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Less School, More Pay: Start a Fantastic Career in Physical Therapy

physical therapy career

Less School, More Pay: Start a Fantastic Career in Physical Therapy

Education and training in the field of physical therapy can open doors to a great career with excellent pay. Physical therapy jobs span a variety of opportunities from public service to private sector jobs. There are also non-traditional opportunities such as outreach programs and self-employment.

Physical Therapy: Aides, Assistants, and Therapists

There are a variety of education levels required in the field of physical therapy. Qualifications and terminology may vary by state. Training to pursue a career in physical therapy ranges from non-degree certification programs to graduate degrees. Typically, a physical therapy aide is an entry level position that requires a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Physical therapy assistants require an associate degree level education and licensure in most states. Licensure typically requires graduation from an accredited physical therapist assistant program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for physical therapy assistants. Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and all states require physical therapists to be licensed.

Physical therapy aides typically have job duties that are indirectly related to patient care such as cleaning, setting up treatment areas, helping patients, and doing clerical duties. A high school diploma and on-the-job training can be sufficient to secure a job as a physical therapy aide. Additional schooling and certifications such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), and other first-aid skills can help with job and pay prospects.

Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) work under the supervision and instruction of a licensed physical therapist and have the following job responsibilities:

  • Observe patients before, during, and after therapy and note records
  • Help patients do specific exercises as part of a prescribed plan of care
  • Treat patients using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
  • Use assistive devices and equipment to help patients
  • Teach patients how to properly use devices and equipment, such as walkers and wheelchairs, to help themselves
  • Educate patients and family members about what to do during and after treatment


Jobs and Education

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates employment physical therapist aides and assistants will grow by almost 30%. This growth rate is well above average for all occupations. The aging of the Baby Boomer population is a considerable contributing factor to the need for PTAs. This generation is staying active later in life yet are also susceptible to health conditions (such as strokes and heart attacks), that may require physical therapy. Physical therapy is also needed to treat people with mobility issues stemming from chronic conditions such as diabetes or obesity, and injuries in normally healthy people due to accidents.

An education and career in the physical therapy field is especially beneficial for military spouses, as they are certain to secure excellent job opportunities across their many moves with the appropriate education and training. Don’t forget about the MyCAA Program for military spouses; for more info click here.

Associate Degree for Physical Therapy Assistant

An Associate Degree for Physical Therapy Assistant is a great foundation for a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Earning an associate degree is also an educational cornerstone that will aid students should they choose to advance their education and/or careers. Programs will include a general education foundation and prepare healthcare workers with the appropriate skills and training needed to be a successful PTA. Programs should be accredited, meet the academic requirements for state licensure, and satisfy the requirements for graduates to take the national licensing exam to become licensed PTAs.

>> Find schools offering associate’s degrees in Physical Therapy here with the CollegeRecon School Finder tool.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants is approximately $59,000. The lowest 10 percent earned approximately $34,000 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,000.

Median annual wages for PTAs in the top industries in which they work are as follows:


Nursing care facilities $67,000
Home healthcare services 63,000
Offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists 58,000
Hospitals 57,000
Offices of physicians 55,000



Ready to Embark on a Career in the Field of Physical Therapy?

Check out these great programs available at our partner schools:

Lone Star College offers a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Sciences Degree. Lone Star College does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

New England Institute of Technology offers a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate in Science Degree. New England Institute of Technology participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

 *All statistics and calculations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information click here.





About the author

Lori Waddell serves as Co-director of an emergency response COAD in Montana, a freelance writer, and an Air Force Key Spouse. She is passionate about empowering communities and individuals through knowledge and resources. She currently lives in Montana with her husband and two children.