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Career Overview: All About Physical Therapy Aides

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If you’re interested in helping people live healthy, active lives and ready to jumpstart your career in as few as nine months, then a career as a physical therapist aide might be ideal for you! Physical therapist aides help with tasks like documenting patient treatments, scheduling appointments, and taking clients to different areas of a health care facility. This guide walks you through the process of how to be a physical therapist aide by highlighting tips, skills, salaries, and important resources, including:

Physical Therapy Aide Job Description

Physical therapist aides perform a variety of tasks that help keep the office running smoothly. Although physical therapist aides are supervised by physical therapists, they might collaborate with therapist assistants.1 Their day-to-day responsibilities include cleaning treatment areas, setting up equipment for appointments, washing linens, as well as performing clerical duties such as answering the phone, or submitting patient intake forms. In some cases, a physical therapist aide might be responsible for ordering supplies, completing insurance forms, and administering modality treatments.2
A physical therapist aide can also interact with patients, helping them move to different treatment areas. 

The work and tasks that aides are allowed to do vary by state, and you may also see some variety in the responsibilities required by different employers.2 Jobs in offices or facilities that specialize in more intensive rehabilitation, such as helping patients recover from spinal cord injuries, may aides to assist with more hands-on work with patients.1

In this environment, a physical therapist aide could help patients fulfill basic life skills, like showering or eating.  

They can work in different treatment areas, including hospitals, nursing care facilities, physicians’ offices, and government settings.3 Many aides work full-time, though part-time opportunities still exist. Some physical therapist aides work nights and weekends to accommodate their patients’ work schedules.

Physical Therapy Assistant vs Aide

Physical therapist assistants and aides may work closely together in the same office, but there are several differences between the two roles.2 Physical therapist aides execute operational activities that help keep the office running efficiently. But their interaction with patients may be limited to scheduling appointments and bringing patients in and out of the therapist areas. 

However, physical therapist assistants have much more patient interaction. They perform many direct care responsibilities, such as:

  • Observing patients during therapy.
  • Helping patients with certain exercises.
  • Recording details about patients’ health status.
  • Using techniques like manual stretching to treat patients using devices like walkers to help patients.

Because physical therapist assistants work closely with patients, assistants are managed by physical therapists. In contrast, a physical therapist aide is often supervised by a physical therapist and may collaborate with a physical therapist assistant. 

Both physical therapist assistants and physical therapist aides ensure seamless health care experience, as they provide patients with the care they need.

Why Become a Physical Therapist Aide?

Now is an excellent time to become a physical therapist aide since job opportunities are projected to increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapist aide employment is projected to grow by 21% from 2019 to 2029.4

This growth is much faster than the average job rate across all occupations. And as of 2019, 50,600 physical therapist aides were employed. The industry needs approximately 10,800 additional aides between 2019 and 2029, bringing projected employment to 61,300. 

The rise in job opportunities is largely due to the aging population and the increasing health needs that people encounter as they mature. With many baby boomers entering the stage where significant health issues like heart attacks and strokes are more common, most of the population is likely to need physical therapy and rehabilitation services. Other factors, including a rise in chronic and genetic health conditions, also contribute to the increased demand for physical therapist aides. 

Benefits of Being a Physical Therapist Aide

Working as a physical therapist aide is rewarding in many ways. When you work in this industry, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to improve and maximize a patient’s quality of life.5 You will also have the ability to choose from various work settings, like rehabilitation centers, private practices, and more.3

Apart from the emotional fulfillment, working as a physical therapist aide can provide job security and a good salary.4 The BLS also reports that, as of May 2019, physical therapist aides earned a median annual wage of $27,000, with the top 10% earning more than $39,740.6 Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average. 

Best States to Work as a Physical Therapy Aide

As mentioned earlier, physical therapist aide salaries and employment rates vary from state to state. According to BLS local data, the following states have the highest employment levels for physical therapist aides as of May 2020.6

STATE EMPLOYMENT EMPLOYMENT PER THOUSAND JOBS
California 7,220 0.42
Texas 5,070 0.41
New Jersey 3,560 0.87
New York 3,290 0.35
Florida 2,040 0.23

The BLS reports that the following states paid the highest wages for physical therapist aides in May 2020.6

STATE HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
Alaska $22.98 $47,800
Minnesota $18.82 $39,150
Idaho $16.73 $34,810
Massachusetts $16.59 $34,510
Vermont $16.19 $33,680

Start Your Career as a Physical Therapy Aide

Carrington College focuses on small class sizes and hands-on training. Here you’re more than a face in a room. Take the first step on your way to a new career in Physical Therapy Aide.

Physical Therapist Aide Jobs

Physical therapist aides may work in the following environments:

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Skilled nursing facilities 
  • Physical therapists’ offices
  • State, local, or private hospitals 

Additionally, physical therapist aides may need to work extra hours since some offices offer flexible hours to meet their patients’ needs. Because there’s a large number of physical therapist aide responsibilities that include some administrative work, you may also need to learn technology skills and competencies.7 An aide works with emails, medical software like MEDITECH and Epic Systems, and programs like Microsoft Office, Excel, and Word. Possessing a wide range of skills, like performing physical activities like lifting and balancing, communicating with supervisors and peers, and moving objects like therapy equipment and supplies are likely necessary to succeed in this field. 

How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide

If you think that becoming a physical therapist aide is the right career path for you, there are a few PT aide requirements. You’ll need to complete these steps to start your new career.

  • Earn Your High School Diploma or GED

An entry-level physical therapist aide job requires that applicants have a high school diploma or GED.8 If you haven’t completed general education, try earning the credits you will need to graduate. And if you never graduated high school, you will need to earn your GED before applying for physical therapist aide opportunities.

  • Enroll in a Physical Therapy Technology Program

While not a physical therapist aide requirement, completing certificate courses can give you valuable skills and an advantage over your peers.8 In a Physical Therapy Technology program, you will learn and practice skills, such as therapeutic exercises, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, plus much more.9 Professional training will leave you better prepared for your first job as a physical therapist aide. The fact that you’ve made the extra effort to earn a certificate in the field may also help you stand out to potential employers.

  • Use On-the-Job Training to Improve Your Skills

On-the-job training can last anywhere from one week to one month, and during this time, you will learn the remaining skills you need to perform your job well.8

Do You Need to Be Certified to Be a Physical Therapist Aide?

States don’t require you to be certified or licensed to become a physical therapist aide.

What to Look for in Physical Therapy Technology School

When choosing a Physical Therapy Technology program, it’s important to find a school that offers a quality certificate program that will truly prepare you for your career. Consider the following qualities to determine which school is the right fit for you.

  • Curriculum: Consider the skills that will be most important in your career and look for a school with a curriculum that teaches you those skills. As a physical therapist aide, you will want to have a knowledge of physical diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation principles; customer service skills including needs assessment and satisfaction evaluation; and a knowledge of injuries, symptoms, treatment alternatives, and more.7 A quality certificate program’s curriculum should cover these topics and more. 
  • Cost: While enrolling in a certificate program is a great investment towards your career, you still need to balance a program’s cost with what you can reasonably afford.
  • Accreditation: Choosing a school that’s accredited confirms that you’ll be receiving a quality education.9 Accreditation can also help to validate the school to a potential employer. 
  • Instructor quality: Consider the instructors who will be teaching the courses. Look for a certificate program taught by instructors who have plenty of experience not only in education but also in working in the physical therapy industry.
  • Practical experience: Working as a physical therapist aide is a very physical job. While courses can help you acquire important knowledge that will benefit you on the job, gaining hands-on experience is an important step in your preparation. Programs that offer classroom study, lab exercises, and clinical training in professional environments can better prepare you for your career in the long run.10

How Long a Physical Therapy Technology program?

The duration of your learning will vary from school to school. Some programs take as little as five months to complete, while others can take closer to a year.10 11 While you may be anxious to start your exciting career, it’s important to weigh the quality of education that you’ll receive instead of focusing on the program’s length. 

Can I Study Physical Therapy Technology Online?

You cannot study physical therapy technology online at Carrington College, as it is a hands-on program. In class learning and experience are important for your career. But if you’re considering an online program, try to find one that offers extracurricular studies like internships or mentor guides.

Discover Your Career as a Physical Therapist Aide

Carrington College’s Physical Therapy Aide Program offers you the hands-on training you need for a job as Physical Therapist Aide. Take the first step on your way to a new career.

What Will I Learn in Carrington’s Physical Therapy Technology Program?

Carrington’s Physical Therapy Technology program covers the information you’ll use daily in your career as a physical therapist aide.11 Topics include anatomy and physiology, pathologies, medical terminology, therapeutic exercises, and modality applications such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, therapeutic exercises, and hydrotherapy.

Physical Therapist Aide Classes

The following are some of the Physical Therapy Technology program classes you could take at Carrington College.

Kinesiology Basics Theory

Students explore the science of human movement, art of palpation, draping techniques, trigger points and stretching in relation to physical therapy. Students will learn how to locate specific bones and muscles via touch. Additionally, students will learn the origins, insertions and actions associated with the musculoskeletal system. 

Fundamentals of Physical Therapy Technology Application

Students will obtain and assess specific vital signs. Students will also demonstrate the correct height of assistive devices, weight bearing statuses, various types of transfers and gait patterns using various assistive devices. Additionally, scope of practice will be discussed throughout the course. 

Prepare for a Career in Physical Therapy With Carrington College

A career as a physical therapist aide is quite lucrative, and you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping people live better lives. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, then enrolling in Carrington College’s Physical Therapy Technology program can prepare you for the challenges you’ll see on the job. In as little as nine months, you could be applying for your first job and putting the skills that you’ve learned to practical use. Request more information today to learn about the program and how it can help you along your career path. 

Physical Therapist Aide FAQ

How much does a physical therapist aide make?

As we’ve discussed, data from BLS states that physical therapist aides earned a median annual wage of $27,000 in May 2019. The top-earning 10% of aides made more than $39,740 per year.6

Do physical therapist aides need certification?

You don’t have to be certified or licensed to become a physical therapist aide.8 However, a certificate program can prepare you for your career with skills, knowledge, and real-world experience that will make your transition into your first job easier.

Should I go to school to be a physical therapist aide?

Attending school to be a physical therapist aide is a great way to kickstart your career, but it’s not the right decision for everyone. You’ll need to consider your budget, your career goals, and what you want to get out of a physical therapist aide program when deciding if going to school is right for you. 

Are there any other careers related to physical therapy?

Several jobs are similar to the work of physical therapist aides. Many of these professionals may also treat pain in joints, muscles and tissues by prescribing medications or using alternative solutions to accommodate their patients. Some of these careers include:

  • Restorative aide 
  • Rehabilitation aide
  • Rehabilitation attendant
  • Physical therapy attendant

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