How to Get a Job as a Physical Therapist Assistant
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?'"
What is the Job Like?
Some 72 percent of PTAs work in hospitals or private practices, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, and most jobs are full-time (though 28 percent work part-time). Other practice areas, like orthopedic practices and skilled nursing facilities, are seeing more demand for PTAs, experts say. It’s a "hands-on" job, as PTA duties can include therapeutic exercise, massage, or treatments such as electrotherapy and ultrasound, as well as educating patients on strategies for healthier lifestyles. Also, careful recordkeeping matters here, since you'll follow a therapist's treatment plan. ("The job's not done until the paperwork is done," Greenawald notes.) As for career advancement, she counsels students considering a PTA degree that such programs are a question of "the availability of time and money," often for people in search of a second career, or parents returning to the workforce after a break. Transitioning to a physical therapist career isn't often the path of assistants, given the much heftier educational requirements for that position. The primary consideration, she says, is often practical: "They want to be able to earn the degree that'll allow them to get a job."