Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant

Job Description

Physical therapist assistant or PTA works under the leadership of physical therapist and deals with restoring patients bodily functions. PTAs offer various physical therapy techniques depending on the physical therapists plan of care for patients (APTA, 2016). Physical therapist assistants duties include examining and developing a plan of care that promotes the patient's mobility, reduces pain, and prevents permanent disability. The tasks of PTA depend on particular needs of patients. and may include such services as deep soft tissue massages, functional training, therapeutic including electrotherapy and ultrasound, patient and family education, and motor learning and development among others (Malone, 2010; APTA, 2016). Furthermore, PTAs perform some administrative duties like recording, billing, risk management, and quality improvement. Overall, PTAs implement short and long-term fitness- and wellness-oriented programs to promote healthy and active lifestyles among patients.


Similarly to other professions, physical therapist assistants must observe certain ethical obligations, particularly respect and uphold the rights and dignities of all their patients (Swisher et al., 2010). The implication here is that PTAs should offer their services to all who require them without discriminations based on gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, or economic status. Moreover, PTAs should be compassionate and trustworthy when addressing the needs of their patients and always strive to make the best physical therapy intervention decisions with patients interests at heart (Swisher et al., 2010). It is essential for PTAs to demonstrate integrity in their relationships with their clients, families, colleagues, employers, other healthcare providers, and the public.


PTAs should possess broad academic knowledge to begin the practice. Initially, individuals who aspire to pursue the discussed profession must comprehend certain scientific fields including anatomy, biology, physiology, physics, and chemistry. Therefore, the career requires to complete a two-year education program which combines classroom instruction and practical training, and enables to earn an associate degree upon graduation (APTA, 2016). The associate degree program equips learners with the knowledge and skills they need to assist physical therapists as they work with patients. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) confers the certificates since it is the only recognized accrediting agency for PTA education with mandate to ensure quality in physical therapy education (APTA, 2016).

After receiving accreditation from a reputable institution, the candidate must take a state-administered national exam to attain state licensure or certification, which should be further maintained through earning continuing education credits. Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) is the organization that administers the licensure exams for PTAs (APTA, 2016). At the entry level, no experience is required. However, individuals are encouraged to participate in voluntary activities in the places offering physical therapy such as hospitals and hospices.

The course is available at Florida State College at Jacksonville. The institution charges around $9,000 (including prerequisite classes) for fees and tuition, and an additional cost of roughly $1,900, which covers books and other expenses (FSCJ, 2016). The course takes approximately two years to complete, enabling one to gain an associate degree afterwards.

Keiser University - Ft. Lauderdale is another institution that offers the course. The program tuition charges amount to about $14,184 (Keiser University, 2016). Completion of the course takes roughly two years. The institution requires applicants to hold a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, and to undergo prerequisite courses. The program also demands individuals to possess health care experience (HCE) of a minimum of 100 hours, and a physician assistant experience of more than 20 hours (Keiser University, 2016).


Physical Therapy practice is one of the fastest growing fields. Physical therapist assistants can find jobs in locations that offer physical therapy including outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, industrial workplace, or other occupational environments like schools, hospices, fitness centers, and research centers (Malone, 2010). The physical therapists often require the assistance of the PTAs, and the amount of supervised and unsupervised responsibilities vary from state to state.

Currently, there are more than 68,000 licensed PTAs in the US and this number is expected to almost double over the next decade because of aging population (APTA, 2016). Projections show that the number of PTAs will increase by 35 percent from 2008 to 2018 (Malone, 2010). The growth is caused by various conditions associated with older age population that will require more assistants to reduce the treatment costs.

The increasing demand for physical therapist assistants is evident form several job advertisements targeting those in the profession. For instance, there have been numerous employment opportunities in Miami Herald, especially over the last month: over twenty vacancies for PTAs in June (Miami Herald, 2016). Most of the employers demand experience as the primary criteria for hiring people, which can be explained by the fact that service providers aspire to offer best quality services to their patients.

Reliable statistics indicate that a physical therapist assistant earns an average salary of $46,000- $54,330 per year, and the sum of the average starting salary is approximately $28,000 (Malone, 2010). However, experienced assistants may earn more over time. As for development opportunities, the discussed career is rather limited in this aspect (APTA, 2016). However, individuals can opt for undergoing additional education, or doctoral degrees and physical therapy Ph.D. programs to make a transition into the physical therapist profession.

Professional Activities

There are professional organizations that target those working in the physical therapy field. Students can join such organizations to broaden their knowledge base, to create professional network, and refine their interests (APTA, 2016). At a state level, individuals can join the Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA). The membership is open to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants who are in CAPTE-accredited programs (FPTA, 2016). However, before one becomes a member of FPTA, he or she must first become a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), which is the largest organization at a national level. Students have to donate $80 to join APTA and later pay around $30 to join FPTA (FPTA, 2016).

There is a wide range of written material that offers physical therapy knowledge based on the new insights and improvements, existing trends, researches, and shared experiences of professionals. The Journal of Physical Therapy Education (JOPTE) is one of the peer-reviewed publications by APTA. The location of the place where it is published is 1055 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314 (APTA, 2016). Another journal is PT in Motion, and the address of its office is 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-1488703/684-APTA (2782) (APTA, 2016). Interestingly, there are also some publications which motivate students to share their views on different matters relating to physical therapy such as the Student Assembly Pulse and the Student E-News, which share the same address as the office of PT in Motion. Students can get two magazines as free subscriptions, if they are subscribed for PT in Motion. The annual subscription for the journals is $75 (APTA, 2016).

The discussed profession requires individuals to demonstrate substantial competency. Therefore, it is important for PTAs to engage in Continuing Educational Units (CEUs) (APTA, 2016). The practitioners must take at least three units before the renewal of their licenses. Furthermore, practicing PTAs must take tests before their licenses expire, and that means that they have to take at least 30 hours of continuing education during each biennial registration period (FSCJ, 2016). However, the requirements usually vary from state to state, therefore individuals should be aware of the continuing education requirements in the state they are serving.

Reflection/ Personal Career Plan

My goal is to become a licensed physical therapist assistant and later gain masters degree to become a physical therapist. One of my goals is to work with children and those with chronic ailments, because helping them regain their normal lives would give me great pleasure. I have the seriousness and commitment needed to excel in my academics, and I am ready to dedicate time to my training. I believe that I have all the necessary qualities to succeed in this career, and I hope that my passion and interest will keep growing as I advance in my career.

I understand that physical therapy is an essential element of patient care. Therefore, my objective is to work in unity with physical therapists in order to create a shared web of collaborations within the scope of my profession as well as other disciplines. This will enable me to continue learning from my mentors, colleagues, patients, and families. I also hope to apply the knowledge, skills, problem-solving abilities, and positive attitude in all my activities.

I intend to learn as much as I can from the physical therapists that I will be working with. I will strive to follow the treatment plans and monitor patients' records to ensure that I fully support physical therapist in offering the required treatment. I hope to align my commitments with patients interests to promote their mobility, reduce pain, restore normal functioning, and avert disability. Patients recovery will be my top priority, and I will always try to support research initiatives that can suggest the new and advanced techniques in the discussed field.

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