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What Is a Physical Therapy Tech?

A physical therapy technician is a health practitioner that assists individuals who are injured or recovering from surgery regain their physical mobility. Get information on their duties, future job prospects, and educational requirements.

Physical Therapy Technician Essential Info

So what is a physical therapy technician? A physical therapy technician (PT tech) works under the supervision of a physical therapist and helps injured patients and individuals recovering from surgery regain their mobility. Therapeutic procedures might include paraffin baths, hydrotherapy, mat exercises, gait training, and weight training. Another duty could be teaching patients how to use wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches to help them move around and manage their debilities at home. This information below contains details about becoming a physical therapy tech.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Physical therapy technology
Licensure Licensure or certification is required; requirements vary by state
Key Duties Assist with technology during physical therapy
Job Growth (2018-2028) 27%* (for all physical therapy assistants)
Median Salary (2018) $58,040* (for all physical therapy assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Physical Therapy Technician Job Description

A physical therapy tech's primary duties include assisting with therapeutic procedures or administering procedures under a therapist's supervision. Along with participating in direct treatment, PT techs will have a role in assessing the condition of patients, planning treatment programs, preparing treatment schedules, and keeping records on the progress of treatment. A number of more administrative support duties could be possible as well, including confirming appointments, ordering supplies, attending training sessions, and supervising lower-level technicians. Working directly with a physical therapist is almost certain whether it's in their office or a clinical practice. As a physical therapy assistant, you should be ready for full days of being on your feet, setting up equipment, moving patients, and other possibly strenuous activities.

Where Does a PT Tech Work?

Possible employers include physical therapy centers, clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, schools for handicapped children, physician's offices, and nursing homes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 98,400 people worked as physical therapy assistants as of 2018. From 2018-2028, employment was projected to increase 27%, to around 125,100.

Physical Therapy Technician Salary

BLS figures showed earning for the 10th to 90th percentile range were $33,780 to $79,810, as of May 2018. By comparison, September 2019 figures from PayScale.com for the same percentile range were approximately $34,000 to $67,000.

Physical Therapy Tech Education Requirements

You will need to earn a two-year physical therapist assistant associate's degree to become a physical therapy tech. These programs are generally offered by community colleges or vocational schools and there are some partially online physical therapy assistant programs offered. The curriculum in these programs generally include human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, kinesiology, and therapeutic techniques through a mixture of classroom study and lab courses. The equipment you learn to use might include infrared, ultraviolet or heat lamps, tilt tables, parallel bars, and weights. Many programs also have internships that enable you to work with a physical therapist.

Licensing for physical therapy techs is required in most states. Licensure typically entails completing a degree program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam, although some states have their own exams. In many states, you will also have to maintain your license by earning continuing education credits.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If the job duties and work environment of a physical therapy assistant interest you, you might also consider a career as a medical assistant or pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians can work after earning a high school diploma, to help pharmacists dispense prescription medications. Aspiring medical assistants need to complete a certificate program. These professionals work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities and do a wide range of administrative and clinical support duties.