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Career profile Physical Therapist Assistant

Also known as Certified Physical Therapist Assistant (CPTA), Home Care Physical Therapy Assistant, Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant, Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant (LPTA), Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant, Outpatient Physical Therapist Assistant, Per Diem Physical Therapist Assistant (Per Diem PTA), Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)

Physical Therapist Assistant

Also known as Certified Physical Therapist Assistant (CPTA), Home Care Physical Therapy Assistant, Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$33,840 - $82,470 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Monitoring
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Instruct, motivate, safeguard, and assist patients as they practice exercises or functional activities.
  • Document patient information, such as notes on their progress.
  • Observe patients during treatments to compile and evaluate data on their responses and progress and provide results to physical therapist in person or through progress notes.
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What does a Physical Therapist Assistant do?

Physical Therapist Assistants assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures.

In addition, Physical Therapist Assistants

  • may, in accordance with state laws, assist in the development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, document the progress of treatment, and modify specific treatments in accordance with patient status and within the scope of treatment plans established by a physical therapist,
  • generally requires formal training.

What kind of tasks does a Physical Therapist Assistant perform regularly?

Physical Therapist Assistants are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Instruct, motivate, safeguard, and assist patients as they practice exercises or functional activities.
  • Document patient information, such as notes on their progress.
  • Observe patients during treatments to compile and evaluate data on their responses and progress and provide results to physical therapist in person or through progress notes.
  • Instruct patients in proper body mechanics and in ways to improve functional mobility, such as aquatic exercise.
  • Secure patients into or onto therapy equipment.
  • Confer with physical therapy staff or others to discuss and evaluate patient information for planning, modifying, or coordinating treatment.
  • Administer active or passive manual therapeutic exercises, therapeutic massage, or heat, light, sound, water, or electrical modality treatments, such as ultrasound.
  • Transport patients to and from treatment areas, using wheelchairs or providing standing support.
  • Clean work area and check and store equipment after treatment.
  • Communicate with or instruct caregivers or family members on patient therapeutic activities or treatment plans.
  • Measure patient's range-of-joint motion, body parts, or vital signs to determine effects of treatments or for patient evaluations.
  • Train patients in the use of orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices.
  • Monitor operation of equipment and record use of equipment and administration of treatment.
  • Attend or conduct continuing education courses, seminars, or in-service activities.
  • Assist patients to dress, undress, or put on and remove supportive devices, such as braces, splints, or slings.
  • Fit patients for orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices, adjusting fit as needed.
  • Perform postural drainage, percussions, or vibrations or teach deep breathing exercises to treat respiratory conditions.
  • Perform clerical duties, such as taking inventory, ordering supplies, answering telephone, taking messages, or filling out forms.

The above responsibilities are specific to Physical Therapist Assistants. More generally, Physical Therapist Assistants are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Performing General Physical Activities
Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

What is a Physical Therapist Assistant salary?

The median salary for a Physical Therapist Assistant is $59,770, and the average salary is $59,440. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Physical Therapist Assistant salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Physical Therapist Assistants earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Physical Therapist Assistants earn less than $33,840 per year, 25% earn less than $48,260, 75% earn less than $70,800, and 90% earn less than $82,470.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Physical Therapist Assistants is expected to change by 35.3%, and there should be roughly 16,400 open positions for Physical Therapist Assistants every year.

Median annual salary
$59,770
Typical salary range
$33,840 - $82,470
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
35.3%

What personality traits are common among Physical Therapist Assistants?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Physical Therapist Assistant are usually higher in their Social, Realistic, and Investigative interests.

Physical Therapist Assistants typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Physical Therapist Assistants typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Physical Therapist Assistants typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Physical Therapist Assistant tend to value Relationships, Working Conditions, and Support.

Most importantly, Physical Therapist Assistants very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Physical Therapist Assistants strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Physical Therapist Assistants strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Physical Therapist Assistants must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, integrity, and cooperation.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Physical Therapist Assistants, ranked by importance:

Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Self-Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

What education and training do Physical Therapist Assistants need?

Physical Therapist Assistants often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Physical Therapist Assistants usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Physical Therapist Assistants

  • 1.5% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 5.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 10.4% completed some college coursework
  • 50.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 28.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 1.7% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Physical Therapist Assistants

Physical Therapist Assistants may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, therapy and counseling, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Physical Therapist Assistants might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Psychology
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.

Important Abilities needed by Physical Therapist Assistants

Physical Therapist Assistants must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Physical Therapist Assistants need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and speech recognition in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Physical Therapist Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Speech Recognition
The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

Critical Skills needed by Physical Therapist Assistants

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Physical Therapist Assistants frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and monitoring to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Physical Therapist Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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