physical therapyphysical therapist assistant

Salary Expectations & Training Requirements for Physical Therapist Assistants

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By Johnny Bevers

A physical therapist assistant salary is dependent on experience, location, training and on the particular position he or she may hold. Generally, though, average salaries are extremely handsome for physical therapy assistants, and training to become one is not particularly time consuming. A physical therapist assistant’s primary duties are to assist a licensed physical therapist and to provide physical therapy under the guidance and supervision of this physical therapist. If you choose to work as a physical therapist assistant, or PTA, you may find yourself working in a hospital, a school, a hospice, a sports training institute or a number of other places. The patients you will be working with may be victims of automobile accidents, or may suffer from arthritis or cerebral palsy. In fact you could be working with almost anyone who suffers from movement difficulties. Let’s look in more detail at salary expectations, the best locations to work, training requirements, what day-to-day work is like and what kind of people make good PTAs.

physyical therapist assistant helping others

How Much Does a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant Make?

As previously stated this depends on several variables, but the median average salary for a physical therapist assistant is approximately 50,000 dollars. Expect to reach this figure after just a couple of years on the job. You can, however, expect your salary to hit a ceiling at about 90,000. Perhaps this would be the time to think about training to become a physical therapist. Importantly, it is not particularly difficult to find a job in this industry if you are appropriately qualified and accredited, as demand is high. In fact, the industry will even experience better than average job growth until 2020 and so there are no signs that it will become harder for physical therapist assistants to find jobs in the near future.

Where Are The Best Places To Work As A PTA?

Location is an important factor when looking for work as a PTA. The highest proportion of jobs are, of course, centered in areas with a high population; cities, in other words. The best cities in which to find a certified physical therapist assistant job are in the Texas area and average pay in these cities is considerably higher than the national average. In McAllen, Texas, for example, the average salary is a whopping 80,000 dollars. If, instead, you fancy working in Longview, you would still receive an average salary of over 75,000 dollars; and in San Antonio, you would be looking at an average salary of over 70,000 dollars. As you can probably see for yourself, all these salaries are over 20,000 dollars higher than the national average for physical therapy assistants.  So, if you are looking to receive the highest salary possible, then Texas is certainly a location to consider.

Physical Therapist Assistant Programs

To become a physical therapist assistant, or physical therapist technician, you need to become properly trained and qualified. This training, in almost all cases, takes the form of a two year associate degree. This two year degree though, must be accredited by CAPTE, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. This is imperative as if the degree is not accredited by CAPTE, you will not then able to take the license exam. Almost all states in the U.S require a physical therapist assistant to be licensed in order to work in the physical therapy field. The makeup of your degree may vary somewhat depending on the particular institution. But will likely include course components of anatomy, neuroscience, behavioral science, biomechanics and ethics, amongst other. Approximately 75 percent of your degree will be theory based, in the classroom, and the remaining 25 percent practical, in a hospital, hospice or other clinical setting. If you choose a public program expect to spend approximately 8,000 dollars in tuition. If you attend a private college, tuition will cost closer to 26,000 dollars. In order to find accredited physical therapist assistant programs in your area, check the CAPTE website.

What Are The Primary Duties Of A Physical Therapist Assistant

PTAs work with other PTAs as a team under the supervision and guidance of a physical therapist; their on-the-job boss essentially. Physical therapists (PTs) and their assistants and the assistants’ aides work with individuals of all ages, from toddlers to centurions. They work with anyone, in fact, who is experiencing difficulty with their mobility or with the physical challenges of their day-to-day activities. The PA will assess the individual who needs help with his or her mobility by examining his or her particular problems, limitations and potential, before designing a program of treatment. The PTA’s will then, under the PAs supervision, carry out this treatment. So generally, a personal therapist assistant’s day-to-day duties will include: listening to the directions of the PA; helping patients with stretching exercises and other exercises specified by the PA; giving massages; directing patients and their helpers as to what exercises they need to do at home; and supervising physical therapist aides. Working as a physical therapist technician is actually quite a strenuous job, and so PTAs need to be physically fit.  As well as assisting patients with stretching exercises and other exercises designed by a PA, PTAs may also be required to move heavy equipment such as weights or machines, lift patients from beds or chairs and assist patients in walking. This is in addition to the everyday kneeling, stooping, standing and crouching required by the job. Most PTAs though, do enjoy the majority of most weekends away from work and work a standard nine to five day.

What Kinds Of People Make Good Physical Therapist Assistants?

Appropriate qualifications and good training are imperative to do this job well and, indeed, to find legal work. But this is just part of what makes a good PTA. Many of the patients you will be working with are suffering from debilitating conditions or recovering from traumatic accidents. Hence PTAs need to be extremely sympathetic and empathetic to their patients’ needs. Some of the work may involve working with patients who are suffering from terminal diseases. This may be psychologically draining and so PTAs need to be mentally strong. Moreover, PTAs need to be able to follow the instructions of the PA to the letter, performing their duties exactly as outlined and to keep good accurate records of any treatment given. Overall, the job outlook is good for potential physical therapist assistants. There are many jobs available so any job hunt shouldn’t take much time and salaries are relatively high, even for those new to the job. Be aware though, before taking your training, that physical therapy is not for everyone; it is both physically and mentally demanding and requires much attention to detail as any mistakes may have serious consequences for your patients. If you still feel that this job is for you and are considering becoming a PTA, remember to make sure that your two year associate degree course is CAPTE accredited. Once you have graduated and taken the appropriate licensing exam, strongly consider moving to Texas (if you are not fortunate enough to be already living there!) as salaries are considerably higher here than in the rest of the country.

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