A physical therapy aide career is an excellent fit for those who enjoy helping others, prefer working as part of a team, and want a job in the healthcare or medical field. Jobs in this field are growing, and it can be a stepping stone to other roles in healthcare.
Education & Training
While many schools offer physical therapy aide degrees and certificates, be sure to select one that preps you for the AMCA’s Physical Therapy Technician/Aide certification exam,
How Long Does It Take?
Since the courses featured on this page are online, completion time can be as little as 9 months.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost is approximately $2100 for the training programs highlighted on this page. Cost includes textbooks.
What Will You Study?
A good program will include the following topics, at a minimum.
- Job overview – roles & responsibilities of a Physical Therapy Aide in healthcare environments
- Medical terminology – certified physical therapy aides need to understand and utilize specific terms and word elements related to musculoskeletal anatomy, body movements, and system disorders.
- How to handle patients – certified physical therapy aides should be adept at ensuring proper positioning for patients during therapy sessions. They must have knowledge of safe patient transfer techniques to prevent injuries and provide necessary support. Proficiency in guiding patients through common exercises and using modalities (such as heat, cold, and electrical stimulation) is crucial for effective therapy.
- Medical ethics
- Difference between roles of a Physical Therapy Aide and other positions in the healthcare environments
The advantages to any good training program should include certification, increased employment opportunities, and access to externships or other experiences that improve your credentials. AMCA certification is proof your skills and abilities.
How Much Money Can You Make?
On average, physical therapy aide salaries reach about $29,200 per year. However, pay rates vary depending on where you work and live. Physical therapy aides in some states might be able to earn as much as $37,920 a year, while others may only make $22,140 annually.
Those who have official certification and extensive experience may be able to negotiate even higher salaries.
Similar to how a nursing assistant works under the supervision of a nurse, a physical therapy aide takes direction and instructions from a licensed physical therapist. Physical therapy aides are part of a patient support team dedicated to helping people manage pain and improve their range of motion after surgeries, injuries and illnesses.
What Does a Physical Therapy Aide Do?
Duties for physical therapy aides may vary slightly depending on where they work. However, their daily routine generally includes tasks like:
- Checking patients in as they arrive for appointments
- Setting up and putting away physical therapy equipment, such as mobility assistance items, exercise balls, steps and ramps, and wrist and ankle weights
- Preparing hot and cold packs for patients dealing with muscle and joint pain
- Tracking patient progress and responses to treatment
- Cleaning and sanitizing physical therapy equipment and treatment rooms after each use
Physical therapy aide jobs involve performing various clerical and organizational duties that help keep workplace operations running smoothly.
During a typical workday, a physical therapy aide may be responsible for preparing physical therapy equipment before a patient arrives, cleaning and organizing treatment rooms, and filing or retrieving patient care documents for the physical therapist.
Physical therapy aides might also be responsible for transporting patients to and from treatment areas, especially if the patient uses a cane or wheelchair. Some may also serve as liaisons between physical therapists and doctors or nurses. If they’re working in geriatric, orthopedic, neurological, pediatric, or cardiopulmonary settings, they may have more specialized duties as well.
Is Physical Therapy Aide a Good Career?
According to reports from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physical therapy aide jobs in the United States is likely to increase by 24 percent over the next decade. With so many job openings becoming available during this time frame, physical therapy aide may be a promising career for people who want to find an entry-level position in the healthcare field.
Are Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants the Same?
Although some people use the titles ‘physical therapy aide” and “physical therapy assistant” interchangeably, these are two separate roles that require different credentials. An aide is only qualified to perform clerical and non-medical tasks.
Meanwhile, a physical therapy assistant works directly with patients, performing duties like:
- Helping patients complete their treatment exercises
- Stretching or massaging patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist
- Showing patients how to use various rehabilitative equipment
- Describing at-home treatment plans to patients and their loved ones
In some smaller clinics and care facilities, the physical therapy assistant may also perform duties that would typically fall to a physical therapy aide. However, their primary role is to help physical therapists administer patient care.
While attending school and becoming certified is optional for a physical therapy aide, physical therapy assistants must complete an accredited education program and obtain an official certification to qualify for healthcare jobs.
Do Physical Therapy Aides Really Need Certification?
Hopefuls can get a job in this industry with just a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, attending a physical therapy aide school, earning a Basic Life Support credential, and obtaining an official certification can improve your chances of getting a high-paying position at the facility of your choosing.
Organizations like the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) and the National Career Certification Board (NCCB) provide study materials and exams for those looking to become certified physical therapy aides. Once you pass your chosen test, you will receive an official physical therapy aide or physical therapy technician certification.
Where Do Physical Therapy Aides Work?
Some physical therapy aides work with doctors or physical therapists with their own private practices. However, most people in this field find jobs in nursing homes, hospitals, and other long-term care facilities.
Outpatient clinics and sports and fitness centers might also employ physical therapy aides.
How to Get a Job as a Physical Therapy Aide
Getting a physical therapy aide job involves submitting applications at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices that post employment openings.
During the application and interview process, aspiring physical therapy aides should provide examples of times when they displayed kindness, compassion, focus, and teamwork abilities to prove that they would be a good fit for the job.
You may also need to submit to a drug screening and background check, especially if you apply for a physical therapy aide job at a facility that administers medication or performs other medical procedures.
Some hospitals and outpatient clinics might be willing to employ workers with a criminal record, while others may prefer candidates who can pass the background check and drug test.
What Other Career Options do Physical Therapy Aides Have?
Physical therapy aide jobs require many of the same skills as other healthcare aide and assistant roles. With additional training and education, a physical therapy aide can qualify for a career as a medical or dental assistant, pharmacy technician, or a patient care or medical records tech. An aide could also find work as a physical therapy assistant once they have enough experience and earn the proper credentials.
Again, having a high school diploma and some on-the-job training is the minimum requirement for becoming a physical therapy aide. Even so, some states and physical therapy facilities might expect workers in this field to have additional skills and credentials before considering them for employment.
For example, if you want to become a physical therapy aide in Pennsylvania, being at least 18 years old, passing a background check, and complying with federal HIPPA regulations are all you need to meet the state’s requirements. However, certain facilities might also expect you to have experience working with elderly people or people with disabilities, as well as life support skills like CPR and first aid.
To help improve your chances of becoming a physical therapy aide in almost any state, hospital, clinic, or physical therapy office, consider taking the following steps:
- Earn your high school diploma or GED
- Obtain a Basic Life Support credential from the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross
- Apply for a physical therapy aide position OR enroll in a physical therapy aide school program
- Earn a state or national physical therapy aide certification
- Start applying for physical therapy aide jobs at local hospitals, nursing homes, or clinics