PTA Careers

Physical Therapy Jobs

There are basically three levels of job classifications in physical therapy:

  1. The aide/technician is trained on the job at each site. Often this person will assist with transportation of the patient, set up and clean up of treatment rooms and follow through with basic treatments as designated by the physical therapist or physical therapist assistant.
  2. The physical therapist assistant is educated at an associate degree level (two years of college). This person has a working knowledge of and has been thoroughly tested regarding the theory behind treatment protocols, pathological conditions being treated and understands the modalities and machinery which are used to treat those conditions. She or he has completed clinical affiliations under the supervision of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in order to hone those hands-on skills.
  3. The physical therapist is required to earn a graduate degree – either a master’s degree or a clinical doctorate. The current entry level physical therapist degree is a doctorate. The PT curriculum includes evaluation and differential diagnosis education. The length of the program depends on the institution. Doctoral degrees have additional training in pharmacology, radiology/imaging, differential diagnosis and clinical specialization.

PT vs. PTA

The physical therapist assistant (PTA) is a licensed individual who must always work under the direction of a licensed physical therapist (PT). The PT performs the initial evaluation of the patient and must also, by law, determine when to discharge the patient.

Both the PT and the PTA treat patients according to the goals set during the evaluation, and both have the educational background to progress or regress patients according to how well the patient does during a therapy session.

What does a PTA do?

Under the direction of physical therapists, PTAs help rehabilitate patients of all ages and medical diagnoses ranging from strokes and sport injuries to cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries.

They work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, nursing homes, pools and patient homes, teaching and carrying out programs designed to improve the quality of life and to enhance independence.

Treatments include therapeutic exercise, functional retraining and applications of heat, cold, light, sound, water and electrotherapy.

More Information

For more information about health careers or general information about the PTA Program, contact us via the contact information at the bottom of the PTA homepage.

For information from the American Physical Therapy Association regarding career choices in physical therapy, contact the APTA Department of Education at 800-999-APTA (999-2782) ext. 3203 or visit the APTA online at

PTA Program Applicants

Please note: PTA Program applicants should be aware that all physical therapist assistant education programs in the U.S. are subject to accreditation “standards that assure quality and continuous improvement in the entry-level preparation of physical therapist assistants, and reflect the evolving nature of education, research and practice.”

While the Education Section of APTA recognizes that there are proprietary organizations that rank physical therapist education programs, the profession encourages prospective students to provide their own comparisons through careful examination of information on program and APTA websites, and visits to the campuses to talk with enrolled students and program faculty.