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Physical Therapy Assistant


Starting a career in the healthcare industry doesn’t have to mean a long-term college education combined with overwhelming debt. A variety of careers in the medical field come with very little college. One such profession is a physical therapy assistant. This rewarding career is a physical therapy assistant, or PTA. With two years of training, you can become a PTA, earn a great salary, and enjoy a satisfying career. Read on to find out if becoming a physical therapy assistant is right for you.

What A PTA Does

You want to go into a career that will allow you to have a positive effect on the world. That means different things to different people, of course. But you know you want to help people overcome illnesses, injuries, and other difficulties that may be holding them back from living their best lives.

As a PTA, you will make a huge impact on your patients. Here’s how.

  • Work in conjunction with, and under the supervision of, the physical therapist and other members of the patient’s medical team.
  • Keep a detailed record on treatments and response.
  • Help the patients work through their exercise plan.
  • Teach patients how to use equipment like walkers, canes, crutches, and other devices.
  • Using stretches, exercises, and massage as treatments for your patients.
  • Discuss recovery with your patient’s friends and family, and how they will be able to assist during and after treatment.

This job will require your all. You’ll be on your feet a lot, along with moving and lifting patients who can range from small children to full-grown (and potentially heavy) adults. Not to mention, you’ll be showing your patients how to do the full exercise, which means you’ll be very active. Being in excellent shape will probably be a good idea.

One risk physical therapy assistants face is back injury, so if you already have a compromised back, then take precautions to protect it.

Find an accredited physical therapist assistant program here.

Qualities Of A Good Physical Therapy Assistant

Not everyone is cut out for the work that comes with being a physical therapy assistant. That’s OK! There are so many different careers available to you that if one isn’t a good fit, you can go into another. Before you commit your time and money to an accredited physical therapy assistant program, you should figure out if you and physical therapy are a match. Ask yourself the following questions. If you respond with a yes, then you’re exactly the type of person this career needs.

  • Are you compassionate?
  • Do you enjoy working with others?
  • Are you a team player?
  • Do you have an eye for the smallest detail?
  • Are you physically and emotionally strong?
  • Are you good with your hands?
  • Are you empathetic and encouraging?

If you answered yes to all or most of those questions, then you should feel confident moving forward into a career as a physical therapy assistant.

How To Become A Physical Therapy Assistant

Believe it or not, you don’t need years upon years of college to become a physical therapy assistant. You do, however, need to graduate from an accredited associate degree program. If the program isn’t accredited, you won’t be able to get the necessary license to practice. What a waste that would be!

The following is a step by step what you’ll need to do to become a physical therapy assistant:

  • Get your high school diploma or GED.
  • Attend a community college or trade school that offers an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
  • The program MUST be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. There are more than 360 of these nationwide.
  • Your program should only take two years to complete if you attend school full time.
  • You may need skills certifications like CPR and Basic Life Support.
  • Once you complete your schooling and graduate, you can apply to take the national physical therapy exam (NPTE) so you can get your license to practice.
  • The licensing exam is given through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and costs $485.
  • Some states may require continuing education credits to keep your license valid. Check with your state to find out more.
  • You’ll be able to find a job with a hospital, doctor’s office, physical therapy clinic, nursing home, and more.

Because you’ll probably be attending a community college, you can expect your physical therapy assistant program to cost an average of $2,500 per semester. Some schools cost more, while others will cost less. This is significantly less expensive than attending a university, where one class alone will cost you $2,000 or more. Private colleges that offer these programs will cost you more money, as will the programs through a medical trade school.

Salary And Job Outlook Of A PTA

The median annual salary is more than $57,000. When you’re just starting, your salary will be closer to around $36,000. Once you’ve been in your career for awhile, you can expect to be bringing home up to $80,000. Nursing care facilities generally pay the highest salaries, and doctor’s offices pay the least. However, where you live, your experience, and where you work will dictate what your real life pay looks like.

You’ll probably be working full time, including weekends, due to varying schedules of your patients.

Gen X and Baby Boomers are two large population demographics, both of which are aging. And with aging comes illness and injury. Because of this, there will be an increase in demand for physical therapy assistants. There are 27,400 new positions projected to be available through 2026, which is a huge growth expectation for this career.