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How Do I Become a Physical Therapist? Education & Career

Physical Therapist

Physical therapist assistants play a critical role in helping people recover from injury and illness. Under the direction of physical therapists, PTAs provide hands-on care to help patients through treatments and exercise routines that restore range of motion, manage pain, and improve balance and motor skills.

What Does A Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

Physical therapist assistants are often the first people to treat a given patient who comes in for therapy. As a PTA, you will observe the patient’s condition and progress, record important information to pass on to the physical therapist, and often work with the patient on warm-up treatments such as stretching or massage. Under the supervision of a physical therapist, she will also guide patients through exercise routines and provide instructions on how best to continue progress at home.

Physiotherapist Assistant Duties

Some of the daily responsibilities of Physical Therapist Assistants include:

  • Observe patients and record their condition
  • Help patients perform specific exercises as part of their treatment plan.
  • Treat patients with practical techniques such as stretching or massage
  • Help patients use exercise equipment or medical devices such as walkers
  • Educate patients and their caregivers on what to do after a therapy session and what exercises to do at home.
Physical Therapist Assistant Skills

Great assistant physical therapists are empathic people who are passionate about helping people make miraculous recoveries. Patients undergoing physical therapy are often in pain and face significant challenges, so having a compassionate caregiver can make a world of difference in someone’s recovery. A career as a physical therapist assistant also requires some physical stamina; Depending on the patient, you may need to bend, stoop, stoop, and lift a lot.

Physiotherapist assistant Working hours and environment

Physical therapist assistants often work standard full-time hours, although part-time jobs are quite common as well. Some clinics or facilities may be open on weekends or outside of normal business hours to better accommodate patient schedules. However, PTA work hours are often quite predictable, as physical therapy is usually done in a non-emergency setting.

Pass the national physiotherapy exam

After completing your Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant, you will need to pass the NPTE exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to demonstrate that you have mastered the skills and knowledge necessary to safely and effectively manage care. The NPTE is a timed multiple-choice test, usually with 200 questions. You will have about four hours to complete the version of the exam given to PT assistants (full-fledged PTs should take a longer, more detailed version).

Practice tests are available for a moderate fee and can be very beneficial because you will know what to expect when it comes time to take the actual test. The Practice Exam and Assessment Tool (PEAT) is available from the FSBPT and can provide real-time feedback on any area where you may need to spend a little more time studying.

Get licensed by state

Once you have passed the NPTE, you will be able to obtain a license from each state to practice as a physical therapist assistant. You may be required to complete a criminal background check or take continuing education courses at semi-regular intervals to renew your license. The FSBPT not only oversees certification exams, but can also help you transfer your NPTE test results for licensing in additional states, should you wish to relocate at some point during your career.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary

How Much Do Physiotherapist Assistants Earn?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapist assistants earn a median annual salary of approximately $58,000. Gain some experience and become the top 10% earner among Physical Therapist Assistants, and you’ll be looking to earn over $80,000 a year. It is one of the highest paying careers in the medical industry that you can get without having to earn a bachelor’s degree.

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