Physical Therapist Assistant Guide

So you’re interested in a career as a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA?

At we specialize in helping people get started in entry level healthcare and healthcare assisting roles. We’re here to assist you by providing you with access to all the important information and resources you will need to get started as soon as possible, including information on all the top PTA schools in your area.

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Key FactsDetail
Educational RequirementsMost States will require a minimum of an Associates Degree or Certificate to work in this field
Average Annual Salary$55,250
Average Salary Range $33,128 to $73,000 (depending on experience and location)
Number in Employment (2016)84,500
Employment OutlookExcellent
Work EnvironmentsOutpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, fitness centers
Related Careers Occupational Therapy Assistants, Massage Therapists, Home Health Aides

What does a Physical Therapy Assistant do?

Physical Therapy Assistants, also referred to as PTA’s,  support Physical Therapists in the care and treatment of patients. The objective of physical therapy, and therefore the role of a PTA, is to help clients to improve their ability to physically function independent of anyone or any tools. They are also responsible for some clerical tasks such as recording and reporting the results of treatment.

Most patient will either be elderly, be recovering from surgery or an accident, or they may be suffering from a debilitating disease.

PTA’s can work in a variety of places, though are always under the supervision of a physiotherapist.


Physical Therapy Assistant Job Description

The role and responsibilities of a Physical Therapist Assistant will vary dependent upon their work place. As a Physical Therapist Assistant you may find employment in hospitals, schools, home care agencies, physiotherapist offices/clinics, long term care aid, rehabilitation facilities, and community/government health agencies.

Typical tasks of the role will generally include:

  • Implementing treatment plans as specified by the lead Physical Therapist
  • Assist patients to achieve the correct positions for treatment
  • Lift and transfer patients
  • Prepare and apply hot/cold packs, hydrotherapy and wax therapy
  • Administer electrotherapy (ultrasound, TENS, electrical muscle stimulation and inferential treatment)
  • Do posture drainage, percussion’s and vibrations and teach deep breathing
  • Monitor patients and report their performance
  • Apply braces/artificial limbs and teach clients how to use them
  • Lead and/or participate in group exercises
  • Help patients stretch, exercise and teach posture and walking
  • Measure patients for things like canes and walkers

Other tasks and responsibilities will include:

  • Perform clerical tasks (documentation, statistics, inventory, ordering, telephones, scheduling)
  • Check and store equipment,
  • Change and clean any fabrics
  • Clean equipment/treatment areas
  • Adjust and monitor equipment
  • Prepare treatment areas and equipment

Important Characteristics and Traits

Physical Therapy Assistants work very closely with patients and play a very important role in helping them achieve better motion with their body, manage pain and recover from surgery and disease. It can be a very rewarding career for the right person.

Physical therapist aides are very hands-on with patients and so need to be compassionate, helpful, friendly, very patient, and physically fit so that they can help deal with accidents, lifting, and carrying. They have to be encouraging, patient, and ready to deal with outbursts of frustration and anger when things aren’t progressing perfectly. Good assistants will also be able to work in a group or alone, be able to closely follow directions and be observant. It’s a very demanding job, but for the right people, it’s also highly rewarding.