With a high school diploma it is possible to begin a career as a physical therapy tech, also called a physical therapy aide. Physical therapy aides typically work in hospitals or therapists' offices and are not required to be licensed.
Physical therapy techs assist physical therapists in providing health care and rehabilitation services to those who are injured or in need. Prospective physical therapy techs typically only need a high school diploma and on-the-job training; this job differs from that of a physical therapy assistant, which requires a 2-year degree and state licensure.
|Required Education||High school diploma|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||39% for physical therapy aides*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$25,120 for physical therapy aides*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary Information and Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median yearly income for physical therapist aides was $25,120 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The highest-paid workers earned $38,040 or more in 2015, while the lowest-paid workers earned $18,720 annually or less. From 2014 to 2024, the BLS predicts that employment opportunities for physical therapy aides will increase by 40%, which is much faster than the national average.
Current medical developments, as well as advances in technology, are expected to increase the survival rate of trauma victims and individuals with debilitating health conditions, which would increase demand for physical therapy services. Techs who are willing to work in rural areas, outside of the most heavily populated cities in the U.S., may see less competition for jobs. Overall, however, job competition is expected to be high for opportunities in this career.
Typical Job Duties
Physical therapy technicians are responsible for assisting physical therapists with non-clinical tasks while caring for individuals. Physical therapy techs may help patients move, keep treatment areas organized and clean, assist patients with light exercises and record progress for therapists. They may also order and arrange supplies as well as change patient linens and pillows.
The only universal prerequisite for becoming a physical therapy tech is having a high school diploma. Techs, unlike assistants, are not required to obtain licensing to perform their duties.
Physical therapy techs and aides learn their job duties after gaining employment or through an educational program. These programs can include both classroom and clinical experience as part of the process. Coursework can include subjects like therapeutic exercise, anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. Physical therapy techs who wish to advance their careers and become physical therapy assistants typically need to complete an associate's degree program accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Much greater than average job growth is expected for physical therapy aides from 2014-2024. Applicants who have a high school diploma can compete for jobs as a physical therapy aide. Completing courses in anatomy and physiology, therapeutic exercise and kinesiology can strengthen an applicant's resume, and gaining practical experience through an internship or volunteer work experience will also help applicants when applying for jobs.