A variety of factors are leading to rapid growth in many healthcare fields. The population is aging, more people are undergoing certain types of surgery (including orthopedic surgeries like joint replacements) and more people are insured than ever before. This influx of demand for healthcare services has led to rapid job growth in many medical specialties, including physical therapy.
In fact, physical therapist assistants are one of the fastest growing healthcare occupations in the U.S. with projected growth of 32 percent by 2030.
Do you have an innate passion to help others? Are you looking for a job that keeps you moving all day? If you’ve answered “yes” to both questions, becoming a physical therapist assistant may be the right career choice for you.
What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do?
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work with patients of all ages and backgrounds who have suffered injuries, are recovering from surgery or have medical conditions that limit their mobility. The fundamental role of a PTA is to help patients restore their health and regain mobility by strengthening muscles and improving movement.
PTAs typically work under direct supervision of physical therapists and help patients perform exercises according to the physical therapist’s instruction.
Here are some additional responsibilities you will likely have as a PTA:
- Administer soft tissue massages
- Perform electrical muscle stimulation
- Train patients on how to use crutches or prosthetics
- Assess patient progress
- Educate patients on self-care techniques
- Update patient treatment plans
Where do PTAs work?
As a PTA, you can find employment in a variety of medical settings, including hospitals, physician offices, physical therapy facilities, nursing homes, sports medicine facilities and in-home visits.
How Much Do PTAs Earn?
While numbers can vary by state and experience, the average national salary of a PTA is $60,740. PTAs employed in the state of Missouri can earn anywhere from $41,000 to $70,280 depending on their place of employment and level of expertise, with $55,810 being the average salary earned by a Missouri-based PTA.
What Is the Educational Path to Becoming a PTA?
To become a physical therapy assistant, you’ll need to earn a college degree, specifically a physical therapy assistant associate’s degree from an accredited institution. While taking college classes may sound intimidating, many students are able to complete their degrees in less than two years.
Many programs offer a variety of learning methods, including academic courses, lab work and hands-on clinical training.
Once you’ve completed your studies and earned your degree, you’ll have to pass the standardized exam held by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to become a licensed PTA.
Keep in mind that earning a degree doesn’t mean you should stop bettering yourself. Once you become employed, you may need to brush up on your skills periodically to maintain your PTA license.
What Career Advancement Opportunities Are Available for PTAs?
Once you become a seasoned PTA, you may want to advance within the field of physical therapy. People typically seek advancement opportunities to challenge themselves, learn new skills and earn a higher salary. As an experienced PTA, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to propel yourself toward other lucrative careers within the medical field. Typical growth opportunities for experienced physical therapy assistants include the following occupations:
- Physical therapist: Frequently oversees PTAs and develops patient treatment plans
- Chiropractor: Treats patients’ musculoskeletal and nervous systems using spinal adjustments
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist: Help patients with disabilities regain function and enjoy a better quality of life
- Exercise physiologist: Develops physical activity programs to help patients overcome a variety of medical conditions
Embark on your Physical Therapist Assistant Journey with St. Louis College of Health Careers
If you live in St. Louis and are interested in pursing a career as a physical therapist assistant, consider enrolling in our accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science program. Our five- semester long, hands-on training will set you on the path to becoming a desirable employee with the necessary skills to work in a variety of medical settings.
Are you interested in a healthcare career but you’re still weighing your options? Explore SLCHC’s diverse catalog of programs, including our Medical Assistant diploma and Medical Assistant Associate of Applied Science program.
To learn more about our educational opportunities, call 866-529-2070 or send us a message