Physical Therapist Aide

physical therapist aide

Table of Contents

Overview

Job Responsibilities

  • Get ready for upcoming therapy sessions by knowing the treatment areas to be used based on a patient’s requirements
  • Prepare treatment areas by cleaning and setting up physical therapy equipment
  • Assist patients in going to or from a therapy area
  • Do clerical tasks that involve taking calls, scheduling appointments, ordering supplies, doing supply inventory, and filling out paperwork
  • Monitor a patient’s progress during therapy sessions
  • Document the effectiveness of specific treatments to patients
  • Help patients perform some exercises and physical activities under the supervision of medical staff
  • Ensure security of patients on therapy equipment
  • Ask physical therapists to assess patient notes for preparation, modification, and coordination of the treatment
  • Provide motivational support to patients undergoing physical therapy

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Aide Make?

Physical Therapist Aide made a median salary of $26,240 in 2018 The best-paid 10 percent made $39,230 that year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $20,040.

Common Requirements

  • High school diploma, GED or any equivalent
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification
  • On-the-job training form the employer
  • Continuing education for physical therapy
  • Clerical administration
  • Dexterity in assisting patients and using physical therapy equipment
  • Great customer and personal service
  • Competent computer skills in using specific software
  • Good physical stamina

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Common Skills

Dexterity

Clerical knowledge

Customer and personal service

Therapy and counseling background

Computer skills

Familiarity with the use of various physical therapy equipment

Interpersonal skills

Detail-oriented

Compassion

MEDIAN SALARY

$26,240 per year
$12.62 per hour

JOB OUTLOOK

23%

NUMBER OF JOBS

49,800

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Physical Therapist Aide

Physical Therapist Aides provide support to physical therapists in several ways. They assist them through accomplishing administrative tasks at the front desk, help patients find their way in the facility, and serve as a liaison between the physical therapists and the patients.

Working behind the scenes of the patients’ recovery, physical therapist aides play a vital role in helping both patients and clinic staff. They work hand in hand with everyone involved to ensure they provide the proper care for patients with various physical injuries and illnesses.

What Does a Physical Therapist Aide Do?

Physical therapist aides work under the supervision of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. They provide assistance to patients by helping them find their way in the facility, prepare treatment areas for them, while also doing clerical tasks in the clinic.

Their typical job responsibilities include the following:

  • Get ready for upcoming therapy sessions by knowing the treatment areas to be used based on a patient’s requirements
  • Prepare treatment areas by cleaning and setting up physical therapy equipment
  • Assist patients in going to or from a therapy area
  • Do clerical tasks that involve taking calls, scheduling appointments, ordering supplies, doing supply inventory, and filling out paperwork
  • Monitor a patient’s progress during therapy sessions
  • Document the effectiveness of specific treatments to patients
  • Help patients perform some exercises and physical activities under the supervision of medical staff
  • Ensure security of patients on therapy equipment
  • Ask physical therapists to assess patient notes for preparation, modification, and coordination of the treatment
  • Provide motivational support to patients undergoing physical therapy

Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Physical Therapist Aide

If you think anyone can easily be hired as a physical therapist aide, you are making your first mistake in this pursuit. As someone who deals with sensitive cases in physical therapy, you ought to have the capacity to fulfill the duties. How do you know you are cut out for the role? Here are some telltale signs you should pursue this career:

You are into health and wellness.

Do you believe in the rewarding things good health and wellness can bring you? Do you enjoy and promote physical activities to keep oneself healthy? If both of your answers are “yes,” then you can expect a highly stimulating job as this career is all about encouraging health and wellness.

You like making a positive difference.

If you are a person who takes pride in helping others, being a physical therapist aide can be so rewarding to you. You will be meeting tons of people who seek to heal from injuries and illnesses, and you will be a part of their recovery. This job allows you to create a direct impact on their lives as they get better.

You have excellent interpersonal communication skills.

One of the core duties of physical therapist aides is becoming the liaison between the patients and physical therapists. If you always find yourself at ease when talking to various kinds of people, this won’t be a problem for you at all. As you do your duty, you will be at the front desk to talk to incoming and outgoing patients directly—you will be doing frequent communication.

You are empathetic.

Having the heart to work for this job is a crucial need. If you genuinely love helping people, you will enjoy your work environment. You will see lots of patients experiencing pain and emotional turmoil—as someone who assists them; you should be able to make them feel that you are on their side, and you understand what they are going through. 

You radiate positive vibes.

As the person sitting at the front desk—talking to people—a pleasing personality is a must for you. If you have always been cheerful to the extent that you can lighten sorrowful moments, then you are totally a good fit for working as a physical therapist aide. As much as patients can, they need more faces who can bring them positivity into their recovery.

You are a team player.

Are you a person who enjoys collaboration among a number of people? This job offers you that as you are a part of a big team working on to serve people. You may not be the ones who directly work on recovering every issue they have, but you are assisting them to get there. You play an important role on the team as the one who provides assistance, checks on their progress, and organizes patients’ treatment schedules. You are a part of the team that relies on one another’s help to achieve the best outcomes for your patients.

You want options.

If you are looking for a career that will provide you tons of options as to which environment you’ll work for, you can count on this job. Physical therapist aides can work in multiple settings that include physical therapy clinics, hospitals, athletic facilities, or nursing homes. In addition, you have the liberty to work for a certain age group you want as each work setting has its respective type of patients—be it children, adults, elderly, or even athletes.

physical therapist aide

How Do You Become a Physical Therapist Aide?

Becoming a physical therapist aide is conventionally easy. However, you still need to follow a series of requirements in order to qualify for the role. Here is a short guide containing the steps on how you can become a physical therapist aide.

1. Earn your high school diploma, GED, or any other equivalent to it.

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is not a requirement to get hired as a physical therapist aide. However, employers require applicants to have at least a high school diploma, a GED, or any equivalent that will prove educational pursuits. This job is an entry-level position that does not require an advanced degree, but if you are seeking to advance, you might want to pursue an associate’s degree for physical therapy.

2. Secure Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification.

It is highly recommended to obtain a BLS certification prior to looking for jobs as most employers prefer applicants who have this. This certification is given by the American Heart Association when you have completed a 4.5-course and passed an examination. It covers essential health measures like CPR procedures, the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), and ways to relieve choking. This certification must be renewed every two years through a 4-hour renewal course.

3. Complete On-the-Job Training (OJT).

Before you can start your practice, your employer will require you to complete a designated training to get you acquainted with your tasks. The duration of this training depends on the employer’s discretion—it could run for weeks or months. The training prepares you to get familiar with sterilization of equipment and treatment areas, implementation of clinical procedures, proper use of equipment, and administration of the front desk.

4. Consider career advancement.

Physical therapist aides can advance their career to becoming physical therapist assistants. If you are one who seeks growth in the career, you can pursue an associate’s degree in physical therapy. Because you are familiar with what goes on in physical therapy, continuing education will definitely not be a problem for you. You will just have to complete the program consisting of both coursework and training, and then you can move up to passing the National Physical Therapy Exam to get a license.

What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be a Physical Therapist Aide?

To thrive in this career, you should know what skills and knowledge a physical therapist aide should be adept with. Here are some of them to guide you:

Compassion

Working in an environment full of patients seeking to recover from their respective injuries, you are to develop empathy for your patients. Genuine love for helping people will get you through the job as it is easy to see through if you are only pretending to care. 

Detail-oriented

A core value physical therapist aides have is that they are highly organized to their jobs. Being keen on every detail is key to accurate documentation, implementation of procedures, and proper execution of instructions from the medical staff. 

Dexterity

You will often be setting up some physical therapy equipment, so you need to have good manual dexterity. In some cases, you will be asked to assist patients in performing some therapeutic exercises, so you need to know the proper way to perform those activities. 

Interpersonal skills

A huge chunk of your time working on a healthcare facility requires you to talk to various people—from patients, their families, suppliers, to your colleagues. A good set of communication skills will pave the way for the successful fulfillment of your job.

Physical stamina

As you are always moving in this job, your physical health matters in doing your work. You will always be on your feet moving from one area to another in assisting patients, as well as help them perform some therapeutic exercises which require you to bend, stretch, kneel, stoop, and stand for a long time. Physical activities should not be a hindrance to you.

Customer and Personal service

As someone who often mans the front desk, you should be able to provide good customer service to the patients and people you are serving. You ought to be knowledgeable in the principles and processes for providing quality services to them, which may include customer needs assessment, assurance of meeting quality standards, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Therapy and counseling

Even though you are not directly advising patients on what needs to be done for fast recovery, it counts to know your way around the field. You must have a good foundation of knowledge about the principles and procedures for the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of various physical and mental dysfunction, as well as counseling and guidance. You will learn about this as you earn experience in your practice.

Clerical administration

Half of your time, you will be tending to the clerical needs of the health care facility you are manning. You will be taking in calls, filling out tons of paperwork, managing files, and records, doing inventory, and other administrative procedures. 

Computer skills

Employers prefer to hire physical therapist aides who can work on computers on their own. You will be utilizing your computer in fulfilling some clerical tasks so a good set of computer skills will come in handy. You are to use software for your facility, so you need to be able to adapt to it easily through your knowledge of computers.

Knowledge in various physical therapy tools and equipment

One of your responsibilities is assisting your patients with the physical therapy equipment they need. Knowing their respective functions and safety precautions is your responsibility to ensure their safety before, during, and after the therapy session.

Although it is not a requirement to have either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree to work as a physical therapist aide, you can explore continuing education to advance in your career. If you seek career growth by becoming a physical therapist assistant, there are associate’s degrees in physical therapy you can take up. Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), the following schools offer CAPTE-accredited physical therapy programs you can take:

  • Albany State University
  • American Career College
  • Arapahoe Community College
  • Arkansas State University (Expansion Program)
  • Arkansas State University (Parent Program)
  • Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus
  • Athens Technical College
  • Atlanta Technical College
  • Bishop State Community College
  • Brookline College 
  • Broward College (Expansion Program) 
  • Broward College (Parent Program) 
  • Calhoun Community College 
  • Carrington College – Pleasant Hill 
  • Carrington College-Mesa
  • Casa Loma College
  • Cerritos College
  • Chattahoochee Technical College – North Metro Campus
  • College of Central Florida 
  • College of the Sequoias 
  • Community Based Education and Development dba CBD College
  • Concorde Career College – Aurora
  • Concorde Career College – Garden Grove
  • Concorde Career College – North Hollywood
  • Concorde Career College – San Diego
  • Concorde Career Institute – Jacksonville
  • Concorde Career Institute – Miramar
  • Daytona State College 
  • Delaware Technical and Community College – George Campus
  • Delaware Technical and Community College – Jack F Owens Campus 
  • Eastern Florida State College
  • Florida Gateway College
  • Florida National University 
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville
  • GateWay Community College (Expansion Program)
  • GateWay Community College (Parent Program) 
  • George C Wallace Community College
  • Gulf Coast State College 
  • Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
  • Herzing University – Orlando 
  • Hodges University
  • Indian River State College 
  • Institute of Technology – Clovis Campus 
  • Jefferson State Community College (Expansion Program) 
  • Jefferson State Community College (Parent Program) 
  • Keiser University – Ft Lauderdale 
  • Keiser University – Jacksonville
  • Keiser University – Lakeland 
  • Keiser University – Melbourne
  • Keiser University – Miami 
  • Keiser University – Sarasota
  • Keiser University – West Palm Beach
  • Loma Linda University
  • Miami Dade College
  • Mohave Community College
  • Morgan Community College
  • Naugatuck Valley Community College
  • Northwest Arkansas Community College
  • Norwalk Community College 
  • Ohlone College 
  • Pensacola State College
  • Pima Medical Institute – Denver Campus
  • Pima Medical Institute – Mesa Campus
  • Pima Medical Institute – Tucson Campus
  • Polk State College 
  • Pueblo Community College
  • Rasmussen College – Land O’Lakes – East Pasco
  • SABER College
  • Sacramento City College
  • San Diego Mesa College 
  • Santa Fe College
  • Seminole State College of Florida
  • South Arkansas Community College
  • South University – Montgomery
  • South University – Tampa
  • South University – West Palm Beach 
  • St Petersburg College 
  • Stanbridge University 
  • State College of Florida
  • Taylor College 
  • The Praxis Institute 
  • UA Cossatot 
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Wallace State Community College – Hanceville 

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How to Get a Job as a Physical Therapist Aide

Expect a wide array of options when you are applying for a job as a physical therapist aide. Having a variety of work settings that can suit your best interests, you are bound to meet tons of opportunities in your career exploration. To know where to find them, here are some tips:

1. Check your local hospitals, clinics, and physical therapy clinics.

Finding a prospective employer near you isn’t that hard. You just have to directly contact your local health care facility to find out if there are any available jobs for a physical therapist aide. Look them up online and give them a call to inquire about any career opportunity you can take advantage of.

These are some of the institutions you should check out in your job hunting:

    • Physical and occupational therapy offices
    • Schools
    • Fitness centers
    • Sports facilities
    • Nursing homes

2. Browse through online job portals.

A quick and convenient way to find jobs is through browsing online job portals. With various health care facilities utilizing online job search in their employment process, you are most likely to find a job opportunity near you. Here are some of the websites you can check out:

3. Use your network.

Another option you can use in finding a career opportunity is through making use of your network of friends, family, previous colleagues, and other affiliations. The word of mouth is pretty powerful in finding yourself a career. You can directly ask your network or update your LinkedIn to find recruiters currently hiring in your area.

Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

Physical therapist aides had a median salary of $26,240 in 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report. However, the pay differs per state as the location creates an impact on the salary. To know how much a physical therapist aide makes in every state, here is a complete list of them:

State2018 Mean Annual Wage
Alaska$46,230
Idaho$39,120
Minnesota$37,230
Rhode Island$33,960
Vermont$33,900
Massachusetts$33,740
North Dakota$33,350
New Hampshire$32,820
Colorado$32,240
Illinois$31,100
California$31,090
Connecticut$30,980
Maine$30,690
District of Columbia$30,520
Wisconsin$30,460
South Carolina$30,440
New York$30,230
Oregon$30,200
Hawaii$30,050
Washington$29,870
Indiana$29,450
Pennsylvania$29,450
Missouri$28,940
South Dakota$28,810
Arizona$28,360
Montana$28,320
State2018 Mean Annual Wage
New Mexico$28,210
Ohio$28,210
Virginia$28,110
Nebraska$28,000
Michigan$27,810
North Carolina$27,780
Louisiana$27,620
Iowa$27,580
Kansas$27,490
New Jersey$27,480
Georgia$27,270
Florida$27,160
Texas$26,810
Kentucky$26,320
Alabama$26,190
Wyoming$26,080
Delaware$26,050
Nevada$26,000
Maryland$25,980
Tennessee$25,740
Arkansas$25,650
West Virginia$25,620
Mississippi$22,870
Utah$22,860
Oklahoma$21,610

Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make Your Resume Stand Out

A well-crafted resume boosts your chances of being remarkable and landing an interview with a prospective employer. Make sure you take note of some resume writing etiquette to stand out among the pile of other applicants vying for the role. 

To help you polish an impressive resume that’s sure to capture an employer’s attention, here are some helpful tips you should follow:

1. Set a clear objective.

Start off your resume with a sharp objective that speaks your worth. Putting this at the top of your resume where they could read it prior to seeing what your skills are, is a strategy to lure them in to continue reading. As early as now, highlight what you can do, where you want to see yourself, and why you fit the role. With the relatively short time spent in looking through a resume, you have to set the bar high as early as now.

2. Highlight your skillset and your obtained BLS certification.

Applying for a job that mainly focuses on providing service directly to patients, you ought to show off lots of soft skills deemed valuable in this job. Highlight the particular qualities that make you a perfect fit for the job which include compassion, patience, ability to work independently, organization, and communication skills. Also, don’t forget to add your hard-earned basic life support (BLS) certification that demonstrates your familiarity with providing health care service.

3. Keep it brief and neat.

A clutter-free resume is not just nice to look at, it also translates to a well-thought-of content. Make sure you avoid long narratives, instead, opt for concise terms that will exactly tell what you mean. Keeping everything short but well enough to hold value, is your key to maintaining their interest when they read your resume. You can use bullets, timelines, and other forms to shorten and illustrate happenings in your career.

4. Proofread to find any errors.

The last thing you want to happen is disappointing an employer because of a resume full of grammatical errors. Don’t fall victim to this situation by proofreading your resume before you submit it to prospective employers. Find any grammatical mistakes, inconsistencies, misspellings, and other factors that will make your resume seem disorganized and effortless. When done proofreading, ensure everything you have written is all factual to keep a dignified self when qualified for an interview.

Ace Your Physical Therapist Aide Interview

When you have successfully secured an interview, the last thing you will have to do in landing the job is to nail the interview! You only have one shot in proving to prospective employers that you are fit for the role, so make sure you do your best. You can do this through thorough preparation prior to going on the big day. Get ready for potential physical therapist aide questions that can be thrown your way.

To help you prepare with those questions, here are some of those so you can play the advantage side during the interview:

1. Describe the most challenging cases you have assisted.

This is a trick to know about your work history. The employer wants to know any challenges that have left valuable lessons to you on your previous work. To answer this, share a story that displays a huge conflict that has left you a learning lesson to live by. You can share some of the most excruciatingly difficult problems you had to face in your past work.

2. How do you motivate patients?

As someone who directly interacts with patients, you have the unspoken responsibility of cheering them up in times of need. Often, you will see them suffering in pain and emotional distress—they could use some motivation from people they are around with. So tell your interviewer how you can motivate patients through consistent giving of words of encouragement and acts of good deeds towards patients as you know its value to them.

3. How do you take note of a patient’s progress?

Though you are not solely responsible for ensuring they get the recovery and treatment they need, you have the duty to track their progress as often you will be required to document it. So in answering this question, you should display your attention to detail to successfully assess a patient’s progress. Explain how you make use of being detail-oriented in your job to ensure you fulfill your duties well.

4. How do you set expectations for family members/caregivers and provide recovery updates?

Most of the time, patients’ companions will directly come to you and ask about their loved ones’ progress. As someone who mans the front desk, you should be ready to face situations like this where people will bug you for assurance and details. You don’t necessarily handle their recovery; however, you should be able to communicate with them well to keep them engaged and composed. A good physical therapist aide is someone who can handle interactions with various people.

5. How much patience do you have?

Dealing with people who are most likely to have so much stress in their lives, you can’t avoid instances where they lash out on you. Also, you will be required to tend to patients, and you can’t afford to lose interest and engagement with them. You have to instill a significant amount of patience within you. So tell your interviewer how much patience you can hold and cite instances displaying that.

Top Online Courses for Aspiring Physical Therapist Aides

Sharpen your skills in physical therapy by taking these top online courses

Seeking to jumpstart your career in physical therapy? SkillSuccess offers a wide array of beginner-friendly resources you can start with on your journey to becoming a physical therapist aide.

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