Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapist assistants and aides help physical therapists as they work with their patients. Physical therapist assistants (PTA) can work independently with clients, but under the supervision of a physical therapist. Some duties assistants can perform under a physical therapist’s supervision include therapeutic measures like mechanical traction, electrical stimulation, massage, exercise, balance training, and ultrasound. They work with the patient, record their response and report the results to the supervising PA. Aides perform more clerical tasks, such as answering the phone, filling out paperwork, filing insurance claims, and ordering supplies.

Become a Physical Therapy Assistant…

Physical Therapy Assistant Resources…

Physical Therapy Assistant / Aide Training

Physical therapy aides can be trained on the job with only a high school diploma, but physical therapy assistants must earn an associate degree from an accredited training program. Training programs are accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) which has a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTA). As of 2010, there are 263 accredited programs, according to the APTA, with more pending accreditation. Most physical therapist assistant degrees require two years, and will cover clinical training as well as academic coursework. Academic courses will cover anatomy, physiology, psychology, medical terminology, patient management, introduction to disease, kinesiology fundamentals, and therapeutic exercise. Clinical training will cover CPR, basic first aid, and working in physical therapist centers.

PT Assistant Licensure Requirements

Licensure requirements will vary by state but most states require licensing for physical therapist assistants, but not aides. Licensing requires graduating from an accredited program, and becoming a certified physical therapist assistant (PTA) by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). Some states provide their own state licensing exams. The exam provides regulation in the industry so that all PTAs will meet national standards. Eligible candidates can order an NPTE handbook for reviewing purposes. The computerized exam is multiple choice, and in order to take it you must register through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Continuing education is also part of maintaining licensure, and the APTA is a great source for continuing education opportunities once you have completed your degree and become certified.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary – PT Aide Salary

Median annual salary was $48,290 in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 35%, which is much higher than the average occupational growth projection. Part of this is increased coverage by insurance companies, and part is also due to the growing elderly population and aging baby boomer population, as older citizens make up a large part of therapy needs. Demand will be even higher in rural areas, as physical therapists tend to gravitate toward more urban areas and there is therefore less demand there.

Advancement is possible by specialization in areas such as pediatric, geriatric, neuromuscular, musculoskeletal or cardiopulmonary physical therapy. Certified PTAs could also advance to become directors of departments or move into physical therapy education. In just two short years you can be eligible for the certification exam to become a physical therapist assistant, and take advantage of these growing job with opportunities. Find which of the many accredited programs is near you.

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