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Physical Therapist Assistants

At a Glance

  • Are supervised by physical therapists
  • Work with patients, doctors, assistants, and aides
  • Often wear a special uniform
  • Help patients improve their mobility and reduce their pain
  • Usually train through two-year programs
  • May need a license
  • May work part time or full time

Career summary

Physical therapist assistants help patients to relieve their pain and increase their strength and mobility. They work under the supervision of a physical therapist.

#no alternates Lh

Physical therapy assistants work with people who have low back pain, arthritis, heart disease, or broken bones. They also work with people who have recently had surgery.

Before working with a patient, assistants confer with a physical therapist about the treatment plan. Under the direction of therapists, assistants provide many types of treatment (or modalities), such as:

They teach patients how to do exercises and use support devices such as crutches and walkers. They may also train patients how to use and care for braces or prostheses (artificial body parts).

Physical therapist assistants record patient response to treatment. They measure a patient's range of motion in joints or body parts. They share results with physical therapists.

Physical therapist assistants keep the treatment areas clean and organized. They assist patients in moving to and from treatment areas. Assistants sometimes help patients in dressing or undressing.

Physical therapist assistants sometimes have clerical tasks. They may answer the phone, order supplies, or fill out forms for insurance companies.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to physical therapist assistants.

Common work activities

Physical therapist assistants perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, physical therapist assistants:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Physical therapist assistants frequently:

It is important for physical therapist assistants to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for physical therapist assistants to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Physical therapist assistants need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a physical therapist assistant, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Physical therapist assistants usually have an associate degree. Many professional-technical schools and two-year colleges offer physical therapist assistant programs. These programs grant a certificate or associate degree. In these programs you study anatomy and physiology, biology, and psychology. You may also learn CPR and first aid.

On-the-job training

While you are a student, you work in a clinic to gain hands-on experience.

You may receive additional training on the job. The length of training varies by employer. In general, you may receive up to one month.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be occupational therapy specialists. Training lasts 11 to 13 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job and through advanced courses.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require applicants to be certified or licensed in states that require it. However, some employers will employ a graduate from an approved program and provide the additional clinical training needed for a license.

Employers look for applicants who have good interpersonal skills and a desire to help people in need.

Costs to workers

Workers may need to purchase a uniform.


Physical therapist assistants are required to be licensed in the state of Washington. Licensing requirements include:

Assistants must pay an application fee and annual renewal fee.

Physical therapists assistants must also complete 24 hours of continuing physical education and 200 hours of employment every two years.

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Board of Physical Therapy (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The minimum wage for Washington State as of January 1, 2020 is $13.50 per hour. Some areas of the state may have a higher minimum wage.

Physical therapist assistants (SOC 31-2021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $20.25 $23.45 $27.61 $32.51 $37.65
Monthly $3,509 $4,064 $4,785 $5,634 $6,525
Yearly $42,120 $48,780 $57,430 $67,630 $78,300
    Bellingham Hourly $22.47 $25.30 $29.27 $35.19 $39.63
Monthly $3,894 $4,384 $5,072 $6,098 $6,868
Yearly $46,737 $52,623 $60,888 $73,209 $82,427
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $21.54 $23.48 $26.30 $29.45 $31.39
Monthly $3,733 $4,069 $4,558 $5,104 $5,440
Yearly $44,794 $48,842 $54,691 $61,246 $65,276
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $11.19 $17.99 $26.22 $32.15 $38.21
Monthly $1,939 $3,118 $4,544 $5,572 $6,622
Yearly $23,267 $37,412 $54,517 $66,877 $79,468
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $18.57 $23.59 $31.61 $36.96 $43.41
Monthly $3,218 $4,088 $5,478 $6,405 $7,523
Yearly $38,617 $49,073 $65,749 $76,873 $90,287
    Longview Hourly $23.09 $26.00 $30.25 $35.19 $38.81
Monthly $4,001 $4,506 $5,242 $6,098 $6,726
Yearly $48,026 $54,072 $62,917 $73,195 $80,722
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $17.41 $21.55 $24.84 $29.98 $37.07
Monthly $3,017 $3,735 $4,305 $5,196 $6,424
Yearly $36,206 $44,827 $51,675 $62,362 $77,111
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $23.15 $27.15 $31.62 $36.69 $39.65
Monthly $4,012 $4,705 $5,480 $6,358 $6,871
Yearly $48,150 $56,486 $65,783 $76,316 $82,485
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.39 $25.69 $29.48 $34.74 $39.14
Monthly $3,880 $4,452 $5,109 $6,020 $6,783
Yearly $46,567 $53,422 $61,314 $72,249 $81,406
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $15.12 $21.55 $24.98 $29.93 $34.62
Monthly $2,620 $3,735 $4,329 $5,187 $6,000
Yearly $31,455 $44,822 $51,950 $62,265 $71,998
    Vancouver Hourly $25.04 $27.35 $30.11 $33.41 $38.19
Monthly $4,339 $4,740 $5,218 $5,790 $6,618
Yearly $52,070 $56,887 $62,613 $69,484 $79,436
    Wenatchee Hourly $25.47 $28.12 $32.44 $39.90 $47.74
Monthly $4,414 $4,873 $5,622 $6,915 $8,273
Yearly $52,975 $58,492 $67,473 $82,994 $99,315
    Yakima Hourly $12.13 $12.51 $31.39 $36.24 $39.18
Monthly $2,102 $2,168 $5,440 $6,280 $6,790
Yearly $25,228 $26,008 $65,291 $75,377 $81,497
United States Hourly $16.24 $22.50 $27.91 $33.03 $38.37
Monthly $2,814 $3,899 $4,837 $5,724 $6,650
Yearly $33,780 $46,800 $58,040 $68,700 $79,810

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. Wages also vary based on the worker's education and experience.

Benefits vary by employer. Most full-time physical therapist assistants receive benefits. These include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Many part-time assistants do not receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

State Outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Physical Therapist Assistants (SOC 31-2021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,383 34.0% 16.1% 284
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 60 33.3% 13.4% 12
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 22 22.7% 8.6% 4
    Benton and Franklin Counties 68 27.9% 15.0% 13
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 79 41.8% 11.9% 18
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 125 32.8% 15.2% 25
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 69 29.0% 14.1% 13
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 100 29.0% 14.6% 18
    King County 201 24.9% 19.6% 36
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 48 31.3% 13.8% 9
    Pierce County 85 34.1% 15.2% 17
    Snohomish County 330 36.4% 12.4% 69
    Spokane County 200 31.5% 13.9% 39
United States 98,400 27.0% 5.2% 16,500

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing significantly. This is mostly due to the large increase in the aging population. New health care laws also mean that more people will be covered by health insurance and will seek health care treatment. New medical developments such as joint replacements also increase the demand for this occupation. Demand also increases as physical therapist assistants can do more procedures.

Job opportunities should be good especially in rural areas and underserved parts of the country.

Other resources

Health Occupation Students of America (external link)
548 Silicon Drive, Suite 101
Southlake, TX 76092
Physical Therapy Association of Washington (external link)
208 Rogers Street NW
Olympia, WA 98502


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster