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How Much Does a PTA Make an Hour?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

PTA’s: Earning a Great Wage for Rewarding Work

If you love working with people to improve their quality of life, you might consider training to become a physical therapist assistant, or PTA. A PTA helps people recover from accidents, chronic disease or surgery under the supervision of a physical therapist in the health care sector. The training to become a PTA is minimal and includes a two-year degree and getting your certification or license. PTA’s can also work part time, allowing you time for your family and children while earning a great hourly wage.

Job Description

Physical therapists decide on plans for patients to alleviate pain, recover from surgery or help with needs due to chronic disease. The PTA helps to implement the plan of action by using a hands-on approach to healing. Actions may include promoting the ability and range of movement, reduction of pain, restoring function and preventing further damage that can cause disability.

A PTA can help a patient with therapeutic exercise and training, deep tissue massage to alleviate chronic pain, electrotherapy or ultrasound. Traction massage, balance and gait training as well as motor function training are often used and a PTA may educate and train family members so the patient can carry out some self-therapy at home. Many patients require the use of a wheelchair, walker, orthotics or prosthetics in their recovery, for which they need appropriate instruction. A PTA observes the patients before, during and after therapy sessions to advise the physical therapist of the patient's progress and how the therapy plan is working.

Education Requirements

To become a PTA, you'll need to complete high school and secure your associate degree from an accredited program, such as the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. It takes about two years to complete the classes in algebra, physiology and psychology and the supervised clinical work where you receive hands-on training. You may also earn other certifications in lifesaving techniques and first-aid skills.

After you take your degree, you'll need to be licensed or certified, as all states' laws require this. You'll need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and pass a background check. Each state decides if you need continuing education to retain your license or certification.

Industry

The largest percentage of jobs (56 percent) held by PTA’s are in physical therapy offices, occupation and speech therapist offices and audiologist offices for hearing. This is followed by 23 percent working in hospitals of all types and 7 percent working in a physician’s office. Nursing care facilities and government offices have 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of the workforce in their employment, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A typical workday for a PTA depends on which industry you work in. You'll most likely travel to the establishment in which you work to attend to patients, such as an outpatient clinic, sports and fitness clinic, school or preschool, or a federal government location, such as the Veteran’s Health Administration. Rehabilitation hospitals usually hire the most part-time workers who work only about three hours per day, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

PTA’s employed by home health or hospice services travel to each patient’s home to administer treatment.

Years of Experience

A PTA’s average hourly wage is $25.00 per hour. The more experience you gain, the better your hourly wages, according to PTA Guide. Here is a projection of average hourly wages based on your experience level:

  • 0-5 years: $23.44
  • 5-10 years: $24.03
  • 10-15 years: $26.44
  • over 20 years: $27.88

Depending on the industry you work in as a PTA, you may also receive bonuses, commissions and profit sharing. The variances in hourly wages may be attributed to the company you work for or the area in which you work.

Job Growth Trend

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that PTA jobs will grow by 31 percent over the next decade—faster than all other occupations collectively.

This growth may be linked to baby boomers aging and needing more health care-related therapy. Rehabilitation is needed for more people as they develop chronic diseases later in life that require the use of mobility devices to help patients become more self-sufficient and to maintain the quality of life.

Job opportunities will be the best in the future in settings that treat the elderly, especially in rural areas, as most PTA’s are in the highly-populated areas of the states.