How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a physical therapy assistant, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a physical therapy assistant:


Those who become physical therapy assistants have an interest and aptitude in helping people who have difficulty with physical mobility due to injury or illness. They are typically passionate about promoting overall health, fitness and wellness. Physical therapy assistants must be comfortable working in a team environment, and taking direction from others.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a physical therapy assistant. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

Although educational requirements for becoming a physical therapist assistant may vary from region to region, or from employer to employer, you typically need to have a diploma or an associate’s degree in a physical therapist program from an accredited college or university.


Physical therapy programs are typically 2 years in duration, and include both classroom work and clinical experience. Classroom-based academic work typically includes courses such as algebra, English, anatomy, and psychology. Clinical work includes certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other first aid and hands-on experience in treatment centers. 




Physical Therapy Assistant Job Description

Physical therapist assistants perform certain physical therapy procedures and related tasks under the supervision of physical therapists or physiotherapists in order to help patients and clients who have challenges with their mobility due to injury or illness.


By assisting with physical therapy, physical therapy assistants help relieve pain, prevent of limit physical disability and immobility, and promote overall fitness and health in for their patients and clients. 



Physical Therapy Assistant Job Duties

• Perform components of treatment procedures including ultrasound, traction, hot and cold packs, paraffin baths, electrical stimulation, massages, exercises

• Prepare equipment for physical therapist

• May prepare patients for therapy sessions

• Liaise with doctors, occupational therapists, and social workers

• Use specialized equipment and procedures



Who Hires Physical Therapy Assistants?

Organizations that help patients and clients who have difficulty with movements due to illness or injury hire physical therapy assistants; such organizations include:


• Hospitals

• Rehabilitation centres

• Continuing care facilities

• Community and government health agencies

• Home care agencies

• Physiotherapy and physical therapy clinics



Working Conditions for Physical Therapy Assistants

Work Schedule: Physical therapy assistants typically work normal weekday working hours, although they can vary depending on such factors as the hours of the facility they work in and their employment status.


Work Environment: The jobs of physical therapy assistants can be physically demanding, as they are frequently moving, bending, stooping, kneeling, crouching and lifting. Physical therapy assistants may also be required to move heavy equipment and lift patients or help them to turn, stand, or walk.



Physical Therapy Assistant Salary

The salary level of physical therapy assistants can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, the specific responsibilities of their job and many others.


Physical Therapy Assistant Salary Alberta: According to the Alberta Learning and Information Service, wages for Physical Therapy Assistants typically range from $20.23 to $24.49 per hour.


Physical Therapy Assistant Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of Physical Therapist Assistant and Aides is $37,710 per year.



Characteristics Needed to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

In order to become effective in a career as a physical therapist assistant, you need to posses certain personality characteristics. Having these characteristics will ensure that you are able to maintain a positive attitude towards your work, and that you are able to endure the ups and downs of a career as a physical therapy assistant; such traits include:


• Physical fitness

• Good observation skills

• Have patience when dealing with people who are under physical and emotional stress

• Able to work independently and as part of a team

• Able to encourage patient confidence and participation

• Good interpersonal skills

• Good oral communication skills

• Manual dexterity

• Able to follow directions closely



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Careers Similar to Physical Therapy Assistant

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Physical Therapy Assistant, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Athletic Therapist

Massage Therapist

Occupational Therapist Assistant




References: Physical Therapy Assistant Career

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a physical therapy assistant.


Occupations in Alberta:Physical Therapist Assistant.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Healthcare: Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Careers: Becoming a PT or PTA.” (n.d.). Canadian Physical Therapy Association website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant can be found on the following pages:


Exercise Science Scholarships

Kinesiology Scholarships

Psychology Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a physical therapy assistant. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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