Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Career Guide

PTAs or physical therapist assistant are trained healthcare professionals who under direct supervision of physical therapists. PTAs work in all kinds of facilities like hospitals, schools, clinics and help patients of all ages with health-related problems that limit their functional activities or ability to move. Sometimes, physical therapist assistants are also responsible for tracking progress of therapy provided and patient’s performance, as a result.

PTA’s job duties can include (but are not limited to) massage of soft tissues, ultrasound and electrical therapy and stimulation, training like helping patient to use walkers and other activities planned by physical therapist.

How to become a PTA?

To become a physical therapy assistant you will need to accomplish a training program and get associate’s degree. To be admitted you need a high school diploma or GED.

Step 1. Training

To become a PTA, prospective students need to accomplish a 2-year associate’s degree. It lasts for 5 semesters and mainly focuses on physical function-related education. Since physical therapy is essential for restoring patient’s ability to move, PT’s (physical therapists) often use PTA’s help in procedures like massage, or exercises. Apart of that, PTA is trained to perform a number of other procedures that may be included in treatment plan, like ultrasound or electrotherapy. To gain all these skills, prospective physical therapist assistants are welcome to participate in all kinds of hospital-based practical training during their training. Candidates that master a wide variety of these skills, receive better chances of employment.

Step 2. Certification/Licensure

Next step after completion of your degree will be to sit for the licensure exam. This is required in all states. Certification, licensure or registration requirements are individual for each state, so you will need to check with your local regulatory board.

NOTE: to get a license, you will need to accomplish a degree that is accredited by CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). This is why we advise to contact multiple schools to find out about their accreditation.

Benefits of becoming a PTA

There are many reasons why you should consider a career in physical therapy. Here are just some of them:

Job that makes a difference

Working as a Physical Therapist Assistant or simply PTA will allow you to make real impact on lives of patients. In the meanwhile, you will have a freedom to do lots of things. Under supervision of physical therapist, assistants work with patients under risk of losing of mobility. They help in implementing all kinds of wellness and fitness strategies to achieve best results. Also, as a valuable part of rehab team they help people who have movement problems after disease or injury.

Growing Demand

According to BLS, physical therapy is one of the fastest-growing healthcare careers at the moment, and demand for physical therapist assistants will rise 35% by 2018. In real numbers it’s 20,000 PTA jobs. One of the reasons for such enormous growth is healthcare reform that now considers physical therapy services a must for people who need it and insurers will have to take this into account. It’s clear that with more patients requiring rehab help, more physical therapists and PTA’s will be needed. Another reason for growing demand is the fact that US population is aging year-by-year and mature people are those who need physical therapy more than younger ones. Therefore, if you’re looking for interesting and rewarding career in healthcare, becoming a physical therapy assistant may become one of your best options.

Rewarding Job

Being a PTA is an extremely rewarding experience. Just imagine how thankful are people who regain their ability to move, whose pain is gone. Job satisfaction of healthcare workers in physical therapy is one of the highest across the industry. What is even more important, you, as a physical therapy assistant will be working during regular hours, as patients do not need physical exercises at night.

Reasonable Salary

As of now, median salary of PTA is around $40,000 with hourly rate of around $19. This is expected to grow in upcoming years, since schools will not be able to satisfy the growing demand, and those PTA who work already, or will join the industry shortly will be required to take more responsibility.

Constant learning curve

As we said above, PTA’s, especially those who work in private establishments, are welcome to gain more knowledge in fields like billing and coding, healthcare administration, and many more. This is a very flexible career that can allow you try many new things and requires constant self-education.

Flexibility

Due to the increasing demand in physical therapist assistants, they are given a unique opportunity to choose from various places to work in. It’s also possible to choose virtually any location across the country. Needless to say, PTAs work with people of all ages (you can choose a school if you love kids, or a nursing home if you wish to help the elderly). Such flexibility makes it possible for a PTA to choose an ideal work place.