Career as a Physical Therapy Assistant
By Diane Turner
The salary for a physical therapy assistantis largely tied to the type of work they are expected to perform in the workplace. These individuals are frequently called on to observe patients before and during their therapy to determine what the status of the patient is. This information will be reported to the physical therapist so proper levels of treatment can be administered. The assistant may help with therapy, assisting the patient with performing their exercises or massaging and stretching the patient to help provide relief. They may use walkers and other equipment to help train the patients. If necessary, they will also teach the family members of the patient regarding how to use this equipment so the patient can better manage in their home environment.
In busy environments the physical therapy assistant will also be called on to manage the physical therapy facility. This can include helping patients to and from the therapy unit, cleaning the treatment area or equipment after use or performing clerical tasks around the office.
The physical therapy assistant average salaryis largely tied to the training associated with the position. These individuals will be expected to earn an associate’s degree from a school that offers an accredited program in physical therapy. During this time they must complete coursework and clinical training so they may move directly into the field. After their degree has been earned they must also earn a license in the state where they hope to practice. This involves passing the Physical National Physical Therapy Exam as well as any state administered examinations. Some states also require assistants to take additional courses to maintain their license.
Physical Therapy Assistant Average Salary
The average physical therapy assistant salary is $37,710 but a number of influences will help to determine what a specific physical therapy assistant will make. The area where the employee works, the type of position they hold and the nature of the work they are expected to do on the job will help to influence what these individuals will make.
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary Factors and Influences
While most careers in the medical field see a distinct drop off in salary levels when they move into rural areas, the average salary for a physical therapy assistant continues to see high levels in these areas. The top paying nonmetropolitan areasoffer salaries tend to be significantly higher than the national average.
Eastern Texas Average Salary: $73,020
Northwestern Texas Average Salary: $66,070
South Central Tennessee Average Salary: $64,160
Gulf Coast Texas Average Salary: $63,910
North Central Texas Average Salary: $63,520
The top employing nonmetropolitan areasstill offer an average physical therapy assistant salary that is competitive in the field, though here it tends to be closer to the national average than the areas listed above.
Other Ohio Nonmetropolitan Areas Average Salary: $49,990
Kansas Nonmetropolitan Areas Average Salary: $50,450
Balance of Lower Michigan Peninsula Average Salary: $40,480
Western Tennessee Average Salary: $58,440
Southeast Missouri Average Salary: $50,620
While these areas are still fairly rural, they have highly concentrated populations in very specific areas of the state. This will increase the demand for health care in these areas and encourage physical therapy assistants to take on more responsibilities in the workplace, increasing their overall value to the industry.
The type of industry that employs these professionals will also have a significant impact on the salary for a physical therapy assistantin a specific area. Different industries will expect these individuals to take on different tasks which may require more training or expertise in the field to complete. The top paying industriesare noted below for the sake of comparison to the national average.
Average Salary for Home Health Care Services: $60,730
Average Salary for Employment Services: $59,170
Average Salary for Nursing Care Facilities: $57,540
Average Salary for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals: $57,450
Average Salary for Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities: $56,370
As you can see, each of these is well above the average that physical therapy assistants can expect to make overall. These industries will also need assistants that have a very specialized education so they can take on the tasks at hand. The more effort an employer puts into training an individual, the more likely it is that these industries will pay well given the energy and money it would take to replace those that are currently occupying these positions. To compare, note the salaries offered to those working for the top employers of physical therapy assistants.
Average Salary for Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $51,050
Average Salary for General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $49,520
Average Salary for Nursing Care Facilities: $57,540
Average Salary for Home Health Care Services: $60,730
Average Salary for Offices of Physicians: $49,590
While these salaries are still higher than the national average, they are somewhat lower than those offered above. Most of these facilities will count on large groups of physical therapy assistants taking on a wide range of tasks. This generalized workforce will not need to be specially trained as they will typically be working alongside a physical therapist instead of following orders without much supervision so they will be easier to train.
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary Compared To Related Fields
The salary for physical therapy assistants is comparable to other fields that provide assistance to highly trained professionals in the medical industry.
Average Salary for a Physical Therapy Assistant:$37,710
Average Salary for Nursing Aides, Orderlies and Attendants: $24,010
Average Salary for Occupational Health and Safety Technicians: $45,330
Average Salary for Medical Assistants: $28,860
As you can see, physical therapy assistants tend to fall in the middle of this range, making more than positions that require less training and education but less than full-fledged professionals that will need to spend years on their education before entering the field. This makes a physical therapy assistantship a great jumping off point for those that are hoping to advance their medical career to a more advanced level over time. But you can also make a quality salary should you choose to remain in a physical therapy assistantship permanently.
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary by State
The state where a physical therapist works will have a strong impact on what these individuals can expect to earn. Some states are expected to pay a significantly higher wage to those working in this field than most others.
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary in Texas: $65,620
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary in Nevada: $61,180
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary in New Jersey: $59,630
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary in California: $59,570
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary in Connecticut: $57,620
These states tend to offer a higher physical therapy assistant salary by state because there is a higher demand for medical care in these areas. This can be due to the overall health of people living in these areas as well as the age of the general population. Areas with a high amount of elderly people tend to have a higher need for people working in the physical therapy industry because this age group is much more likely to require medical care.
Athleticism can also play a huge role in the need for physical therapy assistants. To note this phenomenon, note the areas that have the highest concentration of physical therapy assistants compared to others in the nationwide market.
Average Salary in West Virginia: $43,630
Average Salary in Ohio: $55,110
Average Salary in Alabama: $50,850
Average Salary in Tennessee: $51,100
Average Salary in Missouri: $48,950
The salary of a physical therapy assistant is still quite high, unlike many other states that see a high concentration of medical professionals in different areas of the field. These states are known for having an intense focus on college level and professional sports. This industry has a high demand for physical therapy, increasing the need to have a large staff of capable physical therapy assistants on hand to manage the daily operations of these teams.
Physical Therapy Assistant Types of Salaries
Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant:Average Salary: $47,408
Physical therapy assistants are responsible for helping with the patient’s rehabilitative activities that can help reduce their pain or increase their mobility over time. They may be asked to help instruct these individuals on how to perform these activities properly or provide a demonstration regarding how the activity is meant to be managed. They will also help test and evaluate the patient’s abilities during sessions.
Licensed Nursing Home Physical Therapy Assistant:Average Salary: $54,482
Physical therapy assistants working in nursing homes will help patients learn about rehabilitative exercises that will help improve their mobility or reduce their discomfort. They may need to demonstrate how to do the exercise properly or evaluate how the patient is managing the activities at hand. These individuals will work directly with the rest of the medical staff to ensure that the patient is getting all the tools they need to make a proper recovery.
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant:Average Salary: $50,458
Those working in an occupational therapy setting will work with patients that have extreme physical, developmental or emotional disabilities that will prevent them from managing everyday life effectively. Assistants will prepare any necessary equipment for the session and perform clerical duties as necessary for their department. Those who wish to work in this field will need to become a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant or COTA.
Certified Nursing Home Occupational Therapy Assistant: Average Salary: $52,593
Occupational therapist assistants in nursing homes will work with severely disabled patients with emotional, developmental or physical impairments. They will provide and set up any equipment necessary to help these people manage their lives more effectively. They may also be asked to perform clerical duties that will help the department keep tract of any treatment associated with these patients.
Physical Therapy Attendant:Average Salary: $27,316
Physical therapy attendants will prepare patients for their treatment with the supervision of the attending physical therapist. They may need to oversee the maintenance or operation of any equipment. They can also be asked to sanitize or prepare the treatment area for incoming patients and help to maintain medical records and other clerical duties as needed by the physical therapy staff. This can include scheduling appointments as well. Those working in this field will require a high school diploma.
History of Physical Therapy Assistants
The idea of training people to assist physical therapists appeared as early as the 1940s because there were not enough physical therapists around to treat the increasing number of patients that required their assistants. At the time, physical therapists were forced to be quite creative regarding finding individuals that could help them with these tasks.
Physical therapy assistants began appearing as a designated field in 1967 when the first programs appeared to begin training these individuals. By 1969 when the first graduates entered the field, there were only 15 licensed physical therapy assistants in the entire country. As these educational programs took hold, the Physical Therapy Association began expanding their membership to help certify these individuals so they could be licensed properly to work in the field. These individuals were not seed as Affiliates of the organization until 1973. This allowed the organization to begin working on textbooks and clinical instruction that would ensure that all people training to become physical therapy assistants would have consistent training.
Physical Therapy Assistant Salary Outlook – Conclusion
The average salary of a physical therapy assistant is expected to see a large increase in the upcoming years. The industry is expected to grow by 46 percent by 2020, a distinct increase over the job market as a whole which is only expected to see 14 percent growth. While the industry is growing, so are the channels that allow people to enter this field so the competition for high quality positions will be quite steep. People that are trained to work in skilled nursing, orthopedic or acute hospital settings will see a significant salary increase over others in the field.
As the population sees a significant increase in the number of elderly people around the country, the salary for a physical therapy assistant will continue to rise. These people are more prone to injury and will require therapy to help them adjust as chronic or other debilitating conditions take hold throughout the aging process. Medical facilities that specifically cater to the elderly see some of the greatest demand for physical therapy assistants.
Many facilities are hiring on physical therapy assistants instead of full-fledged physical therapists to cut down on costs. These individuals will be expected to take on a much higher amount of responsibility, increasing their value in the workplace.