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Physical Therapist Assistant - Career Overview

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What Is A Physical Therapist Assistant? Brief Overview:

Physical therapist assistants work with physical therapists, assisting them with implementing the rehabilitation exercises and therapies associated with recovering from an injury or disability. Working as a physical therapist assistant could be a great alternative to working as a physical therapist, as it does not require as many years of college. Also, a job as a physical therapist assistant could be a great stepping stone to a career as a physical therapist, while you complete the additional years of school and training required to be a physical therapist.

Physical Therapist Assistant - Job Duties and Responsibilities:

Physical therapy assistants may perform many of the same tasks as physical therapists, such as helping patients through various exercises, work-outs, massages, hot or cold packs, electric stimulation, or paraffin baths, according to John Moberly, Senior Vice President of MedTravelers, a healthcare staffing firm based out of Irving, TX. PTAs perform these tasks at the direction of the physical therapist who is ultimately responsible for determining the patient's treatment plan and evaluating the patient's progress. The physical therapist assistant does participate in patient documentation and monitoring.

Work Environment for Physical Therapy Assistants:

Work environments for physical therapist assistants could include medical offices, clinics, rehabilitation centers, or hospitals. No matter where you work, any career in physical therapy requires physical strength, including supporting or lifting disabled patients, and operating or moving heavy equipment. Therefore, a physical therapist assistant should be in good physical shape.

Schedules vary based on the needs of the employer and the patient base, but jobs are available in full- or part-time schedules. Some PTA positions may require night or weekend shifts, according to Moberly.

Education and Training Requirements:

"Physical therapist assistants hired by MedTravelers typically earn an associate degree from an accredited program," states Mr. Moberly. An accredited PTA program usually entails two years of undergraduate education, and there are over 200 such programs nationwide. Most PTA programs include a combination of classroom and clinical instruction. As with many allied careers, the curriculum includes life sciences such as anatomy and physiology, as well as CPR and basic life saving and first aid skills.

Average Annual Salary and Benefits:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for physical therapist assistants is $46,300. "Physical therapist assistants employed by MedTravelers can expect to earn a yearly compensation that is competitive with the national average, according to Moberly.

Pay scale can vary according to the industry, employer, and state where you work. For example, California, Nevada, and Texas are the highest paying states, along with Florida and Tennessee which rank slightly lower.

Additionally, the highest paying employers are those in home health care, with an average of over $56,460 annual salary,

according to the BLS.

In addition to salary, PTAs typically earn standard benefits such as paid vacation, and health insurance coverage.

Where the Jobs Are for Physical Therapist Assistants:

More than one-third of the over 60,000 PTAs in the United States work in medical offices of physician practices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical and surgical hospitals are the second-largest employer of physical therapist assistants, with over 17,000 PTAs employed.

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