Physical Therapist Assistant
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Physical Therapist Assistant

AWARD OFFERED Associate in Applied Science Degree

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is a skilled technical health care worker who assists the physical therapist in providing services that help improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Patients include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.

Duties of the physical therapist assistant are varied but include rehabilitation of orthopedic, neurological, pediatric, and sports-related problems. Once a patient is evaluated and a treatment plan is designed by the physical therapist, the physical therapist assistant can provide many aspects of treatment, as prescribed by the physical therapist. Components of treatment procedures performed by these workers involve exercise, massage, electrical stimulation, paraffin baths, hot and cold packs, traction, and ultrasound. The physical therapist assistant is responsible for reporting patient responses and treatment outcomes to the physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants are employed in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health care agencies, private practices, and other specialized health care settings.

Employment of physical therapist assistants is expected to grow much faster than average for all occupations through the year 2022. The demand for physical therapist assistants will continue to rise, in accordance with the increasing number of individuals with disabilities or limited function. The growing elderly population is particularly vulnerable to chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services, making the role of the PT/PTA team vital. In addition, future medical developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims to survive, creating added demand for therapy services. Physical therapists are expected to increasingly utilize assistants to reduce the cost of physical therapy services.

Median annual earnings of physical therapist assistants were $52,160 in May 2012, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $72,720. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Alina C. Adams, PT, Program Director