A PTA, or physical therapy assistant, is supervised and directed by a physical therapist. The PTA helps provide any necessary components regarding the physical therapy treatment and works directly with the physical therapist and the patient. They ensure the goals of the care plan are met, and provide patients with functional training, therapeutic exercise, electrotherapy, deep soft tissue massage, and ultrasound. The PTA helps implement wellness and fitness programs, so the patient can live a more active and healthier lifestyle.

What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do

Once the physical therapist has examined and diagnosed the patient, a plan of care is designed. The PTA then performs duties including traction, massage, therapeutic exercise, balance and gait training, ultrasound, motor learning and development, electrotherapy and patient and family education. The PTA often assists patients with crutches, orthotics, wheelchairs, and prosthetics. The PTA additionally provides information to the physical therapist regarding the patient’s treatment response and data from their medical record. A PTA must be able to handle emergency situations. PTA’s are involved with coding, billing, risk management, quality improvement and numerous administrative activities.

physical therapist assistant doing therapy

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Make

The median salary for a PTA is $21.77 per hour or $45,290 annually. The salary varies depending on the position, the level of experience, the geographic location, the degree of education and the practice setting.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

A PTA is required to graduate from a physical therapy education program. The schools attended must be accredited. Once the individual has graduated, a national state-administered exam must be passed to obtain a license and certification. Some of the education requirements vary depending on the state, the state regulations and the physical therapy practice. The only accredited agency approved by the United States Department of Education concerning physical therapy is the CAPTE, or the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

The Jobs for a Physical Therapist Assistant

Approximately 72 percent of all physical therapist assistants are employed by privately owned practices or hospitals. Some work in schools, home health and rehab units. There are a lot of different categories in the physical therapy field, and they all require a PTA. This includes:

  • Acute Care-provided to individuals requiring short-term hospital care for trauma, recovery, accidents, surgery or illness.
  • School-provides physical therapy to pre-schools and elementary, secondary, vocational and high schools.
  • Home Health-provides care in the residence of the patient. These patients are usually senior citizens, individuals requiring care due to injuries or pediatric patients diagnosed with a developmental illness. This care can additionally be provided at the home of the caregiver, a skilled nursing facility, an emergency room, a group home, residential facility or hospice.
  • Hospice-Patients with incurable diseases are provided with physical therapy for pain management and to maintain functional abilities.
  • Wellness/Fitness/Sports/Prevention-provides physical therapy for people with a focus on health and wellness. The emphasis is placed on promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing injuries and illnesses. The treatment of diseases is not emphasized. This type of setting included sports training facilities and fitness centers.
  • Outpatient clinic/Private practice-provides physical therapy through a health care facility, office or clinic to address neuromuscular or musculoskeletal impairments or injuries.
  • Skilled nursing facility/Nursing home/Extended care facility-provides physical therapy to individuals admitted to facilities specializing in the care of elderly patients. This includes rehabilitation, long-term nursing care, and other additional services.
  • Rehabilitation hospital-Physical therapy is provided to people admitted to a rehabilitation unit or facility. The goal is to improve the ability of the individuals to care for themselves properly.
  • Research center-Research is conducted to improve the outcomes and care of patients.