Physical Therapist Assistants
Assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with state laws, assist in the development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, document the progress of treatment, and modify specific treatments in accordance with patient status and within the scope of treatment plans established by a physical therapist. Generally requires formal training.
Sample of reported job titles: Certified Physical Therapist Assistant (CPTA), Home Care Physical Therapy Assistant, Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant, Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant (LPTA), Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant, Outpatient Physical Therapist Assistant, Per Diem Physical Therapist Assistant (Per Diem PTA), Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)
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Tasks | Technology Skills | Tools Used | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Instruct, motivate, safeguard, and assist patients as they practice exercises or functional activities.
- Document patient information, such as notes on their progress.
- Observe patients during treatments to compile and evaluate data on their responses and progress and provide results to physical therapist in person or through progress notes.
- Instruct patients in proper body mechanics and in ways to improve functional mobility, such as aquatic exercise.
- Secure patients into or onto therapy equipment.
- Confer with physical therapy staff or others to discuss and evaluate patient information for planning, modifying, or coordinating treatment.
- Administer active or passive manual therapeutic exercises, therapeutic massage, aquatic physical therapy, or heat, light, sound, or electrical modality treatments, such as ultrasound.
- Transport patients to and from treatment areas, lifting and transferring them according to positioning requirements.
- Clean work area and check and store equipment after treatment.
- Communicate with or instruct caregivers or family members on patient therapeutic activities or treatment plans.
- Measure patients’ range-of-joint motion, body parts, or vital signs to determine effects of treatments or for patient evaluations.
- Train patients in the use of orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices.
- Monitor operation of equipment and record use of equipment and administration of treatment.
- Assist patients to dress, undress, or put on and remove supportive devices, such as braces, splints, or slings.
- Attend or conduct continuing education courses, seminars, or in-service activities.
- Fit patients for orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices, such as crutches.
- Perform postural drainage, percussions, or vibrations or teach deep breathing exercises to treat respiratory conditions.
- Perform clerical duties, such as taking inventory, ordering supplies, answering telephone, taking messages, or filling out forms.
- Prepare treatment areas and electrotherapy equipment for use by physiotherapists.
- Administer traction to relieve neck or back pain, using intermittent or static traction equipment.
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- Accounting software — Billing software; Bookkeeping software
- Action games — Video game software; Virtual reality game software
- Calendar and scheduling software — Scheduling software; SpectraSoft AppointmentsPRO
- Data base user interface and query software — dBASE; FileMaker Pro; Microsoft Access
- Electronic mail software — Email software; Microsoft Outlook
- Medical software — BioEx Systems Exercise Pro; Medical condition coding software ; Rehab Documentation Company ReDoc Suite; TherAssist (see all 13 examples)
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office
- Operating system software — Microsoft Windows
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Word processing software
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
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- Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- Therapy and Counseling — Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
- Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
- Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
- Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
- Biology — Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
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- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
- Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
- Time Management — Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
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- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Arm-Hand Steadiness — The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Static Strength — The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- Finger Dexterity — The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Manual Dexterity — The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
- Multilimb Coordination — The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Trunk Strength — The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without “giving out” or fatiguing.
- Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
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- Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
- Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
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Detailed Work Activities
- Engage patients in exercises or activities.
- Document client health or progress.
- Encourage patients during therapeutic activities.
- Record patient medical histories.
- Communicate patient status to other health practitioners.
- Monitor patient progress or responses to treatments.
- Prepare medical reports or documents.
- Train patients, family members, or caregivers in techniques for managing disabilities or illnesses.
- Hold patients to ensure proper positioning or safety.
- Confer with other professionals to plan patient care.
- Administer therapy treatments to patients using hands or physical treatment aids.
- Adjust positions of patients on beds or tables.
- Move patients to or from treatment areas.
- Teach medical procedures or medical equipment use to patients.
- Clean patient rooms or patient treatment rooms.
- Assess physical conditions of patients to aid in diagnosis or treatment.
- Monitor medical equipment to ensure proper functioning.
- Prepare medical instruments or equipment for use.
- Prepare patient treatment areas for use.
- Administer basic health care or medical treatments.
- Assist patients with daily activities.
- Attend educational events to update medical knowledge.
- Teach medical procedures to healthcare personnel.
- Fit patients for assistive devices.
- Inventory medical supplies or equipment.
- Perform clerical work in medical settings.
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- Contact With Others — 97% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 99% responded “Every day.”
- Physical Proximity — 97% responded “Very close (near touching).”
- Face-to-Face Discussions — 92% responded “Every day.”
- Frequency of Decision Making — 95% responded “Every day.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 62% responded “Extremely important.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 69% responded “Very important results.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 50% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Exposed to Disease or Infections — 61% responded “Every day.”
- Telephone — 60% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 62% responded “Extremely important.”
- Deal With External Customers — 67% responded “Extremely important.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 45% responded “Some freedom.”
- Consequence of Error — 51% responded “Extremely serious.”
- Spend Time Standing — 72% responded “More than half the time.”
- Spend Time Bending or Twisting the Body — 33% responded “Less than half the time.”
- Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions — 35% responded “More than half the time.”
- Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 35% responded “More than half the time.”
- Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 39% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Time Pressure — 45% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 71% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 45% responded “Very important.”
- Spend Time Walking and Running — 63% responded “More than half the time.”
- Frequency of Conflict Situations — 57% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 36% responded “Very important.”
- Letters and Memos — 34% responded “Every day.”
- Responsible for Others’ Health and Safety — 20% responded “Moderate responsibility.”
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|Title||Job Zone Three: Medium Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate’s degree.|
|Related Experience||Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.|
|Job Training||Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations usually involve using communication and organizational skills to coordinate, supervise, manage, or train others to accomplish goals. Examples include hydroelectric production managers, travel guides, electricians, agricultural technicians, barbers, court reporters, and medical assistants.|
|SVP Range||(6.0 to < 7.0)|
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Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
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Interest code: SRI Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
- Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
- Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
- Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
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- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others’ needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Independence — Job requires developing one’s own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
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- Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
- Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
- Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
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Wages & Employment Trends
|Median wages (2020)||$28.74 hourly, $59,770 annual|
|Employment (2020)||93,800 employees|
|Projected growth (2020-2030)||Much faster than average (15% or higher)|
|Projected job openings (2020-2030)||16,400|
|Top industries (2020)||
Health Care and Social Assistance
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 wage data and 2020-2030 employment projections . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.
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Job Openings on the Web
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Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- American College of Sports Medicine
- American Physical Therapy Association
- National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physical therapist assistants and aides
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This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA.