Physical Therapy Assistant Pay
What is the average salary of a physical therapy assistant?
After earning an associate degree, physical therapy assistants (PTAs) may be able to enter the job market and earn as much as $50,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of course, their annual income can depend on a variety of factors, including their geographic location, place of employment and even the scope of skills they have.
May 2014 information from the BLS shows that the median physical therapy assistant salary in the U.S. was $54,330. However, those in the lowest ten percent earned a median of $31,840 while those in the upper 10 percent earned a median of $75,530. This breaks down into hourly pay varying from $15.31 all the way up to $36.31 an hour. Some areas of the country do pay more than others, according to the BLS. In fact, the five highest-paying states for physical therapy assistants in the country include the following: Texas ($69,370), California ($64,850), New Jersey ($61,630), Alaska ($61,520) and Florida ($60,290), the BLS shows. The two top-paying metropolitan areas in the country for the occupation are the Brownsville-Harlingen area of Texas at $91,930 and the Lakeland-Winter Haven area of Florida at $80,160.
Many physical therapy assistants work full-time and receive benefits comparable to other health care professionals. About 40 percent work in the offices of physical therapists, occupational and speech therapists or audiologists while 37 percent are employed by local, state or private hospitals. Many others find jobs in doctors' offices, home health care services or nursing care facilities, according to the BLS.
In addition to paying for an education, other costs that are typically associated with the physical therapy assistant career are the fees to gain and renew the license as well as take continuing education courses. Most states require PTAs to renew their license biennially and complete a specific number of continuing education hours. However, renewal requirements vary by state, so PTAs need to make sure they are fulfilling the requirements to renew their license to practice. To check a specific state's requirements, contact either the state board of physical therapy or the state board of license and regulations.
Are physical therapy assistants in high demand?
Job opportunities for physical therapy assistants are expected to grow by 41 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. This job growth is considered much faster than average, compared to all occupations, and it could lead to 29,300 new positions opening up across the country during this time. The primary factor driving demand is an aging baby boomer population, the BLS reports. Not only is this group staying more active compared to past generations as they age, but they are also reaching a point in life when they have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, which can increase their need for physical or cardiac rehabilitation. Also, people of this generation and even those who are older may already have existing chronic conditions that require physical therapy services.
Is there room for advancement?
According to the BLS, there is room for advancement, particularly at employment locations where the elderly seek treatment, such as acute hospital, skilled nursing and outpatient orthopedic settings. Additionally, job opportunities could also be strong in rural areas compared to urban areas. That said, to even be qualified to work as a physical therapist assistant in most states, licensing or certification is required. Most often, this requires passing the National Physical Therapy Assistant exam, which is available through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. After this certification is obtained, PTAs may be better prepared to look for opportunities for advancement.
- Physical Therapist Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes312021.htm
- 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