Physical Therapy Assistant Skills List

Physical therapist assistant treating a senior patient

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Physical therapy assistants (sometimes called PTAs) help a variety of patients with illnesses and injuries to reduce pain and improve mobility. They work under the supervision of physical therapists.

PTAs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, sports and fitness facilities, nursing homes, schools, and more.

PTAs need an associate’s degree and a state licensure or certification. However, they also need particular skills.

Many PTA skills are hard skills, such as a knowledge of human anatomy and a knowledge of how to perform certain stretches and exercises. However, the job also includes a number of soft skills that help physical therapists communicate effectively with patients and coworkers.

Here's a list of skills that employers are looking for in resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Included is a detailed list of the five most important physical therapy assistant skills, as well as a longer list of even more related skills.

How to Use Skills Lists

You can use these skills lists throughout your job search process. Firstly, you can use these skill words in your resume. In the description of your work history, you might want to use some of these key words.

Secondly, you can use these in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated those skills at work.

Finally, you can use these skill words in an interview. Make sure you have at least one example of a time you demonstrated each of the top five skills listed here.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Also, review our other lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Top Five Physical Therapy Assistant Skills


PTAs communicate regularly with patients. They need to clearly convey instructions to patients, such as how to perform certain exercises. They also must speak with the patients and their families about what to do after treatment. To do this effectively, PTAs must have strong oral communication skills.

Because a PTA works under the supervision of a physical therapist, he or she must also be able to communicate well with the therapist. She has to listen carefully to instructions, and convey information about patients in a clear manner.


Along with effective communication, PTAs have to be able to empathize with patients who are struggling, often both physically and emotionally. They have to understand how the patient is feeling, and use that information to decide how to best motivate that patient, and, often, the patient’s family.

Detail Oriented

PTAs have to keep detailed records of patients’ illnesses, injuries, and exercise programs. They must carefully track patient progress and report patient status to the physical therapist. To keep track of all of this, PTAs must be organized and focused on the details.


Often, PTAs must perform multiple tasks at once. They typically assist with many patients at one time and must be able to prioritize their duties. Therefore, PTAs must be strong multitaskers.

Physical Stamina

PTAs perform a number of tasks that require physical strength and dexterity. They must be on their feet for long periods, bend and kneel, and move patients. They also have to work with their hands to massage patients and set up equipment.

Physical Therapy Assistant Skills


  • Active Listening
  • Administering Traction to Relieve Neck and Back Pain
  • Applying Diagnostic Muscle, Nerve, Joints, and Functional Abilities Tests
  • Applying Manual Resistance to a Patient's Limbs or Trunk During Exercises
  • Assertiveness
  • Assessing Pain Tolerance of Patients
  • Attention to Detail
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Compassion
  • Compiling Discharge Reports
  • Customer Service
  • Demonstrating Exercises to Patients
  • Detail Oriented
  • Documenting Patient Progress


  • Educating Family Members and Caregivers Regarding Therapeutic Routines
  • Empathy
  • Encouraging Patient Participation with Tasks and Therapies
  • Explaining Exercises and Therapies to Patients
  • Following Directions from Physical Therapists
  • Following Infection Control Policies and Procedures
  • High Energy Level
  • Instructing Patients about the Use of Treatment Equipment
  • Instructing Patients on the Use of Adaptive Devices Like Walkers, Crutches, or Canes
  • Interacting with Patients of Different Ages, Races, and Socio-Economic Backgrounds
  • Interpersonal


  • Maintaining Equipment
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Measuring Range of Motion
  • Monitoring Vital Signs
  • Motivating Patients
  • Multitasking
  • Observation
  • Ordering Supplies
  • Organization
  • Orienting Students, Volunteers, and Support Staff
  • Overcoming Patient Resistance to Therapies
  • Performing Passive Stretch with Participants
  • Performing Therapeutic Massage
  • Physical Stamina
  • Positive Outlook
  • Prioritizing
  • Providing Gait Training to Patients


  • Reading and Comprehending Patient Information
  • Recommending Modifications of Treatment to Physical Therapist 
  • Relating to Disabled Patients
  • Remaining Calm with Distressed Patients
  • Reporting
  • Smart Data System
  • Speaking Clearly
  • Supervising Students, Volunteers, and Support Staff
  • Teamwork 
  • Time Management
  • Tolerating Patient Setbacks or Lack of Progress
  • Training Students, Volunteers, and Support Staff
  • Treating Multiple Patients at the Same Time
  • Verbal
  • Working with Minimal Supervision
  • Writing Patient Progress Notes