Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical Therapy Assistant – A Rewarding Career


Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant is one of the fastest ways to enter into high paying physical therapy salaries.

The job is both highly rewarding on a personal level and financially.  In this article we will explore the actual work a physical therapy assistant does, the salary they receive, and the educational requirements.

What Does A Physical Therapy Assistant Do?

Physical therapist assistant job descriptions can be very diverse.  Your daily tasks will be determined by the type of setting you practice in and the needs of the Physical Therapist you will be assisting.  Here are some of the common items:

  • Teaching Mobility Exercises
  • Assisting with Strength and Conditioning Exercises
  • Coordination Training
  • Training patients to use crutches, canes, and walkers.
  • Therapeutic Massage
  • Applying Electrotherapy treatments including ultrasound and electrical stimulation.

Listen to what Zach has to say about his career as a Physical Therapy Assistant


As a physical therapist assistant you may be working in a wide variety of different settings including:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Clinics
  • Home Health Visits
  • Nursing Homes
  • Schools
  • Sports Facilities
  • Fitness Centers

In all of these settings your practice as a  assistant physical therapist should come under the direct supervision of the Physical Therapist.  This does not mean they will be constantly watching over your shoulder, but will be responsible of laying out the treatment plans.

The Financial Rewards – Physical Therapy Assistant Salary

The salary for physical therapy assistant is one of the highest you will find for careers requiring only an Associate’s Degree.  The current salary across the USA falls into these ranges:

  • Median Salary – $45,782 Annually
  • Bottom 25% – $40,272 Annual Average
  • Upper 25% – $50,141 Annual Average

Salaries vary by state, settings, and your experience levels.

How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

Becoming a physical therapy assistant is going to require graduating from program which has been approved by CAPTE, the Commission for Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.  This program is an Associate’s degree program which normally takes 5 semesters to complete.  During your training you can expect to have this breakdown on course work:

  • 75% Classroom and Lab Study
  • 25% Clinical Experience (Equals approximately 16 weeks of hands-on clinical work.)

Your classes will include a wide variety of courses involving the human body and treatment procedures.  Expect to include these classes in your coursework:

Assistant Physical Therapist

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Kinesiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Clinical Pathology
  • Behavioral Science
  • Communication
  • Ethics and Values

As you can imagine, this is an intensive two year curriculum.  You should expect to spend many hours studying to keep up with your classes.

The Next Step – The Physical Therapy Assistants License

Finishing your associate’s degree is not enough to start practicing as a PTA.   In 48 states and the District of Columbia you are required to be licensed, certified, or registered.

In most states this requires passing the NPTE.  The National Physical Therapy Licensing exam has two paths, one for Physical Therapy Assistants and another for Physical Therapists.

The exam is a computer-based test which will test your knowledge acquired during your studies. The exam is offered nationwide through Prometric testing centers making it easy for all students to locate a local testing center.

Depending on which state you will be practicing in there may be additional requirements.  The American Physical Therapy Association maintains a database of each state’s requirement, or you can check with your local state licensing board.

Acquiring both your associate’s degree and passing the NPTE concludes the physical therapy assistant requirements for most students.

The Cost of Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical Therapy Assistant TrainingIn a 2008 survey done by the APTA the cost breakdown for physical therapy assistant programs broke down as follows:

  • Public/In-State Programs – $7,816 / Year
  • Private Colleges or Programs – $26,493 / Year

Keep in mind you will be dedicating 2 to 3 years of time for your education.

I found this interesting article written by Luc, describing in detail the various specialties and career paths a person may take that is interested in becoming a physical therapist. I hope you find it as informative as I did.

Physical Therapist Specialties

By Luc F. D.

As a student of physical therapy, there are a number of different career paths that will be made available to you. You could be working directly with patients or managing a group of your peers. However, many physical therapists realize how many different career paths are actually available to them.

In total, the amount of information related to physical therapy is vast. This has led many physical therapists to specialize in one area or another. There are a number of currently recognized specializations including sports physical therapy and clinical electrophysiology, however there are six basic categories of specialization. Choosing your specialization is the best way to jump-start your career and is the most important step in defining your possible career paths.

1. Cardiopulmonary

A physical therapist that specializes in cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation is known as a Cardiopulmonary PT. The primary focus of this specialty includes increasing endurance and functional independence. This field also utilizes manual therapy in order to clear lung secretions that are the result of cystic fibrosis. There are a number of people that can be helped by Cardiopulmonary PTs such as people who has suffered from: heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, post coronary bypass surgery, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Life at a Physical Therapy Assistant College

2. Geriatrics

A Geriatric physical therapist must cover a variety of issues related to adult aging however the primary focus is normally on the elderly. There are a number of conditions that are likely to arise as aging occurs including arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, bone replacements (hip, joint, etc.) balance issues, and incontinence. Anyone with these conditions can benefit from visiting a practicing physical therapist with a specialization in geriatrics.

3. Neurological

A neurological physical therapist is focused on helping people who have any neurological disease or disorder. The common impairments that a neurological physical therapist will deal with include: impaired vision, balance, movement, speech, ambulation, and hindrance of daily activities.

4. Orthopedic

Orthopedic Physical Therapy

An orthopedic physical therapist is able to diagnose, manage, and treat both disorders and injuries that are related to the musculoskeletal system.

They are trained to deal with the treatment following post-operative orthopedic procedures, acute sports injuries, fractures, sprains, strains, arthritis, spinal conditions, amputations, and back and neck pain.

5. Pediatric

A pediatric physical therapist will assist in detecting potential health problems early. They normally use a variety of modalities to treat these disorders.

The standard patient is an infant, child, or adolescent. The treatment focus is primarily geared toward improving motor skills, balance, coordination, endurance, and strength. Sometimes cognitive and sensory processing is also treated.

6. Intergumentary

Physical therapists that have specialized to deal with issues related to conditions the involve the skin. Common conditions include extreme burns and wounds. Standard instruments include surgical tools, dressings, topical agents, and mechanical lavage. These instruments are traditionally used to help speed up the healing process with promoting good tissue health.

As you can see there are a number of different specialization options in physical therapy. Choosing a specialization is critical in defining a career path and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. For more Information Visit: Physical Therapy Schools []. Direct Link: Physical Therapy Specialties []. Article Source:

I hope you enjoyed Luc’s article and have a better understanding on the various opportunities that are available to those interested in becoming a physical therapist.

Career Opportunities as a Physical Therapy Assistant

While many career paths have declined in need over the last few year a career as a Physical Therapy Assistant has maintained a strong growth cycle.  This growth pattern is expected to continue over the upcoming years and you can be assured of a rewarding sports medicine salary.

Physical Therapist Assistant

In recent studies it was determined only 3.9% of students having completed their degree and licensing requirements were unemployed.  This is an amazingly low figure compared to most industries.

Choosing a career as a Physical Therapy Assistant offers you a fast path into an exciting, rewarding, and profitable career.