Physical Therapist Assistants

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$62,770 Median Wage (2022)
18,100 Projected job openings (2022-2032)
26.10% Projected growth (2022-2032)

Assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures. 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.

Experience Requirements Overview

  • Job Zone Three: Medium Preparation Needed
  • Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.
  • Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.
  • Employees in these occupations 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 these occupations.

Education, Training and Experience

Required Level of Education: Associate's Degree (or other 2-year degree)

Related Work Experience: N.A.

On-Site or In-Plant Training: Up to and including 1 month

On-the-Job Training: Over 3 months, up to and including 6 months

Detailed Work Activities

  • Monitor patient progress or responses to treatments.
  • Prepare medical reports or documents.
  • Communicate patient status to other health practitioners.
  • Administer therapy treatments to patients using hands or physical treatment aids.
  • Teach medical procedures or medical equipment use to patients.
  • Attend educational events to update medical knowledge.
  • Teach medical procedures to healthcare personnel.
  • Engage patients in exercises or activities.
  • Encourage patients during therapeutic activities.
  • Confer with other professionals to plan patient care.
  • Assess physical conditions of patients to aid in diagnosis or treatment.
  • Hold patients to ensure proper positioning or safety.
  • Fit patients for assistive devices.
  • Move patients to or from treatment areas.
  • Adjust positions of patients on beds or tables.
  • Monitor medical equipment to ensure proper functioning.
  • Clean patient rooms or patient treatment rooms.
  • Assist patients with daily activities.
  • Administer basic health care or medical treatments.
  • Perform clerical work in medical settings.
  • Inventory medical supplies or equipment.
  • Prepare medical instruments or equipment for use.
  • Prepare patient treatment areas for use.
  • Document client health or progress.
  • Record patient medical histories.
  • Train patients, family members, or caregivers in techniques for managing disabilities or illnesses.

Work Values

Achievement

Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.

Working Conditions

Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.

Recognition

Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.

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. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.

Support

Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.

Independence

Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

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, aquatic physical therapy, or heat, light, sound, or electrical modality treatments, such as ultrasound.
  • Transport patients to and from treatment areas, lifting and transferring them according to positioning requirements.
  • 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 patients' 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.
  • Assist patients to dress, undress, or put on and remove supportive devices, such as braces, splints, or slings.
  • Attend or conduct continuing education courses, seminars, or in-service activities.
  • Fit patients for orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices, such as crutches.
  • 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.
  • Prepare treatment areas and electrotherapy equipment for use by physiotherapists.
  • Administer traction to relieve neck or back pain, using intermittent or static traction equipment.
  • Perform therapeutic wound care.

Work Styles

Achievement/Effort

Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

Persistence

Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.

Initiative

Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.

Leadership

Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

Cooperation

Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

Concern for Others

Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

Social Orientation

Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.

Self-Control

Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

Stress Tolerance

Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.

Adaptability/Flexibility

Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

Dependability

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.

Attention to Detail

Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.

Integrity

Job requires being honest and ethical.

Independence

Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.

Innovation

Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

Analytical Thinking

Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.

Data Source: This page includes information from the O*NET 28.0 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. This page includes Employment Projections program, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.