How To Become a Physical Therapy Aide

Reasons for Becoming a Physical Therapy Aide

Associates Degree
If you are looking for a job, you can enter with an associate’s degree, you may want to take a closer look at becoming a physical therapy aide.

As Little as Two Years
While physical therapists require four years of formal education, most physical therapy aide programs only last for two years.

Career Advancement
In addition, there is work and licensing that can allow a person to transition into a full physical therapist over time, which means that starting as an assistant can be a great way to start working towards a larger goal over time.

Don’t Need a 4 Year Degree
It is also an excellent option for someone who wants to change careers without enrolling in a full-time four-year college degree. Programs for physical therapy aides tend to be more flexible and aimed at helping adults succeed, which is why many people who find a career later in life are attracted to the position.

A Career in Demand
In addition, demand for physical therapy aides is expected to increase by over 12% in the next decade, which means it should be easy to find employment once you are fully certified and licensed.

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Steps To Becoming a Physical Therapy Aide

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a physical therapy aide, check out the following steps.

Step 1: Graduate From High School

All physical therapy aides must graduate from high school or earn an equivalent diploma.

If you did not graduate from high school, consider taking your GED to enroll in a physical therapy aide training program.

Courses to Consider
And if you are still in high school, attempt to take biology or anatomy courses at a local community college to help prepare you for the job and get a step up on the competition.

Step 2: Find and Complete a Physical Therapist Assistants Program

Most physical therapist assistant programs will earn you an associate’s degree.

How Long Does it Take?
Programs vary by length, but most can be completed in just 18 to 24 months. This makes it possible to start an exciting new career in just two years.

What Do You Study?
Most programs include a variety of coursework focused on human anatomy and physiology, lab work, and then clinical training in the workplace.

During this time, any internships or volunteer opportunities in healthcare will help you pad your resume. Employers like to see previous experience in healthcare, even if it is just volunteer work at your local hospital.

Step 3: Take Your State Licensing Exam

Every state except Hawaii and Colorado requires physical therapist aides to be licensed in addition to their associate’s degree. Therefore, after graduation from an official PTA program, you should plan to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE).

It is essential to prepare thoroughly for the test because retakes are limited to only three times per year and you can only do so a total of six times in a lifetime.

Step Four: Maintain Your License

Passing the NPTE will grant you certification, but you need to maintain your license in some states.

Continuing Education
Check with the medical board in your state to see if you need to take continuing education courses to keep your license valid.

Many states require at least ten continuing education credits every two years to keep a license valid. However, you can use this opportunity to learn more about your field and eventually use that knowledge to finish your education to become a full physical therapist if you plan your credits wisely.

What Is a Physical Therapy Aide?

Sometimes referred to as physical therapy assistants and sometimes referred to as physical therapy aids, the role of a PTA is to support physical therapists in a healthcare setting.

Many physical therapy aides work in private practices, while others work in hospitals, rehab, long-term care and nursing homes. The variety of job settings makes the job appealing to people who want to work with many different types of people.

Physical therapy aides have many responsibilities, including prepping the treatment room, prepping patients before therapy begins, cleaning all equipment, setting up equipment for each appointment, and offering assistance as needed to the therapist. For this reason, the job description can vary.

Job Duties

Physical therapy aides work to treat injured patients. They are involved with the entire therapy process, working to observe, treat and assist patients before, during and even after their therapy.

While working with patients, they may also use massage and stretching techniques to help relax the muscles.

Prep Work
Physical therapy aides are often also responsible for cleaning and sterilizing the treatment room between patients. Their job is to prepare the room for the next patient by getting out appropriate treatment equipment, cleaning it and putting it away after the session has ended.

Administer Therapies & Treatment
Outside of preparing the room, physical therapy aides often are responsible for electrical stimulation therapy and heat and ice treatments before or after therapy sessions.

Depends on Location
As you can see, job responsibilities vary greatly and can change anytime, depending on the setting you choose to work at. For example, the needs and daily routine of a physical therapist aide at a children’s facility are very different from the same position at a healthcare facility treating adults or within a rehab center.

Inpatient and outpatient treatment vary significantly as the goals of physical therapy are different.


How Much Do They Make, on Average?
According to the BLS, the average salary of a physical therapy aide in the US is $59,770. However, it is essential to recognize that this is not the entry-level salary, as most PTA’s salaries depend on the employer they work for and their experience.

Therefore, based on these variables, salaries can range from $33,840 and $82,470. This is why gaining as much experience as possible within a healthcare setting is very beneficial for a physical therapy aide.

Personal Skills

What Are Good Personality Traits for this Profession?

Physical therapy aides are tasked with helping a variety of patients improve their mobility so that they can be independent or, at the very least, improve their quality of life.

People Person
Patients come from various backgrounds and have experienced a wide range of medical and emotional traumas. Therefore, physical therapist aides must have a great deal of compassion and enjoy helping people.

The majority of their patients will be in immense pain, so they also need to have a strong sense of empathy and patience.

Comfortable with Physical Contact
Aides also need to be aware that they will need to use their hands for massage therapy and other therapeutic exercises and, therefore, must be comfortable touching clients.

Attention to Detail
They also need to be detail-oriented because they will be required to write accurate and detailed descriptions of each therapy session that they assist within.

Good Communicator
Since a physical therapist aide is responsible for following the directions of the therapist they work with, they must be focused and able to clearly and easily follow both verbal and written instructions.

Finally, they also need a great deal of physical stamina, since they spend most of their day standing and assisting patients. They also may need to lift patients throughout therapy and often kneel, bend and stoop throughout the day.

Career Outlook

Is it a Good Career with Long Term Growth?
Like most positions in healthcare, the career outlook for a physical therapy aide is very positive. The field is expected to grow by 12% over the next decade, and physical therapy aides are named one of the top ten fasted growing careers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The current worker shortage and the aging baby boomer generation have created a need for more physical therapy aides, and it is likely that physical therapists will rely heavily on physical therapy aides to help meet the demand in the future.

If you are interested in starting a career as a physical therapist aide, it is time to start looking for a college that offers a PTA program. Your new career could be just a few clicks away.

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Get information on Physical Therapy Aide programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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