Bureau of Labor Statistics

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

physical therapist assistants and aides image
Physical therapist aides do a variety of clerical tasks, such as scheduling patients and recording insurance information.
Quick Facts: Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
2020 Median Pay $49,970 per year
$24.02 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, 2019 149,300
Job Outlook, 2019-29 29% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 43,000

Summary

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 $28,450 in May 2020.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $59,770 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 29 percent from 2019 to 2029, 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

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

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

Physical therapist aides held about 50,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of physical therapist aides were as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 60%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 22
Offices of physicians 7
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 4
Government 2

Physical therapist assistants held about 98,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of physical therapist assistants were as follows:

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 46%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 23
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 10
Home healthcare services 9
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

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

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Median annual wages, May 2020

Physical therapist assistants

$59,770

Occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides

$54,250

Physical therapist assistants and aides

$49,970

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Physical therapist aides

$28,450

 

The median annual wage for physical therapist aides was $28,450 in May 2020. 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 $20,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,580.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $59,770 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,470.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for physical therapist aides in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) $34,800
Hospitals; state, local, and private 30,620
Offices of physicians 29,760
Government 28,360
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 27,080

In May 2020, 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) $67,120
Home healthcare services 64,700
Hospitals; state, local, and private 58,460
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 58,050
Offices of physicians 56,730

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

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Physical therapist assistants

33%

Occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides

30%

Physical therapist assistants and aides

29%

Physical therapist aides

21%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 33 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 21 percent from 2019 to 2029, 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 15,100 openings for physical therapist assistants and 6,900 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 transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Physical therapist assistants and aides

SOC Code31-2020
Employment, 2019149,300
Projected Employment, 2029192,300
Percent Change, 2019-2929
Numeric Change, 2019-2943,000
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Physical therapist assistants

SOC Code31-2021
Employment, 201998,700
Projected Employment, 2029130,900
Percent Change, 2019-2933
Numeric Change, 2019-2932,200
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Physical therapist aides

SOC Code31-2022
Employment, 201950,600
Projected Employment, 202961,300
Percent Change, 2019-2921
Numeric Change, 2019-2910,800
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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

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 2020 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 $35,850
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 $30,830
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 $60,950
Pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy Technicians

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

High school diploma or equivalent $35,100
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

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

Doctoral or professional degree $91,010
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 $33,140
Dental assistants

Dental Assistants

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

Postsecondary nondegree award $41,180

Contacts for More Info

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 therapist assistants and aides

O*NET

Physical Therapist Aides

Physical Therapist Assistants

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm (visited June 11, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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