Physical therapy is a medical treatment for folks who got hurt, suffered an illness or underwent surgery, and need a little -- or a lot of -- help to regain their mobility. Physical therapy is widely used in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and home health-care services. If you become a physical therapy assistant, don't expect to be providing these services to patients all by yourself. You will be working under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.
An associate’s degree from an accredited physical therapy educational program is generally the requirement for physical therapist assistants. Some states also require a license to practice professionally. In most states, obtaining a license requires submitting an application, paying a fee and passing the national licensure exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.
Administrative duties are often part of the job, depending on the size of the physical therapy practice and employer type. Physical therapy assistants perform a variety of administrative duties with a smile. This includes greeting patients, answering phones and working with insurance providers. They prepare treatment areas for patients and set up the equipment and devices used.
Physical Therapy Responsiblities
Physical therapists often have their hands full, which is when their assistant steps in. Assistants help patients perform exercises using a variety of techniques. They often monitor patients to ensure physical therapy is done properly, and document their progress for physical therapists to review. Physical therapy assistants also educate patients about their physical therapy treatments and how to best continue physical therapy at home.
Career Outlook and Salary
Jobs for physical therapy assistants are expected to increase 46 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A number of factors contribute to the high growth. An aging population will require physical therapy to stay healthy and mobile. Advances in medical technology and health insurance providers changing policies and providing higher reimbursement amounts for these services also will contribute to the need for these professionals. In 2011, the Bureau reported an average salary of $51,110 per year for physical therapy assistants. Between the expected job growth and the salary for this occupation, two years of education could turn into a rewarding career – personally and financially.
Elvis Michael has been writing professionally since 2007, contributing technology articles to various online outlets. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in information technology at Northeastern University.