Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are in high demand, and that demand is growing rapidly. If you’re looking for a career with stability, flexibility, and a competitive salary, you may want to become a PTA.

What is a PTA?

PTAs work for and collaborate with physical therapists (PTs). PTs are trained movement experts who work with people from all walks of life, across a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some of their patients have existing conditions. Some are recovering from an injury or other medical issues. Others are trying to utilize physical therapy to get healthy and stay active longer into life.

Physical therapy helps these patients do everything from rehabilitation to increasing their mobility to managing chronic pain.

A PTA is a trained clinician who helps those same clients, under the supervision of a physical therapist. PTAs teach, guide, treat, and track patient’s progress as their therapy progresses.

What are the requirements?

PTAs are required to pass an accredited program and then pass a national exam to obtain a license to practice. You can find all the information you need on the American Physical Therapy Association website.

Is it an enjoyable career?

US News ranked the physical therapist assistant as number 26 on its 2020 “100 Best Jobs List.” That’s a nice number, sure, but really: the answer to this question comes from you.

Do you enjoy working with all kinds of people, from young kids to older folks? Do you enjoy helping people learn how to create and sustain a better quality of life? Do you enjoy hands-on, face-to-face interaction at a job where you get to bring your specialized knowledge to patients who need it?

Do you like flexibility? PTAs have a lot of choices when it comes to their workplace. Hospitals. Clinics. Nursing homes. Fitness centers. You can also live just about anywhere in the country; PTAs are needed in every state in the U.S. 

Finally, PTAs can choose whether to work part or full time.

Why is it an “up-and-coming” field?

In a sense, the physical therapist assistant career is already here. The average PTA makes $58,000 a year, and over $60,000 a year in the top five states for PTAs (Texas, NJ, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts).

But the field is about to expand, and the opportunities are going to grow quickly. As life expectancy increases, professionals who can help with pain management, mobility, and quality of life, become more essential every day. 

And then there are the demographic trends of the Baby Boom generation.

Baby Boomers are usually defined as people born between 1946 and 1964. They’re entering the time of their lives when they have to deal with many different health issues. It’s simply a fact of aging. But “aging” shouldn’t mean “stopping.” Like all of us, older people want to live active, productive, and happy lives. Physical therapy helps them rehabilitate from medical emergencies such as heart attacks, and gives them direction, support, and hope for many more good years.

The latest population estimate from the 2020 Census results counted over 70 million Boomers—the second-largest living adult generation in America. 

That means change in many facets of our lives. Different careers, new medications and treatments, advances, and adjustments. But physical therapy will always be needed…and PTAs will play a crucial role in the field.

So the country needs more PTAs. Right now.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for PTAs will grow by 29% in the coming years. That’s a projected average of 15,000 new PTA jobs every year, which is far more than other occupations.

Working as a PTA can be fulfilling, challenging, and social—and there is the satisfaction of directly helping people every time you come to work. 

It’s also one of the fastest-growing job opportunities in the market today. That’s a great combination.