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Physical Therapist Aide Salary

What is the average salary for a physical therapy aide?

The annual income of physical therapy (PT) aides can vary greatly, shows data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS indicates that these workers typically earned between $36,830 and $18,370 as of May 2014. That said, the mean annual wages for physical therapist aides working nationwide, as of May 2014, were $26,660, according to the BLS. Factors that can affect pay include time on the job, prior experience, type of site where an aide is employed and even geographic location. As an example, the BLS shows some of the highest-paying regions in the country and their respective mean annual salaries:

  • Alaska: $38,670
  • Illinois: $32,970
  • Nevada: $32,590
  • Washington, D.C.: $32,190
  • Vermont: $31,900

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Are there specialty skills that can make job candidates more competitive?

Recent changes in federal reimbursement incentives are motivating health care organizations to transition to electronic documentation. Additionally, scheduling and billing systems are moving to computer-based programs. Because of these changes, computer fluency is a desirable ability in a physical therapy aide job applicant, especially in departments where the aide is responsible for administrative activities.

Experience proves to be tremendously valuable when pursuing a job opening. A PT aide with some experience facilitating the operation of an efficiently run department and providing quality support to therapists and patients will be considered an asset to any physical therapy clinic or intra-hospital rehabilitation department. Since there is no certification testing available for those employed as PT aides, those who are working on a degree to become certified as a physical therapy assistant (PTA) could find they are more desirable job candidates for PT aide positions.

Are physical therapy aides in high demand?

The BLS reports that job opportunities for physical therapist aides are expected to grow by 40 percent from 2012 to 2022. This demand is much faster than average compared to all jobs and could lead to the availability of 20,100 new jobs opening up during this time. Driving this growth should be an aging baby boomer population in increased need of rehabilitation services since they are tending to stay more active as they age. Also, the occurrence of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, is leading to more need for therapeutic services, particularly those related to mobility. Finally, more people should have access to health care services, including physical therapist care, as a result of recent changes in federal law related to coverage, and more medical developments are continuing to occur, allowing for improved treatment of individuals, including trauma victims, who typically make use of rehabilitative services.

Is there room for advancement?

It is not uncommon for an individual who wants to learn how to become a physical therapy aide to prepare for grander career aspirations with the idea of using this profession as a steppingstone to more advanced careers. This might include the job of a PTA, which requires a degree that typically takes two years to complete, or even the job of a physical therapist, an occupation requiring a much more advanced doctoral or professional education. In fact, many occupational and physical therapy degree programs require candidates to have a number of contact hours before even applying. People often find that a job as a PT aide is an excellent way to get exposure to the field and earn an income while working on a more advanced degree. Additionally, students working as a PT aid while enrolled in PT or occupational therapy assistant programs find that the real world exposure to patients and their complex needs gives a greater depth of meaning to their studies and improves learning. However, those wishing to stay employed as PT aides should find the best opportunities for advancement available in rural areas, as well as in acute hospital, outpatient orthopedic and skilled nursing settings, according to the BLS.

As an alternative, a physical therapy aide who works in a hospital environment could find themselves drawn to a nursing career. So much interaction exists between departments in medical environments that it is almost impossible to not be exposed to the complexities of other fields. Physical therapy aides may decide that a position in a rehabilitation department is a good way to earn a living while pursuing a nursing degree as the exposure to patients and their needs is an excellent way to reinforce instruction received in the classroom. PT aides could choose to work either on a licensed vocational nurse or registered nursing degree, both of which necessitate a college education.

Sources:

  1. Physical Therapist Aides, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes312022.htm
  2. Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm
  3. Physical Therapist, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm

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