Should You Be a Physical Therapist or Their Assistant?

Do you prefer to be hands on or off?

Physical trauma can result in permanent pain if the injury is not treated properly. Fortunately, seeing a physical therapist and their assistant improves the odds of a full-recovery.

If you are interested in working personally with patients to help them recover from physical injury, a career in the physical therapy field might be for you.

Deciding whether to become a physical therapist or their assistant, however, may not be such a clear cut decision. Read on to find out the responsibilities of each one.

What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

The physical therapist assistant, or PTA, is responsible for evaluations that determine how bad a patient’s injury is. PTAs then share this data with the patient as well as a physical therapist.

PTAs primarily act as a guide. Their goal is to ensure patients can complete their treatment plan as intended. Additionally, PTAs may provide advice on which post-treatment activities can help the recovery of a patient.

PTAs can go from high school graduate to job placement within five years. To do so, medical students are required to earn their associate’s degree, a two-year process, and then enter into a physical therapy program. On average, these specific training courses last about three years.

Once their education is complete, PTAs usually make about $42,000 a year.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists, or PTs, first diagnose patients with physical injuries. Once PTAs reveal how bad the injury is, PTs develop a recovery program unique to the patient's needs.

From there, PTs discuss how to go about doing exercises or other hands-on activities with the patient. Physical therapists will then work hands-on with patients to help them with the exercises and recovery process.

Medical students the prefer a more hands-on role can become a physical therapist after seven years of investment.

PTs are required to earn a bachelor’s degree before participating in a physical therapy program. Those that complete the educational journey typically earn about $85,000 annually.

Due to the wide selection of injuries PTAs and PTs treat, the occupation is in high demand according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within the next decade, we will need a 28% increase in PTs and a 30% increase in PTAs.