Physical Therapist Assistants
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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.
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Titles for this career often contain these words
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Responsibilities and activities

Physical therapist assistants typically do the following:

  • Observe patients before, during, and after therapy, noting the patient’s status and reporting it to a physical therapist
  • Help patients do specific exercises as part of the plan of care
  • Treat patients using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
  • Use devices and equipment, such as walkers, to help patients
  • Educate patients and family members about what to do after treatment

Under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, physical therapist assistants treat patients through exercise, massage, gait and balance training, and other therapeutic interventions. They record patients’ progress and report the results of each treatment to the physical therapist.

Physical therapist aides typically do the following:

  • Clean treatment areas and set up therapy equipment
  • Wash linens
  • Help patients move to or from a therapy area
  • Do clerical tasks, such as answering phones and scheduling patients

Physical therapist aides are supervised by physical therapists or physical therapist assistants. The tasks that physical therapist aides are allowed to do vary by state. They usually are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized, preparing for each patient’s therapy, and helping patients as needed in moving to or from a treatment area. In addition, aides do a variety of clerical tasks, such as ordering supplies, scheduling treatment sessions, and completing insurance forms.

Median salary: $59,770 annually
Half of those employed in this career earn between $48,260 and $70,800.
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for this career compare to other jobs' salaries?
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Salary growth for physical therapist assistants and aides
Is this job likely to reward you for sticking with it through pay raises and promotions? The higher a job’s “experience quotient,” the more you are likely to get as you stay there.
Experience quotient percentile
Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?
Salary distribution
Number employed
About Physical Therapist Assistants
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs? The availability of health care, especially employer provided health care, and pension plans can add significantly to the value of compensation you receive in a career. These charts compare how this career compares to other careers with regard to health care and pension plans.
Employee has health insurance
Employer is providing health insurance
Employer-provided pension plan is available
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of physical therapist assistants who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (79%)
  • Consequence of Error (66%)
  • Time Pressure (66%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (36%)
  • High Conflict Frequency (35%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health (33%)
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Personality and skills
Can you see yourself in the ranks of Physical Therapist Assistants? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.
Physical therapist assistants and aides should enjoy helping people. They work with people who are in pain and must have empathy to help their patients.
Detail oriented
Physical therapist assistants and aides should be organized, keep accurate records, and follow written and verbal instructions carefully to ensure quality care.
Physical therapist assistants should be comfortable using their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. Aides should also be comfortable working with their hands to set up equipment and prepare treatment areas.
Interpersonal skills
Physical therapist assistants and aides spend much of their time interacting with patients, their families, and other healthcare practitioners; therefore, they should be courteous and friendly.
Physical stamina
Physical therapist assistants and aides are frequently on their feet and moving as they work with their patients. They must often kneel, stoop, bend, and stand for long periods.
Injury and Illness
About 74 physical therapist assistants become injured or ill for every 10,000 workers, making this job more dangerous than 74% of other careers. The most common specific illnesses or injuries are detailed following.
Soreness and pain
Sprains, strains, tears
Bruises and contusions
Education pathways to this career
Education attained by physical therapist assistants
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapist assistants typically hold a associate's degree.
Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as physical therapist assistants and aides as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.
Details: Licensing and certification recommended for physical therapist assistants

All states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed or certified. Licensure typically requires graduation from an accredited physical therapist assistant program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for physical therapist assistants. The exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states require that applicants pass an exam on the state’s laws regulating the practice of physical therapy assistants, undergo a criminal background check, and be at least 18 years old. Physical therapist assistants also may need to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Check with your state board for specific licensing requirements.

Additionally, physical therapy assistants may earn certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), or other first-aid skills.

States do not require physical therapist aides to be licensed.

Education level of Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
Only 28% of physical therapist assistants and aides have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by physical therapist assistants and aides
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
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Programs recommended by the Department of Education
The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click the program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.
Number of degrees awarded in 2018
Education level of awarded degrees
Gender of graduates
Race/origin of graduates
Where are the jobs
State-by-state employment numbers
Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.
Select a state to see local area details
Number of Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides per 1,000 workers (ACS)
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Job density versus job count
Which states hire the most physical therapist assistants? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as physical therapist assistants. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where physical therapist assistants earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio
We use two methods to compare salaries across states:
  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for physical therapist assistants and aides compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for physical therapist assistants and aides.
We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which physical therapist assistants and aides earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this figure might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
Location-adjusted median salary for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides (ACS for all specialties)
33% of Physical therapist assistants and aides are working part time.
We’ve found that some jobs have a huge number of part-time workers, and typically that is because they are unable to find full-time work or the job itself can’t provide full-time hours. With 33% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 87% of careers.
Employer types
This donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire for this career.
Employers of undefined (ACS)
Private for-profit
Private not-for-profit
Local government
State government
Federal government
Self-employed incorporated
Self-employed not incorporated
Working without pay
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Distribution: Salaries of physical therapist assistants and aides by type of employer
Here are the salary distributions based on employer type.
$45K$44K$45K$45K$45K$61K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Self-employed not incorporatedFederal governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Physical therapist assistants and aides and gender
With 67% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 79% of careers.
Gender of Physical therapist assistants and aides
Men (33%)
Women (67%)
Distribution: salaries by gender
Does gender greatly influence your salary in this career? The closer the bars are, the less discrepancy there is.
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.
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Context: Women in the workforce
How does this career compare to other careers with regard to the percentage of women in the career.
Context: Salary inequity
The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for physical therapist assistants and aides, with the median salary for men 12% higher than the median salary for women.
Race and origin of Physical therapist assistants and aides
This donut shows the distribution of race and origin among those employed as Physical therapist assistants and aides.
Race/origin of physical therapist assistants and aides
White (80% )
Black (7% )
Asian (6% )
Multiracial (3% )
Other (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Hispanic (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Distribution: salaries by race/origin
Some careers might have a pay disparity based on race or origin, the closer the below bars are the less of a discrepancy is present.
$32K$33K$37K$38K$41K$45K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KOtherHispanicAmerican IndianMultiracialBlackAsianWhite
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.