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Physical Therapist Assistant

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Overall Score
(7.3 out of 10)

Number of Jobs

29,300

Median Salary

$52,160

Unemployment Rate

3.4 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Health Care Jobs #11
The 100 Best Jobs #17

The day-to-day work of helping injured patients move more freely requires a mix of skillful, hands-on care and organizational acumen. Physical therapist assistants are part of a clinical team that makes sure both clients and the business side of a therapy practice move smoothly. Just as physical therapists aid doctors in creating and executing treatment plans, assistants aid therapists in helping patients with movement difficulties caused by injury or disease. They’re tasked with everything from cleaning therapy spaces to recording accurate data on patient progress, teaching proper exercise techniques and showing patients how to use crutches or canes.

This career is growing more quickly than most other health care jobs, and at a much faster rate than the jobs of physical therapists who oversee them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for PTAs should average 41 percent between 2012 and 2022. During that time, 29,300 new jobs are expected to be created.

Salary

PTAs earned a median salary of $52,160 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid earned about $72,720, while the lowest-paid earned less than $32,420. Those who work for home health care services or nursing care facilities generally earn the most. The top-paying metropolitan areas for this career are in Lakeland, Fla., and the Texas cities of San Antonio and McAllen.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $62,360
Median $52,160
25th Percentile $42,100

Training

Many PTA programs offer two-year associate’s degrees, but students must graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education to be eligible for the licensure exam required by most states. About a quarter of that education should be in a clinical environment, and that’s where the job hunt should start, experts say. A considerable amount of additional education is required to transition into a physical therapist career.

Reviews & Advice

Real-world clinical experience can be a big help in getting a foot in the door. Internships that start during school are the best introduction to a practice that could become an employer, says Nancy Greenawald, the program coordinator of the physical therapist assistant program at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Md. “The place where they do their clinical internship can say, ‘Is this someone who we’d like to have work with us?’”

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility poor Below Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Emily Brandon.


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