How Can I Become a Physical Therapy Aide?

Research what it takes to become a physical therapy aide. Learn about training requirements, job duties, employment projections and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Physical Therapy Aide?

Physical therapy aides work in conjunction with physical therapists and physical therapy assistants to provide physical therapy to individuals affected by illness, injury or disability who need assistance with gross motor skills development. Physical therapy aides may help patients move to and from the treatment area. They will also clean the treatment area and set up the required equipment, wash linens and ensure all required supplies are available for the treatment session. Physical therapy aides may also answer phones and schedule appointments.

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required Training completed on the job
Key Responsibilities Clean work areas, file patient records, assist patients with exercises
Job Growth (2014-2024) 39%*
Median Salary (2015) $25,120*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Physical Therapy Aide?

The physical therapy field employs three levels of workers, they include therapists, assistants and aides. As a physical therapy aide, you would help the therapists and assistants perform therapeutic tasks for patients. Your tasks could include dressing patients, stabilizing patients during exercises, transporting patients, cleaning work areas and filing records. You need to be physically able to assist with therapeutic exercises, sometimes lifting a patient or supporting a patient's weight with your own body. A genial and friendly attitude is also important for your physical therapy work because recovery is often aided by positive mental and emotional stimulation.

What Education Do I Need?

Though physical therapy assistants need to complete at least an associate's degree program, physical therapy aides typically begin work after earning a high school diploma. You can learn most of your skills on-the-job as you work with trained professionals. Many employers provide you with clinical training as you begin work in order to learn basic skills such as CPR and first aid, in addition to various physical therapy fundamentals.

How Could I Advance My Career?

Because most states require that physical therapists and assistants hold certain degrees, you could choose to enroll in a physical therapy training program after spending some time gaining experience in the field. In a formal training program, you would study anatomy, physiology and psychology as well as participate in a supervised clinical experience. An associate's degree would qualify you to take the national licensure examination and begin work as a physical therapy assistant.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that employment of physical therapy aides was projected to increase 39% in the decade 2014-2024, which is much faster than average for all other occupations. An increasing number of physical therapists, assistants and aides will be needed to meet the demands of an aging population and a growing number of patients with chronic health conditions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Occupational therapy aides and psychiatric aides perform many duties that are comparable to the tasks physical therapy aides perform. Occupational therapy aides may set up treatment areas, help transfer patients to and from the treatment area, clean the treatment areas, answer phones and schedule appointments. Similarly, psychiatric aides may also help transport patients, clean the facilities they use and wash linens. Like physical therapy aides, occupational therapy aides and psychiatric aides need a high school diploma and may learn the requisite skills through on-the-job training.

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