Career Definition for Physical Therapy Technicians
Physical therapy technicians, also known as physical therapist assistants, perform clinical procedures on patients under the supervision of licensed physical therapists. These procedures may include massages, exercise programs, therapeutic heat or ice packs and hydrotherapy. Physical therapy technicians also are responsible for writing clinical notes and reporting session outcomes and treatment plan progress.
|Education Requirements||Associate's degree|
|Skill Requirements||Calmness and gentleness, computer literacy, physical strength and CPR knowledge|
|Career Outlook (2016 to 2026)*||31% growth for physical therapy assistants|
|Median Annual Salary (2017)*||$57,430 for physical therapy assistants|
Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Prospective physical therapy technicians should earn a 2-year Associate of Applied Science from one of the more than 200 U.S. schools offering a physical therapy assistant major. Coursework includes applied science classes, such as medical terminology and anatomy, as well as general education classes, such as composition, algebra and computer usage, balanced with clinical experience. All U.S. states require licensure to work as a physical therapy technician.
Successful physical therapy technicians are calm and gentle with their patients, who often are elderly. Computer literacy is necessary, as is some physical strength and the ability to stand on one's feet for long periods. Physical therapy technicians also are expected to hold CPR certification.
Career and Economic Outlook
The aging of the U.S. population means that job prospects for physical therapy assistants are booming, with an expected increase of 31% from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Physical therapy assistants earned a median annual salary of $57,430 in May 2017.
Other careers related to this occupation include:
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Like a physical therapy technician, occupational therapy assistants aid in the rehabilitation process after an illness or injury. Under the supervision of an occupational therapist, they help patients relearn everyday skills, such as eating, dressing, bathing and adapting to a disability in the workplace. These therapy assistants perform clerical and cleaning tasks, as well as educate patients about how to incorporate wheelchairs, crutches and other mobility aides into their daily activities.
To gain a position in this field, an associate degree in occupational therapy is necessary, and licensure through examination is also required in most states. The BLS expects job opportunities for occupational therapy assistants to increase by 29% during the 2016 to 2026 decade, resulting in over 11,000 new jobs. The median yearly salary for these assistants was $59,310, as measured by the BLS in May of 2017.
Those interested in the field of physical therapy and helping patients become stronger and more mobile should consider becoming a physical therapist. These professionals assess the health needs of a patient and construct a custom program designed to strengthen muscles and improve overall strength. They communicate with patients and families about goals, prescribe an exercise regiment, incorporate massage and stretching, and record information about progress and treatment practices.
A doctorate in physical therapy is required in order to work in the profession, and all states require licensure by passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. According to 2017 figures from the BLS, physical therapists received median compensation of $86,850 per year. Employment in this field is predicted to grow by 28% from 2016 to 2026, based on BLS statistics.