Physical Therapist Assistant Career

The work of physical therapist assistants is to facilitate treatments for patients suffering with injuries due to accidents, falls, or twists and cramps in muscles. Their role is to relieve pain, enhance patients' mobility, prevent or minimize patients' physical disabilities. They take directions for the senior therapists and prepare specific exercise routines for patients, targeting the particular body parts. They teach patients how to use crutches, and help reduce their dependency on others.

What Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

These medical professionals are responsible for providing required physical therapy services to patients suffering from arthritis, lower back pain, fractures, and other disabilities. They have to give massage, exercise, traction, paraffin baths, electrical stimulation, apply cold and hot packs, perform ultrasound, etc. to elevate physical functions in patients.

They diagnose patients' conditions, take history, and identify the nature of injury to prepare the right therapy program. Once the treatment starts, they record patient's response and in consultation with the senior therapists change the treatment course as required. They guide patients in performing certain tasks safely and prevent further injury. Beside giving physical therapy, they have to maintain the cleanliness of the treatment area.

Education and Training

Physical therapist assistants have to complete a two-year program to obtain an associate degree. These programs are well designed and modified with the intention of providing quality education and are split into hands-on clinical experience and academic study. The academic course incorporates anatomy, algebra, chemistry, biology, physiology, and psychology. Clinical work encompasses certification in first aid, CPR, and field experience in treatment centers. The need to take these programs is to learn about anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, clinical pathology, behavioral sciences, etc.

Work Environment

Physical therapist assistants mostly work in a hospital setting, nursing homes, home healthcare services, or physical therapy centers privately owned. Some also work in schools, rehab units, and with sports clubs. The work environment in any of these settings is often hectic and PTAs are required to be on their toes throughout their duty hours. Much of the duty hours are spent in working with patients. The job requires PTAs to be physically strong since they need to life and move patients. When lifting or moving patients, they have to take care that they don't injure themselves in the process. For this, they have to use the right body mechanics and lifting techniques so that patients don't experience discomfort when they are being lifted.


Most of the states expect candidates pursing this medical profession to hold a license, which is given only after clearing the National Physical Therapy Examination. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy administers this examination. Several states have also made it compulsory for employers to conduct a criminal background check. Once experience, physical therapists may obtain a certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties and become a board-certified specialist. To get this certification, aspirants of this profession have to complete 2000 hours of clinical work in the chosen specialty area.

Job Outlook

Employment in this profession is expected to grow by 25 percent in the coming years. This will increase the demand for physical therapists since the country will need them to help people deal with health conditions.

If the responsibilities of and job outlook for physical therapist have impressed you, or you're already in this profession and looking to apply for a job, browse our site and use free physical therapist resume samples.

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