December 30, 2022
How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide (PTA)

Part One What is a Physical Therapy Aide?

Physical therapy aides are ancillary healthcare professionals who assist and work under the direct supervision of a physical therapist (PT). They prepare patients for physical therapy, set up treatment areas, gather necessary materials, and clean and organize materials after a physical therapy session.

If you are interested in entering into the healthcare field, enjoy helping others, and are fascinated by how the body moves, a career as a physical therapy aide (PTA) might be a great option for you!

Physical Therapy Aide Specialties

Physical therapy aides work with a variety of different patient types, but the most common specialties they work in include:

  • Geriatric
  • Orthopedic
  • Neurological
  • Pediatric
  • Cardiopulmonary

Physical Therapy Aide vs Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapy aides are often confused with physical therapist assistants. However, it is essential to understand the difference between the two job titles for clarity and to prevent confusion.

  1. Physical therapist assistants are healthcare professionals who directly assist patients with therapeutic exercises as a part of their medical care and recovery.  
  2. Physical therapy aides do not work directly with patients. They do ancillary tasks such as setting up treatment areas, cleaning up after patient treatments, transporting patients, and performing other various clerical duties.

Part Two What Do Physical Therapy Aides Do?

Physical therapy aides work under the supervision of physical therapists during patient treatments and ensure that areas are clean, stocked with necessary supplies, and safe for treatment. 

A physical therapy aide job description includes:

  1. Welcoming, comforting, assisting, and preparing patients for physical therapy
  2. Gathering needed supplies and preparing physical therapy treatment rooms 
  3. Helping patients with supplemental therapy treatments, including hot and cold packs, and paraffin dips
  4. Assisting patients onto exercise equipment and into treatment pools
  5. Helping the physical therapist by monitoring and recording data during treatment 
  6. Helping maintain the safety of patients by keeping treatment areas clean and complying with protocols
  7. Helping position patients for physical therapy treatments
  8. Performing preventative maintenance requirements for therapy equipment per manufacturer instructions
  9. Ensuring sufficient stock of supplies and reordering when needed
  10. Completing occasional clerical tasks

Physical therapy aides work in a variety of patient care settings wherever physical therapy is needed and in a variety of locations, including:

  1. Hospitals
  2. Doctors offices
  3. Physical therapy offices
  4. Nursing homes
  5. Sports and fitness offices
  6. Outpatient clinics

Physical therapy aides must possess compassion, empathy, and a desire to work alongside other medical professionals with sick, injured, or disabled patients.

>> Related: How to Become a Physical Therapist

We Found The Following Schools with Online Physical Therapy Aide Programs

Part Three Physical Therapy Aide Salary 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that physical therapy aides earned a median salary of $49,180 in 2021. 

However, the BLS also states that as of May 2021, annual wages for physical therapist aides were also dependent on your work environment. From highest to lowest paying, these are the median salaries for physical therapy aides specific to work location:

  1. Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) - $37,090
  2. Hospitals - $30,230
  3. Doctors offices - $29,960
  4. Government agencies - $29,020
  5. Physical, occupational, and speech therapist offices - $28,920

Other salary factors include working full-time or part-time, the area you live in, and your experience level. In addition, many physical therapy aides have the option to work overtime hours if they choose to.

Highest Paying States for Physical Therapy Aides

According to the BLS, the highest paying states for physical therapy aides are:

  1. Alaska - $43,580
  2. Hawaii - $40,070
  3. Rhode Island - $37,710
  4. Minnesota - $37,280
  5. Maine - $37,040

Part Four How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide

If you want to become a physical therapy aide, these are the steps you’ll need to take:

1.) Obtain a High School Diploma or GED

The minimum requirement to work as a physical therapy aide is a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. 

2.) Enroll in a Physical Therapy Aide Program

Some physical therapy aides receive no additional training before starting their careers. Instead, they receive on-the-job training while working in the field.

However, some jobs may require you to complete a physical therapy aide program. These are available at technical colleges, vocational schools, and in certificate programs. These programs usually take a few weeks to 2 months to complete.

3.) Earn Your Certification 

You can further your education by earning a Physical Therapy Aide/Technician Certification (PTTC). Your program may help prepare you for taking and passing this exam, but there are also online courses that can help you.

We Found The Following Schools with Online Physical Therapy Aide Programs

Part Five What is the Career Outlook For a Physical Therapy Aide?

The job outlook for physical therapy aides is excellent, and the BLS projects 24% growth in the profession between 2021-2031. The expected growth is due to the anticipated needs of an increasing elderly population and increased comorbidities, such as obesity and diabetes.

Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Physical Therapy Aides?

Currently, there are no mandatory continuing education (CE) requirements for physical therapy aides. There are only CE requirements for physical therapists and physical therapy assistants.

However, many states and employers may require that you earn your Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. BLS certification is usually a two or three-hour hands-on class. Recertification takes place every two years.

You must research your state’s requirements for more information.

Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About Physical Therapy Aides?

We Found The Following Schools with Online Physical Therapy Aide Programs

Part Eight Physical Therapy Aide FAQs

  • How long does it take to become a physical therapy aide?

    • Physical therapy aide programs usually take a few weeks to 2 months to complete.
  • Is a physical therapy aide a good career?

    • A career as a physical therapy aide is an excellent career for those interested in entering into an entry-level healthcare career and have a desire to work alongside other medical professionals with sick, injured, or disabled patients. The BLS projects 24% increased growth in the profession over the next ten years, so there will be many opportunities for those interested in entering the profession.
  • Is it hard to get into a PTA program?

    • PTA programs require that you have a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent for program candidacy.