How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

Learn about the credentials and skills you need to become a PTA.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapists are essential to the health and wellbeing of patients recovering from injuries and illnesses. But they can’t always meet patients’ needs alone. That’s why they rely on the help of physical therapist assistants (PTAs) to provide the best possible care to patients. Whether you’re an aspiring physical therapist or simply get satisfaction from helping others, you might be interested in how to become a physical therapist assistant.

The good news for people going into this field is that the need for PTAs is increasing as Baby Boomers age and more and more physical therapy techniques are proven to be effective. The projected job growth for PTA jobs over the next ten years is a whopping 32%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s far above the average projected job growth across all fields.

Read through our guide on how to become a physical therapist assistant to learn about all the credentials you’ll need, where employers are hiring, and how to create an application package that will land you an interview.

What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

Physical therapist assistants help patients recover from injuries and illnesses. They work directly under the supervision of physical therapists for physical, occupational, and speech therapy offices. Some work for hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities, and government agencies.

The daily responsibilities of PTAs typically include:

  • Cleaning and setting up treatment areas.
  • Transporting patients.
  • Observing patients and reporting patients’ status to physical therapists.
  • Assisting patients with recovery exercises.
  • Using massage, stretching, and other physical therapy techniques to treat patients.
  • Conducting clerical work such as recordkeeping.
  • Providing patients and families with post-treatment advice.

Physical therapist assistants are not to be confused with physical therapy aides, whose duties are usually limited to clerical work and setting up equipment. See Monster’s physical therapist assistant job description sample for more information on the day-to-day duties in this field.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

Want to know how to become a PTA? Becoming a PTA requires an associate degree from a physical therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. During a physical therapy program, you’ll learn about:

  • human anatomy
  • physiology
  • movement and exercise fundamentals
  • kinesiology
  • biomechanics

While physical therapy assistant certification isn’t required, it can boost your chances of getting hired. PTAs often receive certification in first aid, CPR, and basic life support (BLS) skills. The American Red Cross offers training and certification in these areas.

The skills and qualities needed to succeed as a physical therapist assistant include:

  • Empathy and compassion for patients.
  • Strong organizational skills.
  • Dexterity and the ability to work with your hands.
  • Physical stamina.

How to Get a Physical Therapy Assistant License

Once you’ve completed a PTA associate degree program and passed the National Physical Therapy Exam, you’ll be eligible for a physical therapy assistant license from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

Depending on which state you live in, you may be required to pass an exam that assesses your knowledge of state law around physical therapy. Additionally, you may need to pass a background check and pursue continuing education to keep your license. It’s important that you check your state’s requirements.

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Make?

The median physical therapy assistant salary is $25.53 an hour. But depending on your location and credentials, you may earn between $13.72 and $32.59 an hour.

Find out how much you might make in your area by entering “physical therapy assistant” and your location into Monster’s Salary Tools. In addition to your PTA salary, you’ll find a list of salaries for related jobs and metro areas where PTAs are in high demand.

How to Find Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to become a physical therapist assistant, you may be eager to apply. But it’s important that you polish up your resume and cover letter first. Start by using our physical therapist resume sample as a guide to creating or updating your resume. Then, be sure to introduce yourself with a cover letter that discusses the key skills you’ll bring to the table and your enthusiasm for helping people to heal. Never written a cover letter before? No need to worry. Our simple writing best practices and cover letter samples will have you well on your way to landing an interview.

Ready to apply for physical therapist assistant jobs, but not sure where to look? According to BLS data, the top five states with the most physical therapist assistant jobs are:

More specifically, the top five cities for physical therapist assistants are:

Rehab Your Career With Help From Monster

Ready to help others while embarking on a high-demand career path? Learning how to become a physical therapist assistant is the first step. Monster can help you move into your career with precision. Just sign up and upload your resume and we’ll match it with PTA positions in your area. We also have several other features that can assist you, including free job notifications and expert career advice articles.