Is physical therapy assistant a good career?

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Page last updated: 20/11/2022

This blog post will answer the question “is physical therapy assistant a good career?”, We will talk about what is the job of a physical therapy assistant, the pros and cons, and how to become one.

Is physical therapy assistant a good career?

Yes, physical therapy assistant is a good career. According to this report on job rankings, PTA is considered one of the top healthcare support jobs. This report was calculated after considering a lot of factors such as salary, unemployment rate, stress levels and work-life balance.

Since the main aim of physical therapy is to ease one’s pain and help improve the quality of life, it is used in a lot of cases. Some examples include:

  • Relieving pain
  • Prevent disabilities or surgeries
  • Rehab after strokes, accidents or injuries
  • Manage chronic illnesses
  • Adapt to artificial limbs

As these examples show, a lot of people can benefit from physical therapy, making it a high-demand job.

Research says that the patient’s mental health is also a major factor in their recovery, so if you have a degree or knowledge of psychology, it can boost your chances of getting a better job as a PTA.

Especially in cases of sports injuries or accidents where it takes more than a few months to heal, one’s mental health takes a toll, and studies show that when therapeutic approaches were combined with physical therapy activities, they maintained a positive attitude, experienced reduced stress and anxiety, as well as visualized healing occurring in the injured body part.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a non-invasive therapy, where the main goal is to help patients develop, maintain and restore full-body movement, and functions. It can help people recover from injuries or surgeries, prevent disabilities and future injuries. It also helps deal with chronic conditions. 

Anyone from newborn to old age people can get physical therapy, as the ultimate goal is to restore or maintain healthy body movement and functions. It’s provided as a primary treatment, or along with other treatments and medical services. In some countries, such as The united kingdom, physical therapists can prescribe medication.

Other areas of focus include research, education, consultation and health administration.

Is physical therapy assistant a good career?

What does a physical therapy assistant do?

Physical therapy assistants provide the same services as a physical therapist but under the supervision of a physical therapist. They take care of patients, collect and compile data related to their treatments, and work with the PT to modify treatment plans.

PTAs also help the physical therapists with the treatment of those patients, who range from newborns to people close to their death bed. They help patients suffering from health conditions, injuries or disabilities, people who have mobility issues, which makes it extremely hard for them to perform daily tasks. 

Physical therapy assistants also work with individuals who want to become healthier to prevent any future health problems. 

The supervising physical therapist is in charge of the services provided by the PTA and is the one who develops an individualised treatment plan to help them improve their bodies.

Some exercises that PTAs help their patients with include :

  • stretching
  • ultrasound therapy
  • therapeutic massage
  • balance and coordination training
  • electrical stimulation 
  • heat and ice treatments

Some physical therapy assistants are part of teams that work with a variety of patients. They usually observe the patients before, during and after therapy and are responsible for educating patients and their family members about post-treatment care.

Job opportunities as a physical therapy assistant

According to statistics majority of the PTAs, around 72%, work in hospitals and private physical therapy clinics. Roughly 28% of the assistants work part-time in this industry. 

Some of the most common areas where PTAs are employed are :

  • Schools with occupation therapists
  • Psychological rehab units for adults and children with disorders
  • nursing home facilities 
  • outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy clinics
  • hospitals
  • home health agencies
  • sports and fitness facilities

According to the American physical therapist association, the median income for a PTA is $52,000. It may vary depending on the experience, education and location of the clinic.

A report by the BLS states that physical therapist assistant salaries turned out to be highest for the ones employed at nursing domestic centres and domestic healthcare services.

Advantages of becoming a physical therapy assistant

Earning potential growth opportunities. 

They can work part-time and still earn a good salary. 

According to studies, older generations are receiving a lot of temporary injuries due to a more active lifestyle, leading to a 46% growth, for job opportunities, which is 14/% more than the growth for other jobs.

One of the greatest perks is that there are a lot of job opportunities right after you get out of college.

Low Educational Requirements

As PTAs can work with a 2-year associate degree, the cost of education is quite low. They are only required to undergo a few weeks or months of training on the field to gain the required experience.

Disadvantages of becoming a physical therapy assistant

High physical and emotional demands

It can be a physically demanding job, as they have to constantly be on their feet. It also uses up a lot of their strengths to set up and use heavy equipment such as traction machines and weights, and help patients move.

As it’s the job of an assistant, it is emotionally quite demanding. They deal with emotionally demanding patients, people in extreme pain, angry, confused patients in denial about their health. All of this can take a toll on them and make it emotionally exhausting.

Constant supervision

They can’t work by themselves and have to be under the constant supervision of the physical therapists. This can be emotionally draining and maybe a con for some people.

Long hours

Depending on where you work, your hours may be extremely long, making it more physically draining.

How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

This is a step-by-step guide to becoming a successful physical therapy assistant:

Step 1. Finding an accredited PTA program

It is mandatory everywhere that to become a physical therapy assistant, you need to get an associate degree from an accredited program. 

Most of the degrees are of 2 years, maybe less, and the course consists of  75% theory, and 25% clinical experience.

Step 2. Passing the licensing exam

The next step is to pass the licensing exam. Everyone who has graduated after their associated degree program is eligible for the program. According to the state boards federation an average of 3 retakes. Some PTAs also earn diplomas and other related certifications to help with their resume.

Step 3. Gaining the experience 

Post-care plan courses are one of the best options for gaining exposure. This increases the chances of employment as they gain experience and improve their resume. Volunteering in healthcare sectors is another way to gain experience and sharpen one’s skills.

Step 4. Get additional certificates

Most certification courses take around 2000 hours to complete and are very popular with physical therapy assistants. There are more opportunities, such as getting APTA recognition. It’s a voluntary program to show off one’s skills, and how prepared they are in their area of speciality.

Skills required to become a physical therapy assistant

As with every job, there are specific skills required for one to become a good physical therapy assistant. They are listed below :

Communication

Since PTAs help the patients exercise, give them instructions on how to proceed with their treatment, and relay information from the PT to the patient and their family members, good communication skills are a must for them.

Compassion

They have to be compassionate to understand the patient’s feelings and help them and motivate the patient and the family when they are feeling distressed.

Detail Oriented

PTAs keep detailed records of the patients’ illnesses, injuries, and exercise programs. They also convey this information to the physical therapist. This involves a lot of information, and the physical therapy assistant needs to be detail-oriented and focused to keep a track of everything.

Multitasking

PTAs are required to manage a lot of things such as equipment, multiple patients and their records, following the physical therapists instructions and ordering supplies. They need to be good at multitasking to prioritize important tasks and still be organized.

Physical Stamina

This is a must, as the work of a physical therapy assistant is one of the most physically demanding jobs. It requires a lot of stamina, strength and dexterity. They are on their feet, bend and kneel a lot, help patients with moving and walking, massage patients and help set up equipment.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we talked about why a physical therapy assistant is a good career, the job prospects, salary and education required and the advantages and disadvantages of this job.

Frequently asked questions(FAQ): is physical therapy assistant a good career?

How much do PTAs make starting?

As reported by the BLS, the average lowest income is $48,260. The geographical region and healthcare setting or organisation that you work in may affect this figure by 7%. So, a new graduated PTA can expect to earn about $44,881 annually, or $21.57 an hour.

Is becoming a physical therapist assistant worth it?

The job growth for this career is set to grow about 27% by 2028. This is about 5% higher than what other jobs are experiencing and is mainly due to the older generations medical problems. Another factor in this is that going to a PTA is less expensive than going to a PT and expensive doctors.

How much does a PTA degree cost?

Community colleges have been reported to cost around $2,500 a year, while private colleges cost $10,000 per year. The costs for in-state residents in the US are lower than that of others. 

On top of that most states require a license from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, which costs $350.

Is PTA School Hard?

As the course of a PTA school is similar to that of medical school, it is quite intense and can be difficult for some people, but it isn’t anything that can’t be solved using some tips and tricks.

What’s the difference between a physical therapist and an assistant?

The key differences between the two are listed below :

Physical therapist 

  • Diagnoses and provides care to patients
  • Sets up treatment plans
  • Teaches exercises and stretches to help with mobility
  • Has a post-graduate degree and DPT degree
  • Have to take state exams or NPT exams for license
  • The Median Annual Salary is $91,010

Physical Therapy Assistant

  • Assesses the severity of the patient’s problem and report it to the PT
  • Assists patients with their exercises and machines
  • Teaches patients and family members about post-treatment care
  • Has an associate degree and optional certifications
  • Have to take the PNPT exam for a license
  • The Median Annual Salary is $49,970

References

Malvik, C. (2020). How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant (and Why You Should. Retrieved from

https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/health-sciences/blog/how-to-become-physical-therapist-assistant/

Becoming a PTA. Retrieved from

https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/becoming-a-pta#:~:text=Physical%20therapist%20assistants%20provide%20physical,supervision%20of%20a%20physical%20therapist.&text=A%20PT%20will%20examine%20each,restore%20function%2C%20and%20prevent%20disability.

Physical Therapist Assistant. Retrieved from

Locsin, A. What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Physical Therapy Assistants? Retrieved from

https://work.chron.com/advantages-disadvantages-physical-therapy-assistants-14343.html

Physical Therapy Assistant. Retrieved from

https://sieracki.weebly.com/pros-and-cons.html

Physical therapy. Retrieved from

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_therapy

Olean Physical Therapy Professionals. Retrieved from

https://www.oleanpt.com/library/4298/WhatIsPhysicalTherapy.html

Physical Therapy Assistant Skills List. Retrieved from

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/list-of-physical-therapy-assistant-skills-2062421