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Physical Therapist Assistant

Career Overview

Physical therapist assistants work directly with patients, helping to execute treatment program devised by the physical therapist. Under the guidance of the therapist, the assistant may train a patient on the use of crutches, or on the use of a variety of exercise machines used in therapy. A physical therapist assistant may perform ultrasound exams, put traction equipment in place or provide electrical stimulation. The assistant keeps a record of each patient's experience during the session and reports to the physical therapist.


Most states require a physical therapist assistant to undergo two years of training and education, culminating in an associates degree. Course coverage includes anatomy, physiology, psychology, chemistry and algebra.

The course work for a physical therapist assistant degree includes clinical study, getting field experience in a clinic or office. This element of the educational program is a critical component and includes CPR and first aid training.

Some states require licensure and have specific exam guidelines.

Current Employment

There were 60, 000 physical therapist assistants working in 2006. Seventy percent of the positions were in physical therapy service units in hospitals or therapists' offices. Other jobs were in nursing homes or for home health care agencies.

Job Outlook

There will be robust growth in the physical therapist assistant job market. The aging population is shaping future health care needs to a great extent, and physical therapy is going to be an expanding medical service.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $13.36  $27,800
Median Salary  $21.22  $44,130
Highest 10%  $29.49  $61,340

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