What Is a Physical Therapy Aide?

Job Description

Physical therapy aide or other medical office worker
••• Reza Estakhrian / Stone / Getty Images

A physical therapy (P.T.) aide is an important member of physical therapy support team. Working under the supervision of  and , P.T. aides perform nonmedical tasks, such as setting up and cleaning treatment rooms and transporting patients to different areas of a health care facility.

Quick Facts

  • As of December 2, 2018, the average annual salary for a P.T. aide in the U.S. is $24,997.
  • As of May 2017, the most recent information available, there were approximately 49,290 P.T. aides working in the U.S. 
  • Most jobs are in physical therapy offices and hospitals.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies this as a "bright outlook" occupation because of its excellent . Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide

Employers typically seek candidates with high school diplomas or equivalency degrees. P.T. aides should also possess the strong computer skills needed to perform clerical tasks.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

P.T. aides must possess the following , to succeed in this field:

  • : An ability to hear and carry out a physical therapist's/physical therapist assistant's precise instructions. 
  • : An ability to read other people's cues and react accordingly.
  • A strong desire to help others.
  • Attention to Detail: An ability to keep treatment rooms neat and orderly. 
  • : An ability to weigh different options and take decisive action.

Roles and Responsibilities

According to job search engine  , P.T. aides typically perform the following tasks:

  • Prepare equipment for the patient treatments, as requested by physical therapist/physical assistants.
  • Set up hot and cold packs.
  • Transport patients to and from treatment areas, either using wheelchairs or by providing standing support.
  • Observe patients during treatment, compile data on patient’s responses and progress, and report the data back to the physical therapist.
  • Liaise with physicians' offices and hospital personnel.

Differences Between a Physical Therapy Aide and a Physical Therapist Assistant

These two occupations differ substantially—both in terms of educational requirements and job duties. While P.T. aides must only have earned a high school diploma or an equivalency degree, physical therapist assistants must earn an associates degree from an accredited training program. And while physical therapist assistants may medically treat patients under a physical therapist's direction, P.T. aides may not provide direct patient care. 

What Will Employers Expect From You?

According to , employers P.T. aides must have the following skill sets:

  • Ability to handle multiple responsibilities at once.
  • Ability to understand medical terminology.
  • Ability to comprehend and follow instructions.
  • Ability to maintain patient confidentiality.
  • Ability to pass a physical exam and a tuberculosis screening.
  • A resourceful approach to solving problems.
  • An ability to comfortably interact with patients of all ages and cultures. 

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

When evaluating whether a career is right for you, it is important to consider your , , and . This occupation could be a good fit If you have the following traits:

  • Interests (): SRC (Social, Realistic, Conventional)
  • Personality Type (): , , ,
  • : Relationships, Achievement, Support

Related Occupations

Description Median Annual Wage (2016) Minimum Required Education/Training
Tends to laboratory and office duties in a dentist's office $36,940 HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training or accredited training program (depending on state)
Performs basic tasks in a veterinary clinic or hospital $25,250 HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training
Prepares equipment and treatment rooms for occupational therapists and assistants $28,330 HS or Equivalency Diploma + on-the-job training
Performs clinical and administrative tasks in a doctor's office $31,540 HS or Equivalency Diploma + postsecondary training

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  ; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,   (visited February 19, 2018).