Physical Therapist Assistant Salary and Career Guide

physical therapist assistant salary

Interested in becoming a PTA? The average Physical Therapist Assistant salary is $55,761 or $26.80 an hour. This data for PTA salary is averaged from multiple sources, as shown below. 

As a Physical Therapist myself, I work with many Physical Therapist Assistants and see firsthand how a PTA can impact the lives of patients every day. 

Physical Therapist Assistants are important health care providers who work directly with Physical Therapists to provide rehabilitation services to patients. PTAs manage their own caseload, which means they are responsible for continuing treatment sessions with patients after the Physical Therapist conducts the evaluation. 

Average Physical Therapist Assistant Salary: $55,761 or $26.80 an hour.

This salary is less than that of a PT. So if you’re interested in a Physical Therapist salary instead, check out this article

What is a Physical Therapist Assistant Salary?

The average Physical Therapist Assistant salary is $55,761 or $26.80 an hour. Salary may vary depending on the clinic setting, years of experience, and location. You can expect a 5 to 10% variance in salary solely based on geographic region. 

In terms of an hourly wage, $25–$30 an hour is a good estimate for an average PTA salary. These figures tell you what to generally expect across the profession but do not guarantee the wage in your area.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary: By Source

Estimates of PTA salaries range depending on the source of the data. To come up with a trusted estimate, I averaged the results of multiple databases, all within 7% of the average salary of $55,761. 

Below are those database averages:

SourceAverage Annual SalaryAverage Hourly Salary
APTA$52,000$25
BLS$59,440$28.58
GlassDoor$56,797$25–$30
PayScale$54,412$26.16
LinkedIn$56,160$27
Total Average$55,761$26.80

APTA

Based on their 2016-17 PTA profile survey, the average salary for Physical Therapist Assistants is $52,000 a year or $25 per hour. 

BLS

The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the median wage of a PTA at $59,440 or $28.58 an hour. The stats page also references a $28,450 salary for a PT aide, which is not the same as a PTA. 

bls.gov

GlassDoor

Actual PTA job listings on Glassdoor show hourly salaries between $25/hr and $30/hr. Taken together, GlassDoor’s average salary estimate is $56,797 among PTAs in Healthcare industries.  

PayScale

With nearly 6,000 respondents, PayScale presents an average hourly rate of $22.99 ($44,785 per year) for an entry-level PTA and $27.04 ($56,243 per year) for a PTA with more than 5 years of experience. The overall average is $26.16/hour, or $54,412 annually.

LinkedIn

Compiled using data from actual Physical Therapist Assistants in the US, LinkedIn’s average wage is $27.00/hr. This amounts to $56,160 per year for a PTA’s average salary.

Do PTAs make a lot of money?

Physical Therapist Assistants make a good salary. Compared to the median household income in the United States ($65,712), a PTA salary of $55,760 is a healthy wage, considering the costs associated with school (an Associate’s Degree) and the overall job flexibility and work environment. 

PTA Starting Salary

New PTA graduates should expect to earn less than the average salary. According to the BLS, the average salary for the lowest paid (25th percentile) of PTAs is $48,260. 

bls.gov

Remember, your setting and region could vary this figure by 7%. So, accounting for that variance, a new grad PTA may expect to earn about $44,881 annually, or $21.57 an hour. 

These figures do not reflect every specialty or job setting. For example, a new grad PTA working in the home health setting can expect to earn more than they would in an outpatient clinic setting. In addition, factors such as reimbursement and patient volume will affect your pay as a new grad.

Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Salary

Depending on the state, a home health PTA salary can reach $32.15 per hour, or about $66,860 annually.

Of course, if you are paid per visit, you may be able to earn a significantly higher salary simply by seeing more patients. 

How to make more money as a PTA

If you are a PTA and need ways to earn extra income, you can use your skills to make more money in the following ways:

  • Pick up weekend hospital shifts
  • Contact home health agencies for weekend opportunities
  • Work at nursing homes or clinics on a PRN or part-time basis for a higher rate. 

What does a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) do?

The job responsibilities for Physical Therapist Assistants include the following:

1. Provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a Physical Therapist.  

“Supervision” does not mean that a Physical Therapist needs to lurk over the PTA’s shoulder while they treat a patient. Rather, a Physical Therapist must be available to consult with the PTA at the clinic (or via phone if the PTA works in home health).  

This relationship is similar to that of a Physician’s Assistant (PA) and family doctor. The patient might see only the PA for the entirety of their visit, but the PA can consult the family doctor when needed. 

The same is true with a PTA. The Physical Therapist oversees the plan of care for each patient: conducting evaluations, checking in on progress visits, and writing discharges. But the PTA can direct the actual treatments as planned by the Physical Therapist, who reads the PTA’s notes from each visit.. 

2. PTAs collect data and progress patients with exercise and other treatments.

A Physical Therapist Assistant collects measurements such as vital signs, ROM, strength testing, and many other special tests. They use this data to progress the patient through exercises and other treatments in the Physical Therapist’s plan of care.  

The PTA and PT work together to make sure the patient reaches their goals. For instance, the PTA provides treatment to the patient and updates the PT on the patient’s progress. The PT is ultimately responsible for making sure the treatments and plan of care are appropriate for the patient. 

3. PTAs perform a wide range of treatments for patients

As a Physical Therapist Assistant, you may perform treatments such as the following: 

  • Therapeutic exercise and progression
  • Traction techniques 
  • Soft tissue massage and mobilizations
  • Ultrasound and e-stim treatment
  • Balance and gait training
  • Motor learning and neurological interventions
  • Patient education/caregiver education
  • Adaptive device training and progression (crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, orthotics, prosthetics, etc.)
  • Injury prevention 
  • Health and wellness promotion

4. PTAs may assist clinic managers or directors with tasks such as:

  • Billing and coding management
  • Quality improvement initiatives
  • Medical record management
  • Internal training of office staff and administrative tasks

Where do Physical Therapist Assistants Work? 

According to the APTA, about 72% of PTAs work in hospital settings or outpatient clinics, and 28% of PTAs work part time.  

Although the majority of Physical Therapist Assistants work in hospitals or outpatient clinics, there are many other settings as well.

Types of Physical Therapist Assistant Job Settings

Outpatient Clinics

This is the most common setting and what most people think of when referring to a PT clinic. In outpatient care, PTAs help treat patients for musculoskeletal, neurological, or other movement-related impairments. 

Acute Care

When admitted to a hospital, a patient may see a PT or PTA for short-term rehab in order to address functional deficits due to illness, surgery, or other medical issues. Hospital-based PTAs enjoy working with a variety of patients, helping them progress so that they can be discharged home or to a different facility. 

Sub Acute Rehab

After their hospital stay, a patient may be admitted to a Sub Acute Rehabilitation facility for physical therapy treatment. In these settings, PTAs help the patient improve functional mobility so they can return home or to a long-term facility like a nursing home or SNF.

Nursing Homes/Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF)

Usually this kind of facility is for admitted, long-term patients of the nursing home; however, it can also serve as an intermediary facility for patients who don’t have a place to go after a hospital stay. In this setting, PTs and PTAs often work with an interdisciplinary team to help admitted patients achieve their rehab goals. 

Home Health Agencies

Patients don’t need to leave the comforts of home to receive physical therapy treatment. In Home Health, PTAs travel to the patient’s home to provide therapy services. This service is especially helpful for individuals who are homebound or unable to safely go to an outpatient clinic. Just as there isn’t one type of home, neither is there one type of home health setting. Skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, group homes, and hospice settings all allow for personal home health therapy. 

Schools

PTAs often work in schools to help children with developmental delay or students who need assistance with movement impairments. 

Fitness or Training Centers

Physical therapy is available at many fitness or training centers and even in group sessions to promote wellness, prevent injury, and improve sports rehabilitation.

Industrial/Workplace Environments

Organizations may offer their employees select Physical Therapy services, such as injury prevention seminars, ergonomic evaluation, and return-to-work evaluations. PTAs may also be needed to help improve overall safety in the workplace.

State/Government Agencies

Lastly, PTA jobs are available in the military, in government hospitals such as the VA, and in other organizations such as the Indian Health Services (IHS).

Should I Become a PTA?

If you’re wondering whether the salary of a Physical Therapist Assistant is worth the time and expense it takes to become a PTA, you’re in the right place.

First, let’s consider the cost of becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant.

According to CAPTE data collected in 2019-20, the average cost for attending a PTA program is as follows:

  • Public Program (In-district): $12,759 per year
  • Private Program: $39,220 per year

Most PTA programs require two years to complete. Therefore, the total tuition cost for becoming a Physical Therapist assistant can range from $25,000 to $80,000 or more, depending on whether you attend a public institution or a private program.

Even so, this profession is in high demand because it enables you to enter the healthcare industry just 2 years after high school and potentially earn more than $50,000 a year.

Watch Out for Student Loans!

Before becoming a PTA, be careful not to overspend on the degree. Some private PTA programs charge upwards of $60,000 a year in tuition! Truth be told, you probably cannot afford a private university program that leaves you with six figures in student loans. Graduating with over $100,000 in debt for an Associate’s degree that earns $55,000 a year does not make sense financially for most people.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid borrowing more than one year’s worth of the average salary for your profession.

While this may be difficult to accomplish due to the rising costs of programs across the country, it is still possible. My advice is to seek out public PTA programs and minimize costs while attending PTA school. 

How Do I Become a PTA?

Before you commit to a PTA degree program, be 100% confident in your decision to become a PTA by shadowing at multiple clinics for at least 100 to 200 hours

If you decide that being a PTA is right for you, apply for and enroll in an accredited PTA program. Try to get into one that’s affordable!

Next, once you’ve completed the classroom and clinical requirements, you’ll need to pass a boards exam in order to receive your license to practice as a PTA.

And that’s it! In just 2 years, you can finish your schooling and begin living your dream of helping people, working side by side with other PTAs and PTs in a variety of settings. 

Physical Therapy is a great career that affects people in so many positive ways. If you have questions on becoming a PTA or other questions related to the field, leave a comment. You can also follow PTProgress on YouTube for relevant career development resources for Physical Therapy professions. 

Tim Fraticelli, DPT | Physical Therapist

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your financial health.