What Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Do
Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.
Most physical therapist assistants and aides work in physical therapists’ offices or in hospitals. They are frequently on their feet as they set up equipment and help care for patients.
How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide
Physical therapist assistants entering the occupation typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited program and a license or certification. Physical therapist aides usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training.
The median annual wage for physical therapist aides was $27,000 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $58,790 in May 2019.
Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 29 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for physical therapy is expected to increase in response to the healthcare needs of an aging population and individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.
Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement and manage pain.
Physical therapist assistants are involved in the direct care of patients.
Physical therapist aides often have tasks that are indirectly related to patient care, such as cleaning and setting up the treatment area, moving patients, and doing clerical duties.
Physical therapist assistants typically do the following:
- Observe patients before, during, and after therapy, noting the patient’s status and reporting it to a physical therapist
- Help patients do specific exercises as part of the plan of care
- Treat patients using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
- Use devices and equipment, such as walkers, to help patients
- Educate patients and family members about what to do after treatment
Under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, physical therapist assistants treat patients through exercise, massage, gait and balance training, and other therapeutic interventions. They record patients’ progress and report the results of each treatment to the physical therapist.
Physical therapist aides typically do the following:
- Clean treatment areas and set up therapy equipment
- Wash linens
- Help patients move to or from a therapy area
- Do clerical tasks, such as answering phones and scheduling patients
Physical therapist aides are supervised by physical therapists or physical therapist assistants. The tasks that physical therapist aides are allowed to do vary by state. They usually are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized, preparing for each patient’s therapy, and helping patients as needed in moving to or from a treatment area. In addition, aides do a variety of clerical tasks, such as ordering supplies, scheduling treatment sessions, and completing insurance forms.
Physical therapist aides held about 50,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of physical therapist aides were as follows:
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||60%|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||22|
|Offices of physicians||7|
|Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)||4|
Physical therapist assistants held about 98,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of physical therapist assistants were as follows:
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||46%|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||23|
|Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)||10|
|Home healthcare services||9|
|Offices of physicians||5|
Physical therapist assistants and aides are frequently on their feet and moving as they set up equipment and help and treat patients. Because they must often lift and move patients, they are vulnerable to back injuries. Assistants and aides can limit these risks by using proper techniques when they work with patients.
Most physical therapist assistants and aides work full time, although part time work is common. Some work nights and weekends because many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of physical therapist assistants and aides.
For more information about physical therapist assistants, visit
For a list of schools offering accredited programs, visit
For more information about state licensing requirements and about the National Physical Therapy Exam, visit
For a career video on physical therapist assistants and aides, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm (visited ).