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Physical Therapy Assistant Training

If you are interested in working with patients to help them restore and maintain fitness and health, then physical therapy might be the career for you!

Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants are in demand. With job opportunities expected to grow more than 27% through 2014, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants may be able to find work in hospitals, private offices, clinics, schools, or even with sports teams. Whether you decide to work with a variety of patients, or specialize in an area such as pediatrics or geriatrics, physical therapy can be an incredibly rewarding and fun career!

Job Description:
Both physical therapists and physical therapist assistants work with patients of all ages who suffer from disabilities caused by accidents, injuries, or chronic medical conditions. Physical therapists prescribe a range of treatments to help patients relieve pain, restore or improve function and mobility, and prevent permanent physical disabilities. Treatments often include exercises to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance; electrical stimulation; and massages, hot and cold packs, paraffin baths, or ultrasound to alleviate pain. Physical therapy assistants generally carry out the treatments under the direction and supervision of physical therapists.

Programs to Consider:

Education Requirements:
To become a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant, you’ll need training in basic sciences like biology and chemistry, as well as clinical instruction. As the ones in charge of diagnosing and determining a treatment plan, physical therapists need at least a bachelor’s degree with courses in human growth and development, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures. In addition, physical therapist professionals must pass a licensure exam to practice in any state. Physical therapist (PT) assistants only need a 2-year associate’s degree in physical therapy, and more than 40 states require assistants to be licensed, certified, or registered.

Physical therapy is an increasingly in-demand job, as advances in medical treatment allow people to live longer and overcome previously fatal illnesses or injuries. In addition to having great job stability, physical therapy is also a well-paid profession. The average annual salary of U.S. physical therapists was $72,790 - in May 2008, with the highest 10% earning more than $104,350 per year. Physical therapist assistants earned an average of $54,590 in the same time period, with the highest 10% earning more than $63,830 annually.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Physical Therapy Program

  • Currently, only graduate degree physical therapist programs are accredited. Master's degree programs typically are 2 to 2.5 years in length, while doctoral degree programs last 3 years.
  • Physical therapist education programs include foundational science courses, such as biology, cellular histology, exercise physiology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, neuroscience, pathology, biomechanics, and radiology/imaging, as well as behavioral science courses, such as evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning.
  • Physical therapists are expected to continue their professional development by participating in continuing education courses and workshops. Some physical therapists become board certified in a clinical specialty.