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Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Summary

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Quick Facts: Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
2018 Median Pay $48,090 per year
$23.12 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2018 148,200
Job Outlook, 2018-28 26% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 38,000

What Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Do

Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.

Work Environment

Most physical therapist assistants and aides work in physical therapists’ offices or in hospitals. They are frequently on their feet as they set up equipment and help care for patients.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide

Physical therapist assistants entering the occupation typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited program and a license or certification. Physical therapist aides usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for physical therapist aides was $26,240 in May 2018.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $58,040 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for physical therapy is expected to increase in response to the healthcare needs of an aging population and individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for physical therapist assistants and aides.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of physical therapist assistants and aides with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about physical therapist assistants and aides by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Do About this section

Physical therapist assistants and aides
Physical therapist assistants help patients do specific exercises as part of the plan of care.

Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement and manage pain.

Physical therapist assistants are involved in the direct care of patients.

Physical therapist aides often have tasks that are indirectly related to patient care, such as cleaning and setting up the treatment area, moving patients, and doing clerical duties.

Duties

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

Under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, physical therapist assistants treat patients through exercise, massage, gait and balance training, and other therapeutic interventions. They record patients’ progress and report the results of each treatment to the physical therapist.

Physical therapist aides typically do the following:

  • Clean treatment areas and set up therapy equipment
  • Wash linens
  • Help patients move to or from a therapy area
  • Do clerical tasks, such as answering phones and scheduling patients

Physical therapist aides are supervised by physical therapists or physical therapist assistants. The tasks that physical therapist aides are allowed to do vary by state. They usually are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized, preparing for each patient’s therapy, and helping patients as needed in moving to or from a treatment area. In addition, aides do a variety of clerical tasks, such as ordering supplies, scheduling treatment sessions, and completing insurance forms.

Work Environment About this section

Physical therapist assistants and aides
Physical therapist assistants give therapy through exercise, stretching, and other interventions.

Physical therapist aides held about 49,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of physical therapist aides were as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 56%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 25
Offices of physicians 6
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 4
Government 1

Physical therapist assistants held about 98,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of physical therapist assistants were as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 45%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 23
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 10
Home healthcare services 8
Offices of physicians 5

Physical therapist assistants and aides are frequently on their feet and moving as they set up equipment and help and treat patients. Because they must often lift and move patients, they are vulnerable to back injuries. Assistants and aides can limit these risks by using proper techniques when they work with patients.

Work Schedules

Most physical therapist assistants and aides work full time, although part time work is common. Some work nights and weekends because many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide About this section

Physical therapist assistants and aides
Physical therapist assistants gain hands-on experience during supervised clinical work.

Physical therapist assistants entering the occupation typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited program and a license or certification. Physical therapist aides usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training.

Education and Training

All states require physical therapist assistants to have an associate’s degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Programs typically last about 2 years and include coursework in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. Assistants also gain hands-on experience during supervised clinical work.

Physical therapist aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. They also usually need on-the-job training that can last from about one week to one month.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed or certified. Licensure typically requires graduation from an accredited physical therapist assistant program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for physical therapist assistants. The exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states require that applicants pass an exam on the state’s laws regulating the practice of physical therapy assistants, undergo a criminal background check, and be at least 18 years old. Physical therapist assistants also may need to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Check with your state board for specific licensing requirements.

Additionally, physical therapy assistants may earn certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), or other first-aid skills.

States do not require physical therapist aides to be licensed.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Physical therapist assistants and aides should enjoy helping people. They work with people who are in pain and must have empathy to help their patients.

Detail oriented. Physical therapist assistants and aides should be organized, keep accurate records, and follow written and verbal instructions carefully to ensure quality care.

Dexterity. Physical therapist assistants should be comfortable using their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. Aides should also be comfortable working with their hands to set up equipment and prepare treatment areas.

Interpersonal skills. Physical therapist assistants and aides spend much of their time interacting with patients, their families, and other healthcare practitioners; therefore, they should be courteous and friendly.

Physical stamina. Physical therapist assistants and aides are frequently on their feet and moving as they work with their patients. They must often kneel, stoop, bend, and stand for long periods.

Pay About this section

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Median annual wages, May 2018

Physical therapist assistants

$58,040

Occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides

$51,720

Physical therapist assistants and aides

$48,090

Total, all occupations

$38,640

Physical therapist aides

$26,240

 

The median annual wage for physical therapist aides was $26,240 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,230.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $58,040 in May 2018. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,810.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for physical therapist aides in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $32,160
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 31,040
Hospitals; state, local, and private 28,960
Offices of physicians 27,260
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 24,830

In May 2018, the median annual wages for physical therapist assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) $66,440
Home healthcare services 62,340
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 56,760
Hospitals; state, local, and private 56,180
Offices of physicians 54,360

Most physical therapist assistants and aides work full time, although part time work is common. Some work nights and weekends because many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Physical therapist assistants

27%

Occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides

27%

Physical therapist assistants and aides

26%

Physical therapist aides

23%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for physical therapy is expected to increase in response to the health needs of an aging population, particularly the large baby-boom generation. This group is staying more active later in life than previous generations did. However, many baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks, strokes, and mobility-related injuries, increasing the demand for physical therapy needed for rehabilitation.

In addition, more physical therapist assistants and aides will be needed to help patients maintain their mobility and manage the effects of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. Moreover, medical and technological developments should permit an increased number of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services.

Physical therapists are expected to rely on physical therapist assistants, particularly in long-term care environments, in order to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. After the physical therapist has evaluated a patient and designed a plan of care, the assistant provides many parts of the treatment, as directed by the therapist.

Job Prospects

About 16,500 openings for physical therapist assistants and 8,000 openings for physical therapist aides are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the labor force, such as to retire, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations.

Job opportunities should be good in settings where the aging population is most often treated, such as skilled-nursing homes, home health, and outpatient orthopedic facilities.  Physical therapist aides with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree may have better prospects than will those without one, as some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a degree.

Employment projections data for physical therapist assistants and aides, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Physical therapist assistants and aides

31-2020 148,200 186,200 26 38,000 Get data

Physical therapist assistants

31-2021 98,400 125,000 27 26,700 Get data

Physical therapist aides

31-2022 49,800 61,200 23 11,300 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of physical therapist assistants and aides.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2018 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities.

Postsecondary nondegree award $33,610
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

See How to Become One $28,530
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

See How to Become One $57,620
Pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,700
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $87,930
Psychiatric technicians and aides

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities.

See How to Become One $30,860
Dental assistants

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants provide patient care, take x rays, keep records, and schedule appointments.

Postsecondary nondegree award $38,660

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about physical therapist assistants, visit

American Physical Therapy Association

For a list of schools offering accredited programs, visit

Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education

For more information about state licensing requirements and about the National Physical Therapy Exam, visit

Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy

CareerOneStop

For a career video on physical therapist assistants and aides, visit

Physical therapists assistants and aides

O*NET

Physical Therapist Aides

Physical Therapist Assistants

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm (visited April 06, 2020).

Last Modified Date: Monday, March 16, 2020

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2018 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2018

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2018, which is the base year of the 2018-28 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2018-28

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

2018 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.