Rehabilitation Assistant Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a rehabilitation assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Rehabilitation assistants support patients in their recovery from injury and illness and may specialize in occupational therapy or physical therapy. An associate's degree is required and some rehabilitation assistants may be required to obtain state licensure or certification.

Essential Information

Rehabilitation assistants provide aid to occupational and physical therapists, and they are more commonly called occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) or physical therapist assistants (PTAs). Under the direction of a therapist, rehabilitation assistants help perform therapeutic methods on patients and assist with healing exercises and balance training. In many states, rehabilitation assistants must earn at least a 2-year degree to seek employment. Most states also require rehabilitation assistants to be licensed, certified or registered.

Career Titles Physical Therapist Assistant Occupational Therapy Assistant
Required Education Associate's degree Associate's degree
Other Requirements Licensure or certification with state Licensure or registration with state
Projected Job Growth (2014-24) 40%* 40%*
Median Salary (2015) $55,170* $57,870*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Rehabilitation Assistant Education Requirements

Many rehabilitation assistants go into the field with only a high school diploma; however, most states require at least an associate's degree to enter the field. Those wishing to obtain rehabilitation assistant training can do so through physical therapy assistant or occupational therapy assistant associate's degree programs offered at vocational schools and community colleges.

Rehabilitation assistant education programs generally consist of core courses in human growth and development, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, physical survey, patient care skills and rehabilitation therapy. Students also gain firsthand knowledge of the equipment and tools typically used by occupational and physical therapists and an understanding of the different ailments and injuries that can affect mobility in patients. Rehabilitation assistant degree programs also prepare students to organize non-medical charts and forms and provide general clerical assistance to rehabilitation center staff.

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Career Info

During a typical work day, rehabilitation assistants might organize and clean up therapy treatment areas for patients, set up and monitor therapy equipment, assist patients in performing exercise moves or using crutches and take patients' vital signs. Rehabilitation assistants require a moderate degree of strength as they frequently kneel, bend and stand for prolonged periods of time in addition to transporting and lifting patients.

Rehabilitation assistants usually perform many administrative duties, including retrieving and filing insurance paperwork, answering phones, ordering supplies and working as the liaison between therapists, patients and their families. They might also assist therapists in organizing treatments and daily activities for patients, as well as aid in patient follow-ups.

Career Options

Physical Therapist Assistants

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) assist physical therapists with patients, including observing patients during therapy, helping patients with exercises and educating patients and their families about continuing care. Most PTAs work full time including weekend and evening hours, and most PTAs, as of 2014, worked in therapists' offices or hospitals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities will increase 40% between 2014 and 2024 for physical therapist assistants.

Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational therapy assistants work directly with patients under the supervision of an occupational therapist, helping patients with therapeutic activities and recording patient progress. Many occupational therapy assistants work evening and weekend hours, and the majority work in therapists' offices, nursing homes and hospitals. The BLS predicts job growth of 40% between 2014 and 2024 for assistants working in occupational therapy.

Rehabilitation assistants may work in occupational or physical therapy, performing a range of functions to help sick or injured patients regain abilities. An associate's degree is required in both fields, and some states mandate licensing or certification. These are rapidly growing professions.

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