COVID-19 UPDATE: We are open and continue to serve our students. Learn More about our health & safety plans.
Physical Therapist Assistants are employees that work under the supervision of qualified Physical Therapists to help provide therapy services to patients. They work with patients who require treatment to regain physical function lost to illnesses, injuries or other medical issues and/or manage symptoms, including pain. Physical Therapist Assistants are often referred to as PTAs in the workplace.
Physical Therapist Assistants aid Physical Therapists and other healthcare professionals in providing direct care to patients. The specific duties they perform in the workplace as they fulfill that role vary from one employment setting to another. Additionally, since healthcare regulations differ from state to state, the exact duties a Physical Therapist Assistants perform can depend upon the state in which they practice. However, there are some general duties that most can expect to be responsible for, in their day-to-day routine, including:
Physical Therapist Assistants work in many different employment settings, with most working in full time positions. Some may be required to work nights and/or weekends, while others may only work during normal business hours. The largest employers of Physical Therapist Assistants are, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, which employed 45 percent of the approximately 88,300 Physical Therapist Assistants who held jobs in 2016. State, local and private hospitals employed 23 percent of those workers that same year, and 11 percent worked in nursing care facilities. Home healthcare services provided 8 percent of Physical Therapist Assistant jobs in 2016, and physicians' offices employed another 5 percent of these workers. Other common employment settings for Physical Therapist Assistants include inpatient rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, schools and athletic programs and facilities.
The Physical Therapist field is expected to see a lot of growth in the upcoming years, creating a greater demand for Physical Therapist Assistants. According to BLS employment growth projections, jobs for qualified personnel will increase by 31 percent between 2016 and 2026; a rate of growth that is much faster than the average for all occupations. An AAS Physical Therapist Assistant degree from Bryant & Stratton College will aid in standing out in this increasingly, competitive field.
That growth is expected to happen because of increasing demand for services. BLS states that it expects much of that increasing demand to be associated with the aging of the Baby-Boom generation (persons born between 1946-1964). As members of this generation grow older, they are entering the prime phase of life for afflictions like heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, Baby-Boomers are more active than previous generations and are remaining active later in life, increasing their risk for injuries and conditions that affect mobility as they age. Both factors are expected to increase their demand for rehabilitative services, including physical therapy.
Increasing incidence of chronic health conditions throughout the population is another factor that BLS expects to contribute to rising demand for Physical Therapist Assistants. As greater numbers of people are affected by conditions like diabetes and obesity, more Physical Therapist Assistants will be needed to help them manage their symptoms and maintain mobility and independence. Other factors that may work to increase demand for the services of Physical Therapist Assistants include advances in medical care that allow higher survival rates for medically fragile patients and a greater use of these workers by long term care facilities and other healthcare providers as part of efforts to reduce the costs of physical therapy services.
While readers can get a rough idea of the potential of certain career paths via this information, it is important to note that job market data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook is only intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities. It is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title, and neither BLS nor Bryant & Stratton College can guarantee employment in this or any other field.
Earning a Physical Therapist Assistant associate degree is required to become a Physical Therapist Assistant in all states. By earning this 2-year degree, graduates meet the educational standards to pursue careers as Physical Therapist Assistants in virtually all employment settings that employ these professionals.
Every state requires Physical Therapist Assistants to be licensed or certified by the state before entering the field. Typically, to be licensed, candidates must be graduates of an accredited associate degree program and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam for Physical Therapist Assistants. In some states, applicants must pass state-level exams as well, demonstrating knowledge of state regulations on the practice of Physical Therapist Assistants. Many states require that candidates for Physical Therapist Assistant license or certification undergo criminal background checks and be at least 18 years of age. In some states, maintaining a license or certificate may require the completion of continuing education courses every year.
For more insights into the Physical Therapist Assistant field, visit the Healthcare Degrees section of the Bryant & Stratton College blog. By exploring the blog and our website, you will find a great deal of helpful information that can help you learn about careers in the Physical Therapy field or any other occupational field that you may be interested in pursuing.