How to Become a PTA: Therapy Jobs Guide

smiling woman pta professional in blue scrubs helping elderly patient at job

Thinking of becoming a physical therapy assistant? Your timing is great — PTA jobs are in high demand and easier to qualify for than you might think! Discover what PTAs do, how much they make, which PTA jobs pay the most, and how to become a PTA.

What Do Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) Do?

Physical therapy assistants perform important tasks to help patients recover from injuries and manage pain under the guidance and direction of physical therapists. As you learn how to become a PTA, you’ll find your main duties are to:

  • Assist patients in performing physical therapy exercises and using equipment.
  • Treat patients with massage, stretching, gait and balance training, and other physical therapy techniques.
  • Monitor and report patients’ progress throughout physical therapy sessions.
  • Empower patients by educating them and their families on exercises and follow-up care.

Remember: Physical therapy assistants are different from physical therapy aides. Physical therapy assistants help treat the patient, while aides perform more clerical duties, cleaning the area, setting up equipment, and setting up appointments. Physical therapy assistants require more training and pay more than aide roles.

How Much Do PTA Jobs Pay?

The median pay for PTA jobs is $62,770 per year, or $30.18 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this can range from $43,340 to $85,230.

This is expected to grow, as PTA jobs are growing much faster than other jobs, with a 26% increase in job outlook in the next decade. That’s over 26,000 new openings each year.

Which PTA Jobs Pay the Most?

Want to learn how to become a PTA on the higher end of the pay scale? The best-paying PTA jobs depend on location and setting. The most recent BLS data shows the PTA jobs that pay the most are in:

  1. Home healthcare settings: $76,210 median pay
  2. Skilled nursing facilities: $74,070 median pay
  3. State, local, and private hospitals: $63,330 median pay

Pro Tip: With PTA jobs, taking on local contract and exploring travel roles can maximize your pay!

How Hard is it to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant?

Wondering how to become a PTA? PTA jobs are often high-paying, especially in comparison to the education and training required to become one. It’s relatively easy to become a PTA. At a minimum, physical therapy assistants only need about two years of schooling.

Most of your classes will be centered on medical science, such as physiology, anatomy, and neuroscience. As a whole, about 75% of the coursework takes place in the classroom, while 25% is hands-on clinical experience.

After you graduate, you’ll need to pass an exam based on your courses to get licensed. Depending on where you live, you may also need to take an additional state exam, pass a background check, and be 18 or older.

How to Become a PTA: 2-3 Steps

Trying to figure out how to become a PTA? The process is simpler than you might think. We can break it down into 2-3 steps:

Step 1: Get an Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapy

Start learning how to become a PTA by enrolling in a two-year (five-semester) physical therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Your courses will likely also include clinical work, where you’ll gain real-life experience in how to become a PTA.

Step 2: Take an Exam to Become Licensed as a PTA

After graduating from the two-year program, you’ll need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTAs.

This exam is required in all 50 states. However, some states also require an additional state-specific exam where you’ll be tested on your state’s physical therapy laws and regulations. You can double-check with your state’s physical therapy board to see if there are any additional licensure and/or certification requirements.

Step 3: Become a Certified PTA (Optional)

Some PTA jobs require you to get helpful certifications, such as BLS (Basic Life Support).

Even if certifications aren’t required for a role, they can set you apart from the other candidates. Overall, some states require PTAs to participate in continuing education to keep their licenses active.

Tips for Getting PTA Jobs

Need tips on how to become a PTA? Here are 3 tips from to stand out from the crowd and, ultimately, land the perfect PTA job:

Highlight Relevant Skills

Highlight relevant coursework, clinical experiences, and physical therapy skills for the specific role on your resume.

Remember: Every facility may have slightly different needs and priorities for a PTA. Identify what they’re looking for, and tailor your resume and application to reflect this. Don’t forget to emphasize your ability to work collaboratively with physical therapists and other healthcare professionals, too!

Use the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Resources

The APTA has several resources, volunteer opportunities, and learning programs to help you start and grow your PTA career. You can use these to stay informed about developments, trends, and best practices in the field to show your commitment to professional growth.

You can also increase and specialize your skills through the American Physical Therapy Association’s PTA Advanced Proficiency Pathways program. If you’re interested in a certain branch or setting, specialization can give you an edge that can help you stand out from the other candidates.

Utilize Job Search Resources

One of the best resources you can have as a healthcare professional is a recruiter. You can work with a PTA recruitment agency, like CareerStaff, at no cost to you. A recruiter can help connect you to the therapy jobs you’re looking for.

How to Find PTA Jobs

Where can you find PTA jobs? Start here with CareerStaff, your connection to local, travel, and per diem therapy roles nationwide.

Search available therapy jobs now, or Quick Apply below to get connected with your recruiter and start your PTA job search today.

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