Physical Therapist Assistant
When someone injures themselves, has overcome a major illness, or has had surgery, they require physical therapy. This person could be your cousin who sprained his ankle playing soccer, or your aunt who just had surgery on her spine. They're in pain and in need of someone to help them recuperate from their injury or illness.Luckily, there are physical therapist assistants to help them on their road to recovery. Under the supervision of physical therapists, these professionals work to treat patients, like your cousin or your aunt, by walking them through specific exercises to help them regain movement and manage pain. Should you choose to become one, you will also find yourself setting up treatment areas, moving patients, and performing clerical duties.You will enjoy this job if you are especially compassionate and love helping people. Working in this profession requires your utmost care as you give therapy through exercise, massage, gait and balance training, and therapeutic modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound. It is important that you also record patients' progress and report the results of each treatment to the physical therapist.Working with patients who are struggling to complete basic functions such as walking can be tough. It will test your patience and ability to stay positive, but helping someone to overcome an obstacle they once thought was impossible can certainly prove rewarding.
Salaries and Job Outlook*
Education and Training
Becoming a physical therapist assistant can take about two years, since most states require you to have an associate's degree from an accredited program. These programs include both classroom study and clinical practice where you will gain hands-on experience working in treatment centers. Depending on the program, you may earn certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other first-aid skills. If you're looking to complete the program while you continue working, some programs offer evening classes.On the other hand, in some states the main requirement is that you have your high school diploma or GED. It is to your benefit if you have computer skills, as employers look for applicants with those. When you are hired, you will gain clinical experience through on-the-job training that can last from about a week to a few months.
Valued Traits & Abilities
You can choose to work at one of two locations. Most physical therapist assistants work in a physical therapy office or a clinic. These are located in office buildings, similar to where you might find your dentist's office.As for your schedule, most assistants work full time Monday-Friday, during normal business hours of 8am-5pm. Your schedule could vary depending on the office hours of the physical therapist you assist. Additionally, you may have to work evening and weekend shifts as many physical therapy office and clinics are open during these times to accommodate patients' schedules.