What Is a Physical Therapy Aide?
A physical therapy (P.T.) aide is an important member of physical therapy support team. Working under the supervision of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, P.T. aides perform nonmedical tasks, such as setting up and cleaning treatment rooms and transporting patients to different areas of a health care facility.
- As of December 2, 2018, the average annual salary for a P.T. aide in the U.S. is $24,997.
- As of May 2017, the most recent information available, there were approximately 49,290 P.T. aides working in the U.S.
- Most jobs are in physical therapy offices and hospitals.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies this as a "bright outlook" occupation because of its excellent job outlook. Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.
How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide
Employers typically seek candidates with high school diplomas or equivalency degrees. P.T. aides should also possess the strong computer skills needed to perform clerical tasks.
What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?
P.T. aides must possess the following soft skills, to succeed in this field:
- Active Listening: An ability to hear and carry out a physical therapist's/physical therapist assistant's precise instructions.
- Interpersonal Skills: An ability to read other people's cues and react accordingly.
- A strong desire to help others.
- Attention to Detail: An ability to keep treatment rooms neat and orderly.
- Critical Thinking: An ability to weigh different options and take decisive action.
Roles and Responsibilities
According to job search engine Indeed.com, P.T. aides typically perform the following tasks:
- Prepare equipment for the patient treatments, as requested by physical therapist/physical assistants.
- Set up hot and cold packs.
- Transport patients to and from treatment areas, either using wheelchairs or by providing standing support.
- Observe patients during treatment, compile data on patient’s responses and progress, and report the data back to the physical therapist.
- Liaise with physicians' offices and hospital personnel.
Differences Between a Physical Therapy Aide and a Physical Therapist Assistant
These two occupations differ substantially—both in terms of educational requirements and job duties. While P.T. aides must only have earned a high school diploma or an equivalency degree, physical therapist assistants must earn an associates degree from an accredited training program. And while physical therapist assistants may medically treat patients under a physical therapist's direction, P.T. aides may not provide direct patient care.
What Will Employers Expect From You?
According to Indeed.com, employers P.T. aides must have the following skill sets:
- Ability to handle multiple responsibilities at once.
- Ability to understand medical terminology.
- Ability to comprehend and follow instructions.
- Ability to maintain patient confidentiality.
- Ability to pass a physical exam and a tuberculosis screening.
- A resourceful approach to solving problems.
- An ability to comfortably interact with patients of all ages and cultures.
Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?
When evaluating whether a career is right for you, it is important to consider your interests, personality type, and work-related values. This occupation could be a good fit If you have the following traits:
|Description||Median Annual Wage (2016)||Minimum Required Education/Training|
|Dental Assistant||Tends to laboratory and office duties in a dentist's office||$36,940||HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training or accredited training program (depending on state)|
|Veterinary Assistant||Performs basic tasks in a veterinary clinic or hospital||$25,250||HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training|
|Occupational Therapy Aide||Prepares equipment and treatment rooms for occupational therapists and assistants||$28,330||HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training|
|Medical Assistant||Performs clinical and administrative tasks in a doctor's office||$31,540||HS or Equivalency Diploma + postsecondary training|
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited February 19, 2018).