NOVA Health Force Logo

Careers in Physical Therapist Assistant

What is it?
Physical therapist assistants assist physical therapists in providing services that help improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Patients can be accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy. Under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, the physical therapist assistant’s job involves exercises, massages, electrical stimulation, paraffin baths, hot and cold packs, traction, and ultrasound. They record the patient’s responses to treatment and report the outcome of each treatment to the physical therapist.

About 60 percent of jobs were in hospitals or in offices of physical therapists. Others worked primarily in nursing care facilities, offices of physicians, home health care services, and outpatient care centers.

Will I get a job?
The current vacancy rate in northern Virginia is 33 percent in long-term care facilities and 17 percent in medical clinics and outpatient facilities. By 2020 this shortage is expected to increase to 56 percent. (Source: The Health Care Worforce Shortage: An Analysis of the Scope and Impact on Northern Virginia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2005 pg. 31, 45.)

What will I get paid?
Median annual earnings of physical therapist assistants were $37,890 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $31,060 and $44,050. Source:

Educational and Career Pathways

Physical Therapist Assistant
Associate in Applied Science Degree

Where to study in the northern Virginia region:
Northern Virginia Community College Medical Education Campus
6699 Springfield Center Drive
Springfield, VA 22150
Contact: Patricia Ottavio
Physical Therapy Assistant Dean,

Upon successful completion of the program, students must take and pass a licensing examination to begin their career as a physical therapist assistant (PTA).

Copyright 2018 NoVa HealthFORCE. All rights reserved. Privacy | Legal