What is a Physical Therapy Aide?

Job Description

Physical therapy aide or other medical office worker
••• Reza Estakhrian / Stone / Getty Images

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 non-medical tasks, such as setting up and cleaning treatment rooms and transporting patients to different areas of a healthcare facility.

Quick Facts

  • As of Dec 2, 2018, the average annual salary for a P.T. aide in the U.S. is $24,997.
  • In 2016, there were approximately 52,000 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 interestspersonality type, and work-related values. This occupation could be a good fit If you have the following traits:

Related Occupations

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2016)Minimum Required Education/Training
Dental AssistantTends to laboratory and office duties in a dentist's office$36,940HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training or accredited training program (depending on state)
Veterinary AssistantPerforms basic tasks in a veterinary clinic or hospital$25,250HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training
Occupational Therapy AidePrepares equipment and treatment rooms for occupational therapists and assistants$28,330HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training
Medical AssistantPerforms clinical and administrative tasks in a doctor's office$31,540HS 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).