How to Become a Physical Therapist Aide: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a physical therapist aide. Hear about education, licensure and experience requirements for starting a career in physical therapy, as well as common job duties. View article »

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  • 0:03 Physical Therapist…
  • 1:05 Obtain Basic Life…
  • 1:39 Complete On-The-Job Training
  • 2:18 Consider Advancement…

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Video Transcript

Physical Therapist Aide Career Info

Physical therapist aides support physical therapists and physical therapist assistants by cleaning treatment areas, transporting patients who need assistance and organizing therapy equipment. They also commonly take care of many clerical duties, such as filling out insurance forms, taking medical histories, answering phones, scheduling appointments and ordering supplies.

Physical therapist aides may work for hospitals, nursing homes and ambulatory health care services. The job requires frequent standing and lifting, which may lead to back injuries. Aides often have to work weekends and evenings, since medical facilities are open most of the day and night.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent
Certification Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers certification is often required
Experience This is an entry-level position, so none is required; some employers may prefer candidates who have one year of experience working in a hospital, outpatient or similar clinical setting
Key Skills Attention to detail; excellent manual dexterity; interpersonal skills; ability to stand, bend and kneel for long periods of time
Salary (2015) $25,120 median annual wage

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings from July 2012.

Step 1: Obtain Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification

Most employers require physical therapist aides to earn Basic Life Support (BLS) for Healthcare Providers certification from the American Heart Association. Certification can be earned by completing a short, 4.5-hour course and passing an examination. The BLS for Healthcare Providers course covers CPR procedures, and it also goes over how to relieve choking and use an automated external defibrillator (AED). The BLS certification must be renewed every two years after taking a 4-hour renewal course.

Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Training

Most physical therapist aides learn the skills they need for employment through on-the-job training. This training can last anywhere from a few months to a year depending on the employer's requirements and how quickly the physical therapist aide learns. Training may cover sterilizing equipment and treatment areas, performing office procedures and identifying physical therapy equipment.

Success Tip

  • Develop key skills. While completing their training, aspiring aides might focus on developing soft skills used for the job, such as interpersonal skills and attention to detail. They will also want to build the stamina and manual dexterity required to perform the duties of a physical therapist aide.

Step 3: Consider Advancement Opportunities

Physical therapist aides may consider continuing their education to become physical therapist assistants. Physical therapist assistants usually need to complete an associate's degree program, which includes both traditional coursework and clinical training, and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam to become licensed.

However, requirements for entry into this profession vary by state. A physical therapist assistant performs more specialized duties involving direct patient care than does an aide. Common duties include educating patients, observing patients during therapy, assisting patients with exercises and reporting directly to a physical therapist.

Though a high school diploma is the only educational requirement needed to find work as a physical therapy aide, those interested in the career should obtain basic life support certification and prepare for on the job training.

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