To become a physical therapy assistant, a person must attend a college and take courses towards an associate degree. This type of degree (if it’s been earned from an accredited college or university) will entitle the graduate to practice as a PTA (physical therapy assistant). In a clinical care setting, a PTA will always work under the guidance and instruction of a licensed physical therapist. A physical therapy assistant will use his or her therapeutic skills, which are learned at college, to administer support to physical therapists and their patients. A physical therapy assistant will also need to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as first aid, and both of these skills will need to be certified by health care governing bodies. As you can see, there are a few credentials required before someone can begin working as a physical therapy assistant; however, it is much easier to become a physical therapy assistant than it is to become a full-fledged, licensed physical therapist.
Duties of a Physical Therapy Assistant
Typically, a physical therapy assistant will assist patients with managing their illnesses, by teaching them how to improve their mobility (and ease their pain) through exercises and proper self-care. In some cases, physical therapy assistants will have a fair degree of responsibility towards patients, even though physical therapists will ultimately be in charge. One example of how a physical therapy assistant can assist a patient is through helping him or her to adjust to leg braces or other orthopedic fittings and accessories. Often, physical therapy assistants will help patients to move comfortably in these fittings, and they also will help to provide adjustments to braces as needed. Physical therapists work in a close fashion with patients, and they strive to help every patient lead a better life through optimized mobility and movement potential. The best physical therapy assistant workers will be dedicated, compassionate, and devoted to each patient’s well-being. A physical therapy assistant will answer to a licensed physical therapist, or to a group of licensed physical therapists.
Salary Expectations of a Physical Therapy Assistant
A physical therapy assistant will usually earn about 21 dollars per hour, and some may enjoy a yearly salary above 40 thousand dollars per annum. This wage is in contrast to a licensed physical therapist’s salary, which will be in the 50 to 80 thousand dollar range. The difference in pay comes down to education and certifications – since physical therapy assistants get associate degrees, rather than Master’s or doctorate degrees, they simply don’t earn as much money. However, physical therapy assistants do make a good living wage, and they may also receive attractive and comprehensive benefits packages that make their jobs more lucrative. A physical therapy assistant will work all sorts of shifts – not just “9 to 5” business hours. Therefore, earning overtime may also be a possibility in some cases. However, if a person isn’t really interested in working nights and weekends (at least some of the time, anyway), a job as a physical therapy assistant may not be an ideal choice, irrespective of salary and benefits.
Characteristics of a Successful Physical Therapy Assistant
The best physical therapy assistants will be calm and unflappable, but also show great compassion and sensitivity. This job can be stressful, as the patients a physical therapy assistant treats are often unwell and suffering through physical discomfort. Dealing with burnout may be an issue for some physical therapy assistant workers – this is something to keep an eye on if you’re currently performing this sort of job. In general, calmness, caring, and capability should come together in the “ideal” physical therapy assistant. Knowledge of their field of expertise should be a given as physical therapist assistant staff begin to work with patients – a good education will provide the best foundation for success. Accredited colleges and universities are the best places to learn, and they also give students some excellent credentials that they can use as they head out into the workforce.
Make Sure You Really Want to Be a Physical Therapy Assistant
If you’re looking for a career that offers real job satisfaction, a healthy salary, and an opportunity to help other people, you may be ideally suited for the position of physical therapy assistant. This type of job is demanding, but also very fulfilling. Getting a good education and beginning to work with patients (through clinical care practicum modules) can be important first steps as you follow the pathway to graduation and a paying career as a successful physical therapy assistant. Make sure that you spend plenty of time learning about the job of physical therapy assistant before you begin to sign up for associate degree programs in that field; be certain that you are comfortable working in very close proximity to other people, day in and day out. This type of job has a definite intimate quality – touch and closeness are highlighted as patient and physical therapy assistant learn to work together.
If you have decided to become a physical therapist, talk to various college representatives to find the best schools for your needs. Look for accredited institutions that fit your budget and offer great credentials to graduating students. If you’re committed to a career as a physical therapy assistant, you should use all of your energy and determination to make your chosen career a reality. Choosing the type of job can be an excellent way to contribute to the community, while also building security for yourself – physical therapy assistant work offers a host of positive benefits to those who pursue it.