical therapists. Their job responsibilities include helping make physical therapy sessions productive for both the doctor and patient. However, it’s important to note that an aide and an assistant are two different roles. An assistant needs to be licensed in order to practice, while an aide can usually qualify for employment with a high school diploma.

There is an increasing demand for PTAs and as of 2010, there were approximately 63,800 licensed/certified physical therapist assistants working the United States. That number is expected to jump to over 85,000 over the next ten years, meaning there will be plenty of new opportunities for up and coming PTAs.

Physical Therapy Career Information

To obtain a career in physical therapy, many states require you to attend an accredited physical therapy assistant program. Typically these programs offer associate degrees in physical therapy aiding and the course-load will prepare you for a successful career. First-hand experience in these programs includes:

  • Certification in CPR
  • First Aid
  • Clinical Experience

Pay Information for Physical Therapy Aides

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual wages of physical therapy aides was $23,680 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,270, and the top 10 percent earned more than $34,670.

This median wage can fluctuate depending on where in the nation you’re located and how long you have been employed, but generally it is worthwhile to research median salaries for physical therapy aides where ever you plan on moving.

Typically as a physical therapist aide you will work full-time, sometimes working evening and weekend hours to match patient schedules, but a majority of hours will mostly take place during the work-week. Having a flexible schedule will afford you more hours and opportunities to work with patients, establish repertoire, and more quickly become renowned for your work. 

Employment Outlook for Physical Therapy Aides

The employment opportunities for physical therapy aides are quite impressible, with many of the job openings expected to increase nearly 43 percent from 2010 to 2020. Opportunities are supposed to open up due to an increase in the aging population, particularly “Baby Boomers” who, while entering 60+ years, still remain increasingly active and in need of therapy care.

Additionally physical therapists are expected to use assistants and aides to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. An aide is capable of providing many parts of treatment, as directed by the therapist, without the therapist actually being there to assist. This allows patients to meet with the therapist, then afterwards, largely work with an aide to administer care, lessening the financial burden and providing ample career opportunities to aides.

The best job opportunities for physical therapy aides are in:

  • Acute hospital
  • Skilled nursing
  • Orthopedic settings

Job availability will be heavily focused on cities, primarily due to the fact that cities tend to cultivate many more active individuals. Prospects for employment as a physical therapy aide should also be good in rural areas though as well, due to many aging individuals looking to move away from city centers and into more quaint areas.

As a physical therapy aide, one can expect growth and increased stability over the next decade, but it’s also important to look into areas that have a predominant population of active individuals who regularly engage in exercise. This lends itself to believe that only large cities are the places to gainfully become employed, but there is still a large variety of places outside of those large metropolitans. Places such as Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, and Austin are perfect because of their intermediate size, accessibility, and propagation of an active population. These are all great places to inquire into physical therapy aide positions and establish a career.

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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