Who Are Physical Therapist Assistants?

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. PTAs help people of all ages who have medical problems, or other health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. PTAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health, nursing homes, schools, sports facilities, and more. PTAs may also measure changes in the patient's performance as a result of the physical therapy provided.

Care provided by a PTA may include teaching patients/clients exercise for mobility, strength and coordination, training for activities such as walking with crutches, canes, or walkers, massage, and the use of physical agents and electrotherapy such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation.

Learn more about the role of a PTA. 

What Do PTAs Earn?

The median income for a physical therapist assistant is $46,000 depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location, and practice setting.

Where Do PTAs Work?

Today, physical therapist assitants provide health care services to patients of all ages and health conditions in a variety of settings, including:

  • Outpatient clinics or offices
  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Skilled nursing, extended care, or subacute facilities
  • Homes
  • Education or research centers
  • Schools
  • Hospices
  • Industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments
  • Fitness centers and sports training facilities

Learn more about where PTAs work. 

What are the Educational Requirements for Becoming a PTA?

To work as a PTA, an individual must graduate with an associate degree (two years, usually five semesters) from an accredited PTA program at a technical or community college, college, or university. Graduates must pass the national examination for licensing/certification/regulation in most states to be eligible to work. PTAs work under the direction of a physical therapist (PT).

The PTAs' duties can include assisting in instructing patients in exercises and activities of daily living (including physical modalities), using special equipment, collecting data on the patient's progress, and documenting and reporting on the patient's response. There are currently 235 institutions supporting 252 PTA programs across the country.

Learn more about PTA education. 

What Are the Licensure Requirements for Becoming a PTA?

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia require PTAs to be licensed, registered, or certified. States requiring licensure stipulate specific educational and examination criteria.

What is the Employment Outlook for PTAs?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow much faster than average because of increasing demand for physical therapy services. Job prospects for physical therapist assistants are expected to be very good. The American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA's) most recent data indicate an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent.

How Do I Become a PTA?

Are you interested in becoming a PTA? Learn how in our Prospective Students section!

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