Career Guide: Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Career Guide: Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Did you know that the healthcare field is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the US? America’s demand for trained health professionals has increased by an average of 21% in the past decade.

Demand for allied healthcare professionals, in particular, has increased by one-third since 1999. Jobs in this field currently make up 60% of all healthcare positions, while the other 40% are distributed between medicine, nursing, and pharmacy.

Allied healthcare jobs have lower educational requirements (compared to medicine, for example), and they open up pathways to many opportunities for advancement. Even better: your paychecks are also expected to grow over the years.

How do we know all this? Well, you can trust the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those guys know their numbers!

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Physical therapist assistants 31%

Physical therapist assistants and aides 30%

Occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides 30%

Physical therapist aides 29%

Total, all occupations 7%

Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 29 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for physical therapy is expected to increase in response to the health needs of an aging population, particularly the large baby-boom generation. This group is staying more active later in life than previous generations did. However, many baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks, strokes and mobility-related injuries, increasing the demand for physical therapy needed for rehabilitation.

In addition, a number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. More physical therapist assistants and aides will be needed to manage the effects of such conditions and help patients maintain their mobility. Moreover, medical and technological developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services.

Physical therapists are expected to increasingly use physical therapist assistants, particularly in long-term care environments, in order to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. Once the physical therapist has evaluated a patient and designed a plan of care, the assistant can provide many parts of the treatment, as directed by the therapist.

         Job Prospect

  • Opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to be good. Physical therapist assistants will be needed to help physical therapists care for and manage more patients. However, physical therapist aides may face strong competition from the large pool of qualified people because requirements for entry are low.
  • Job opportunities should be particularly good in settings where the elderly are most often treated, such as skilled-nursing homes, home health, and outpatient orthopedic facilities. Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural areas because many physical therapists cluster in highly populated urban and suburban



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