A Great Career for People Who Enjoy Helping Others
Physical Therapists and their assistants help people regain their strength and range of motion after an illness, accident or injury.
If you are interested in physical therapy as a career choice, becoming a physical therapist assistant could be a good place to start. This is a great opportunity to work in the medical field in a job that pays an above-average salary for someone with a two-year associate's degree. As our population gets older, the future job prospects in this field look promising. Learn more about this career below:
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Description
Physical therapist assistants, also called physical therapy technicians, work under the supervision of a physical therapist, helping to rehabilitate a patient who is recovering from a surgery, or someone who has been injured by an accident, illness or stroke. The Assistants help the therapist with patients' rehabilitation exercises that are designed to help reduce their pain and improve their range of motion. Assistants may demonstrate exercises and help evaluate how the patient is doing. They may assist patients who are using weights, mats, treadmills and similar equipment to improve their muscle strength, motor skills, or range of motion. In addition, they may also give massages, assist a therapist in performing electrical stimulation on injured muscles, give paraffin baths, apply hot or cold packs, or assist with an ultrasound on a patient.
Setting and Conditions
Physical Therapy Assistants may work full or part time and generally work within a medical office, hospital setting, treatment facility, or a nursing home. You may work with people who are elderly or who have been injured. Many facilities have evening and weekend hours to accommodate their clients, so schedules may vary. Assistants need to be in good physical condition and have some physical strength, as they are required to help move and/or lift patients. They also spend a lot of time kneeling, stooping and standing on the job. Some patients will need only a few sessions to help improve their range of motion after surgery. Other patients may require months of treatment if they have been severely injured.
If you are interested in a career in this field, you may also want to use this direct Amazon link to "The Student Physical Therapy Survival Guide." It will help you understand what you should expect and how to succeed while in school and after getting your first job.
Physical Therapist Assistant Schools
In order to become a licensed physical therapist assistant, you will need to get a two-year associates degree in an accredited program, which may be available either through a vocational school or a community college. Among the classes that you will be required to take as you work towards your degree are first-aid, CPR, and safety, as well as the use of various prosthetics, orthotics, walkers and wheelchairs. You will learn how to massage injured muscles, and how to apply hot and cold packs, use electrical stimulation and ultrasound. You will also learn basic medical record keeping, billing codes, and similar business information.
In addition to the traditional schools, you may also be able to get some of your training through a school that offers a degree online. However, I recommend that you talk with physical therapists in your community before you spend a lot of money on an online program. You will want to attend one that is well-respected, so that you will have no trouble finding a job after your have completed their program. Don't forget to contact community colleges and state colleges in your area to see if you can get your degree there. Many community colleges offer a physical therapist assistant certification program, and they may be less expensive than private vocational schools. Once you are working under the supervision of a licensed therapist, you will receive additional on-the-job training.
Some people become licensed assistants as a way to support themselves while they continue their education towards becoming a fully licensed physical therapist.
The salary range for therapists is from about $36,000 to $54,000, with a median salary of $45,800, according to November 2010 data reported to mysalary.com. Salaries have undoubtedly risen someone from the time this survey was taken.
According to About.com, the job outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants is expected to grow faster than most other occupations that require an associate degree. This is good news for people who are considering this field, because they can expect the prospects are high that they will find a job.
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