Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects to see a growth in job opportunities for physical therapy assistants by as much as 35 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the national average for all occupations. Because the demand for physical therapists is also increasing, the therapists themselves may require the services of an assistant who can perform many parts of the treatment under their direction and supervision. Job growth in this area is so strong that msn money named it one of the top career choices for 2011.
Physical therapy assistants help the physical therapist’s patients who may be rehabilitating from serious illnesses, health complications or injuries. Physical therapy assistants also administer basic procedures and examinations under the watchful eye of the physical therapist and perform various duties both clerical and hands-on as deemed necessary by the physical therapist. Physical therapy assistants typically work in rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices.
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Overview
Physical therapy assistants typically help the physical therapist to provide an appropriate treatment method for a patient to strengthen their mobility, reduce their pain and either prevent or lessen the disability from which the patient may be suffering. A physical therapist assistant may need to show a patient how to use crutches or obtain and prepare equipment for a patient to use. Typical patients that a physical therapy assistant helps include those suffering from fractures, heart disease, cerebral palsy, head injuries, arthritis and lower-back pain.
Physical therapy assistants also provide direct care to patients under the supervision of the physical therapist. For instance, they can help with ultrasounds, massage, electrical stimulation, gait and balance training and mechanical traction. Physical therapy assistants are trained to record each response to the treatment and report back to the physical therapist for further evaluation.
Physical therapy assistants are also generally responsible for making sure that the therapy room is clean and organized before each patient arrives. If a patient needs to be moved from one treatment area to another, the assistant may be called upon to help with the transfer. In certain states where licensure is required to practice, physical therapy assistants are not permitted to perform clinical duties. Instead, clerical duties fall upon the physical therapy assistant including filling out insurance forms, answering the phone and ordering more supplies.
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary Trends
New graduates from physical therapy schools can work in several settings. Physical therapy assistants working in nursing homes or in the home healthcare field typically earn a higher salary than those who are employed in hospitals or physician’s offices. In 2009, the median annual wage for a physical therapy assistant was $48,290 while the average salary was $44,130 per year. Those who fall into the highest-paid 10 percent saw over $66,460, those in the 90th percentile earned $57,220 each year, those in the 75th percentile earned $49,010 each year and those who are in the bottom 10 percent raked in less than $30,400. Physical therapy assistants who are just beginning their careers earned an entry-level salary of roughly $26,190 annually.
In 2008, roughly 63,800 physical therapy assistants were employed, working in a variety of settings. About 72 percent of these jobs were located in physician’s offices or hospitals. The remaining jobs were in outpatient care centers, home healthcare services and nursing care facilities.
As state populations increase, particularly in Texas and Florida, physical therapy assistants in these states may expect to receive the highest average salary than any other states. For example, as of 2009, those working in Florida may earn anywhere between $31,452 and $56,433 per year while those who are employed in Texas may make between $34,000 and $55,190 annually.
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