Physical therapist assistants help patients who have movement difficulties due to injury, surgery or disease, by assisting physical therapists with therapies to improve mobility, relieve pain, or limit permanent physical disability.
- Help people recover from injuries
- See progress through treatment
Physical therapist assistants typically do the following:
- Observe patients before, during, and after therapy, noting the patient’s status and reporting it to a physical therapist
- Help patients do specific exercises as part of the plan of care
- Treat patients, using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
- Use devices and equipment, such as walkers, to help patients
- Educate patients and family members about what to do after treatment
- Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists
- Hospitals - Outpatient clinics, Rehabilitation centers
- Nursing care facilities
- Home healthcare services
- Offices of physicians
- Sports training facilities
Click here to see how these different settings differ.
- Detail oriented
- Dexterity - use hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercise
- Interpersonal skills
- Physical stamina
- Work nights and weekends
- On feet often to set up equipment and help treat patients
- Must lift and move patients
The demand for physical therapy is expected to increase in response to health needs of an aging population. Also, the number of chronic conditions have been more prevalent more recently. Physical therapists may use physical therapist assistants increasingly, especially in long-term care environments, to reduce the cost of services.
- Enjoyed helping people
- Enjoyed science and biology
- Played sports and was active
- 2 year Associate’s degree from accredited physical therapist assistant program
- Courses in algebra, english, anatomy, physiology and psychology
- Hands on experience with supervised clinical work
- May earn certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), and other first-aid skills.
- All states except Hawaii require passing the PTA National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) physical to be licensed or certified. Specific requirements vary by state which is defined by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
- Shadow or intern with a physical therapist
- Volunteer or work as a health care provider.
- Take challenging science courses.
- Pass the NPTE test and get certified in your state
- While doing clinical rotations, find out which type of office you think you would thrive in and connect with them and other future potential similar employers.
- Specialization through PTA Advanced Proficiency Pathways (APP) - Click here to learn more.
- Physical therapist: There are only two "bridge" educational program that formally incorporates the PTA's knowledge, skills, and experience into the curriculum - the University of Findlay in Ohio and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in Texas. Click here to learn more.
American Physical Therapy Association: Information for prospective students