Even in a tough economy, the health care industry continues to grow, offering many employment opportunities. For those who want job security while working with patients on a daily basis, becoming a physical therapist assistant is an excellent idea. The education required is minimal compared to that needed to enter many other medical jobs. It offers a rewarding occupational choice and is an excellent step for those who want to get involved in the health care field.
The Duties of a PTA
A physical therapist assistant (PTA) offers support to the physical therapist, taking care of certain office duties and treatments. Therapists rely on their assistants to ensure patients are comfortable and performing physical therapy exercises safely. Some of the potential duties of a PTA may include the following:
– Applying cold packs and hot packs
– Taking patient notes
– Documenting patient progress
– Taking care of electrical stimulation equipment
– Assisting with stretching or exercises
– Teaching certain exercises
This job includes quite a bit of standing, lifting and kneeling. Schedules may fluctuate, depending on the specific facility where a PTA is working. While assistant jobs are available in hospitals and private practices, schools, skilled nursing facilities, fitness centers, rehab facilities, hospices and nursing homes often employ physical therapist assistants as well.
While this medical job requires less education than many other careers, there still are some education requirements that must be fulfilled. Most states require that PTAs attend an accredited program and earn their associate degree. These programs, offering at quality physical therapy schools, include classroom instruction and clinical instruction. Expect to take classes in first aid, lifesaving skills, physiology and anatomy.
Salary and Benefit Information
For those just starting in this field, the starting salary usually ranges between $15-20 per hour. On average, the median salary for a licensed PTA is close to $46,000 per year, although some make more than $55,000 a year. Smaller practices usually pay a bit less than some of the larger institutions that hire PTAs. Usually good benefits are offered to PTAs, which may include sick days, health care, pension plan, insurance, education reimbursement, paid time off and bonuses.
After becoming a PTA, opportunities for advancement are available. One of the best ways to advance in this field is to specialize in a specific therapy area, such as cardiopulmonary therapy, pediatric therapy, integumentary therapy, geriatric therapy, neuromuscular therapy or musculoskeletal therapy. Once a PTA has some experience, other high paying alternatives may be an option, such as contract work or self-employment. Other ways to advance include being promoted to supervisory jobs, gaining seniority within a company or taking a job at a larger institution. For those who want to go even further in the medical field, it is possible to become a licensed physical therapist with a bit more education, which requires a bachelor’s degree.