Job Description

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.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Help people recover from injuries
  • See progress through treatment
2018 Employment
2028 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

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
Different places of employment
  • 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.

Skills Needed
  • Compassion
  • 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 
Current Trends

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. 

What kind of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…
  • Enjoyed helping people
  • Enjoyed science and biology
  • Played sports and was active
Education and Training Needed
  • 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).
Things to do in high school
  • Shadow or intern with a physical therapist
  • Volunteer or work as a health care provider.
  • Take challenging science courses. 
Typical Roadmap
Gladeo Physical Therapist Assistant Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • 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. 
Career Advancement
  • 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.
Recommended Resources

American Physical Therapy Association: Information for prospective students 


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Source: Interviews, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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