The Scoop on Physical Therapy Aides

Overworked and understaffed professionals need to maximize their time with the help of assistants and aides.

This is no truer than in the area of Physical Therapy. Therapists work with Physical Therapy Assistants who can do much of the clinical work the Therapist does, and, if they are still overworked, they will need you - a Physical Therapy Aide. This job is really the "assistant to the assistant" who keeps the practice running smoothly by preparing the equipment, the space and the patient for the clinical treatment. The Physical Therapy Aide does not, however, provide the physical therapy itself.

What in the World Does a Physical Therapy Aide Do?

A Physical Therapy Aide is an assistant to the Physical Therapy Assistant. This job allows only limited contact with patients, for example assisting the patient moving to and from treatment areas.

If you're working this kind of job you might be asked to handle all the equipment that the Therapist and the Assistant use with the patients, for example, set up, clean and store equipment. You might need to handle the patient's records, make notations in the records from the Assistant's or Therapist's notes or fill out insurance information.

Also, you may need to help patients get to their appointments or help them around the facility, but this is the limit of your contact with patients. You don't actually do any therapy with the patients yourself, though you might help the Assistant or Therapist perform therapy.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

There is no formal training required for Physical Therapy Aides, and the training that you need is given on the job. Even though you do not need a license or a formal education (you do need at least a High School Diploma), you might want to begin work on the training program for a position as a Physical Therapy Assistant. You might also want to begin work on certification or a license that you may need if you go through school to become a Physical Therapy Assistant.

Beginning this type of training now makes your job as a Physical Therapy Aide that much more beneficial, because you are learning so much of what you need to know at work. However, remember that you will need to check with your State Medical Board whether a Therapy Assistant requires a license (not all states require one). If not, you would be free to begin work in other areas (like going through school to become a full-fledged Physical Therapist.)

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

The rule of thumb is that you go where the patients are. So, check with hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, and athletic centers near you to see if those places need Physical Therapy Aides. Also, if you are checking out the "want ads" then you can always enquire at places that are hiring for Physical Therapists or Assistants, because they may need aides as well, though you didn't catch that job posting.

Advancement in this field usually means stepping up the ladder. You might want to go through a training program and become a Physical Therapy Assistant or go all the way through school and become a Physical Therapist. Also, you might want to get into Supervision or management of other aides and assistants. This is a departure from direct medical care, as you would be administrating medical care instead. Either way, you don't just have to be a Physical Therapy gopher permanently.

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Physical Therapist Aides Overview

Physical Therapist Aide Salary:$23,760
Job Prospects:B-
Education after high school:0 years
# Employed in US:44,410
% Who work Part Time:27%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+
Emotional Difficulty:+ + +

The Pros of being a Physical Therapy Aide

  • There is no formal training required
  • You can train on the job
  • You can get into management or go to school to become an assistant or therapist

The Cons of being a Physical Therapy Aide

  • You spend a lot of time on your feet
  • You do a lot of the grunt work for the therapists and assistants
  • You do a lot of manual labor with your hands