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Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Some physical therapist aides advance to become therapist assistants after gaining experience and completing an accredited education program.

Some physical therapist assistants advance their knowledge and skills in a variety of clinical areas after graduation. The American Physical Therapy Association recognizes physical therapist assistants who have gained additional skills in geriatric, pediatric, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, integumentary, and cardiopulmonary physical therapy. Physical therapist assistants may also advance in non-clinical areas, like administrative positions. These positions might include organizing all the assistants in a large physical therapy organization or acting as the director for a specific department such as aquatic therapy. Physical therapist assistants may also pursue a career in teaching at an accredited physical therapist assistant academic program.

Employment
Physical therapist assistants and aides held about 109,900 jobs in 2008. Physical therapist assistants held about 63,800 jobs; physical therapist aides held 46,100. Both work with physical therapists in a variety of settings. About 72 percent of jobs were in offices of other health practitioners and in hospitals. Others worked primarily in nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, and outpatient care centers.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow much faster than average because of increasing demand for physical therapy services. Job prospects for physical therapist assistants are expected to be very good. Aides may experience keen competition for jobs.

Job Growth
Employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is expected to grow by 35 percent from 2008 through 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Changes to restrictions on reimbursement for physical therapy services by third-party payers will increase patient access to services and, thus, increase demand. The increasing number of people who need therapy reflects, in part, the increasing elderly population. The elderly population is particularly vulnerable to chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services. These patients often need additional assistance in their treatment, making the roles of assistants and aides vital. In addition, the large baby-boom generation is entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, further increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation.

Medical and technological developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services.

Physical therapists are expected to increasingly use assistants and aides to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. Once a patient is evaluated and a treatment plan is designed by the physical therapist, the physical therapist assistant can provide many parts of the treatment, as directed by the therapist.

Opportunities for individuals interested in becoming physical therapist assistants are expected to be very good; with help from physical therapist assistants, physical therapists are able to manage more patients. However, physical therapy aides may face keen competition from the large pool of qualified individuals. In addition to employment growth, job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently. Job opportunities should be particularly good in acute hospital, skilled nursing, and orthopedic settings, where the elderly are most often treated. Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural areas, as many physical therapists tend to cluster in highly populated urban and suburban areas.

Earnings
Median annual wages of physical therapist assistants were $46,140 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $37,170 and $54,900. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,830.

Median annual wages of physical therapist aides were $23,760 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,910 and $28,670. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33,540.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Kinesiology
Kinesiology is the scientific study of the anatomy, physiology, and mechanics of body movement, especially in humans. Kinesiology encompasses human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, exercise psychology and sociology, history, and philosophy of sport. Because nearly all AK tests ...more
Physical Therapy
Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who evaluate and manage health conditions for people of all ages. They may use the title "Dr" as some complete doctor programs. Typically individuals consult a PT for the management of medical problems or other health-related conditions that; cause ...more