The Scoop on Physical Therapy Assistants

Physical therapy is a necessary part of the medical community and not just because it sounds like a nice thing to do.

Everyone would like to be a Physical Therapist and work with rich athletes all day, but the reality is that the job is grueling and it requires a great deal of help. One form of help comes from a Physical Therapy Assistant. Even though a Physical Therapy Assistant doesn't do ALL the same things as a Therapist they are just as important to the patients as the therapist themselves. This job is intended to help lighten the load on overworked Physical Therapists with your assistance. Because of the increasing amount of new technology and advancements in medicine more and more people are getting surgery for things that require Physical Therapy, and every time someone is recovering you will be right there, as a Physical Therapy Assistant, to help them get back to normal.

What in the World Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Do?

A Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) is someone who works directly with a certified Physical Therapist and helps them get their job done. Because most Physical Therapists are seeing lots of different patients with lots of different problems then you would also be helping those patients. Because of these large caseloads a PTA can administer Physical Therapy (PT) to patients, help the Therapist come up with a treatment program, track the patient's progress, make notes in their medical records, and maintain those records for the Therapist.

Because you would administering care you would also need to be familiar with the use of certain machines such as ultrasound machines or machines that help exercise joints and muscles. You would also be charged with taking care of the machines and equipment and making sure that those machines are maintained properly.

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

The training in Physical Therapy Assistantship is usually done at a Technical School, vocation school, community college, or junior college. Depending on the program the training can take from 9 months to 2 years. A 9-12 month program usually results in a certificate of Physical Therapy Assistantship and a 2-year program results in an Associate's Degree. Depending on much time and money you have and how far you want to advance you will want to get as much schooling as you can.

Once you have finished school then you will need to get licensed to work as a PTA. This means passing a written exam and a "skills" test before you can get your license. However, not every state requires a license to get a job so you need to check with your state medical board to see if you need a certificate in order to work in this field.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

The general rule of thumb is that when you are looking for a job helping someone you need to go where those "helper needers" are. In this case it is smart to look for work wherever Physical Therapists are. Hospitals, health clinics, doctor's offices and nursing homes al employ physical therapists and they all need PTAs to help them. It would also be advisable to look at the wants ads and if you see an opening for a Physical Therapist you should contact that employer and ask if they need a PTA.

Also, sports teams at the college and professional level hire athletic trainers and physical therapists so that means these people need assistance. There are plenty of colleges and cities with sports teams who need PTAs, but you need to be willing to look.

Advancement in this field usually means that you are working to become a full-fledged physical therapist. This requires more schooling, but working as a PTA is good on-he-job training for a career as a Physical Therapist. If you wanted to advance your career but you didn't really feel like going back to school you could get into supervision and management of other assistants and aides. This is a departure from the "medical path" but you would still be working in medicine, but in the administration of medicine.

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Physical Therapist Assistants Overview

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary:$46,140
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:2 years
# Employed in US:61,820
% Who work Part Time:27%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a Physical Therapy Assistant

  • The training doesn't take a long time (9 months - 2 years)
  • This is job training for a career as a Physical Therapist
  • You will be able to work with all kinds of patients
  • You can work in many different places

The Cons of being a Physical Therapy Assistant

  • You spend a lot of time on your feet
  • You have to do a lot of manual labor with your hands
  • You have to do a lot of grunt work for the Therapist