Geriatric Physical Therapy Technician Career Info

Learn about some of the tasks that geriatric physical therapy technicians have. Education and licensure requirements vary by state, but if you read on you'll find out what is usually minimally required. Also, see information on career growth and salary projections, as well as related careers to explore.

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Career Definition for a Geriatric Physical Therapy Technician

Geriatric physical therapy technicians work under the direct supervision of physical therapists, performing a variety of patient care and administrative duties related to the physical rehabilitation of seniors. Geriatric physical therapy technicians who are licensed physical therapy assistants will provide direct patient care by documenting patient progress, designing and carrying out exercise programs and administering treatment, such as aquatic therapy, massage and traction.

Geriatric physical therapy aides perform clerical duties, maintain equipment, and transport patients throughout the treatment facility. They may also lift patients and assist with exercises. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts much faster than average growth in physical therapy assistant and aide professions, fueled by the rapidly growing population of aging adults.

Education Associate degree usually required
Job Skills Knowledge of strength training, geriatric conditions, aerobics, and flexibility
Median Salary (2015)* $55,170 for physical therapy assistants
$25,120 for physical therapy aides
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 40% for physical therapy assistants and aides

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Geriatric physical therapy technicians who are applying for positions as aides are often hired with a high school diploma or equivalent. However, physical therapy assistants are generally required to complete a 2-year associate's degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), with coursework in mathematics, anatomy, physiology and chemistry. Additionally, most states and employers require licensure, as well as CPR and Basic Life Support certification. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers a directory of accredited programs and state licensure information for physical therapy assistants.

Job Skills

In addition to a thorough understanding of general physiotherapy principles, geriatric physical therapy technicians should have specific knowledge about conditions affecting aging adults, such as heart disease, strokes, and problems with coordination, balance, fluid retention, and limb swelling. Knowledge of appropriate strength training, flexibility, and aerobic conditioning exercises is essential.

Geriatric physical therapy technicians must have good communication skills, be team-oriented, and be dedicated to patient care. Assistants and aides must have good office and computer skills, with an understanding of medical terminology and insurance procedures. They must also be physically able to position patients and help them move, walk, stand or get in and out of a wheelchair.

Economic and Financial Outlook

The BLS predicts 40% job growth for physical therapy assistants and aides for the 2014 to 2024 period -- far outpacing the average growth rate expected for all occupations in the same period. As geriatric physical therapy teams grow to keep up with rising demand, job opportunities should be strongest for technicians with specific skills and experience related to elder care. In 2015, the median annual salary for physical therapist assistants was $55,170, while the median salary for physical therapist aides was $25,120.

Alternative Career Options

Individuals interested in working to rehabilitate disabled patients may consider the following alternative career options:

Physical Therapist

In order to become a physical therapist, a doctoral degree in physical therapy is needed, and a licensing examination must be passed. Physical therapists oversee the work of physical therapy aides, technicians and assistants. A much faster than average job growth of 34% was predicted for physical therapists in the 2014-2024 decade, as reported by the BLS. This profession earned a median income of $84,020 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

Occupational Therapy Assistant

This career option requires the same level of education as physical therapy aides: an associate's degree. The tasks are also similar and may include helping patients use equipment and tracking their progress. However, the occupational therapy field focuses more on helping patients regain skills they need for life and work, rather than focusing on physical ability. The BLS listed the median salary for occupational therapy assistants to be $57,870 in 2015 and their job growth for 2014-2024 to be 43%.

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