PTA helping patient

Fastest Growing Jobs in America: Physical Therapist Assistants

The healthcare field has always been an area recent college grads look to as a dependable source for jobs. If you haven’t looked into becoming a physical therapist assistant yet, you may want to! The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2012 and 2022 the number of physical therapist assistants will rise 41%. As of 2012, the average pay for a physical therapist assistant was $52,160 per year. This job is ranked #11 on the list of Best Health Care Jobs and #17 on the list of Best 100 Jobs.

The need for physical therapist assistants is significantly on the rise. Why? Baby-boomers, a huge part of the population, are growing older and are requiring more health care, including physical therapy. Physical therapy is a rapidly growing sector in the healthcare industry as a way of recovery from injury, illness, and surgery. Why work in physical therapy? For one, the ability exists to work full-time, part-time, and with a lot of flexibility. You also are taking on an entry-level job in the healthcare field with one of the highest paying salaries. Have we caught your interest yet? If so, let’s take a look at what a physical therapist assistant does on a day-to-day basis.

What is A Physical Therapist Assistant?

A physical therapist assistant, or PTA, works under the supervision of physical therapists. They assist and often facilitate their own therapy sessions. The goal of an assistant is to help rehabilitate a patient who is recovering from an injury or other condition in order to help with their pain management and overall discomfort. Be aware: physical therapy aides are commonly confused with physical therapist assistants. Aides differ from assistants in that they are limited in the tasks they can perform due to state licensing regulations and often carry little to no hands-on responsibility.

Duties of A Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants deal directly with the patient by conducting stretching, massaging, or instructing exercises created by the physical therapist during a therapy session. They keep a close eye on patients before, during, and after treatment and take note of what needs to be done to further a patient’s improvement. Responsibilities of a PTA include keeping track of patient records, cleaning therapy setups, and showing patients how to use special equipment like walkers, crutches, or canes. 

Who Would Make A Good PTA? 

Assistants are responsible for direct care with a patient, which makes this a great job for someone who is personable and shows compassion. People who like to be hands-on and see the results of their work would also be great for this job, because you get to see the improvement of patients and your work helping others. PTAs must have patience because progress of a patient can be a long road. More than anything, PTAs should have an encouraging nature to better help their patients’ progress. Not to mention the fact that PTAs are on their feet almost all day. You have to have the ability to stand and move for long hours at a time!

So You Want to Be A PTA: How to Get There

Most states require physical therapy assistants attend a PTA program and obtain an associate’s degree. These programs are usually only two years long, but they include a significant amount of training. You’ll gain both classroom and hands-on experience. Unless you plan to work in Hawaii, you will also have to get licensed (Hawaii is the only state that does not require this). You can get licensed by attending a PTA program as well as completing and passing the National Physical Therapy exam. Here at OpenSesame we also have a few courses to help you on the road to becoming a PTA! Check out these courses on ethics and professional responsibility for physical therapist assistants:

Image Credit: Henglen and Steets via Corbis Images