According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for physical therapist assistants is $59,440 per year ($28.58 per hour). Salaries can vary based on location, education, and experience. This average is not entry level – recent graduates will need to earn experience and work their way up to earn a higher salary.
The overall employment of PTAs is expected to grow 35% from 2020-2030, much faster than the average U.S. occupation (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The need for more PTA jobs is due in part to an aging population and a greater need for physical therapy care.
|State||Per hour||Per year|
|District of Columbia||$20.93||$43,540|
|State||Per hour||Per year|
All salary data courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Frequently asked questions
What do physical therapist assistants do?
Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) provide physical therapy services while being directed and supervised by a licensed physical therapist. PTAs may assist patients of all ages who need physical rehab or have medical issues or health-related conditions that limit their ability to perform daily activities.
PTAs provide care focusing on patients’ mobility, strength, and coordination and may help patients with exercises geared toward strengthening these abilities. PTAs may train patients for activities such as walking with a mobility device including crutches, canes, or walkers. They may also fit or adjust supportive devices, such a leg braces or crutches. In addition, PTAs are also trained to conduct therapeutic exercises and provide therapeutic massage using ultrasound or electrical stimulation for treatment.
Working with physical therapists, PTAs can help measure changes in patients’ performance and assist with clerical duties, including documenting progress, completing forms, and ordering supplies.
PTAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, sports facilities, schools, and more.
Read more about what physical therapist assistants do.
What is the difference between a PTA and Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA)?
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the direction of a physical therapist (PT) to help people return to daily activity which may encompass movement related recreational pursuits, work, or sports. PTAs also offer patients injury prevention strategies related to fitness and movement. They help implement plans established by a PT to promote movement, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability.
Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work under the direction of an occupational therapist (OT) to help people of all ages who have a disability, condition or injury which interferes with their ability to carry out daily self-care, school or work tasks. OT/OTAs work on cognition as well as the physical aspect of care.
Average PTA salary by state
|Job / Career||Per year||Per hour|
|Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)||$58,440||$28.58|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)||$63,420||$30.49|
All salary data courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020).
* Salaries can vary based on location, education, and experience. This average is not entry level – recent graduates will need to earn experience and work their way up to earn a higher salary.
Both OTAs and PTAs may be able to increase their earning potential by earning a bachelor's degree in health science. Completing a bachelor's degree can help OTAs and PTAs qualify for more jobs within their field and advance their career.
Learn more about the primary difference between OTA and PTA.
How can I become a PTA?
To become a PTA, you’ll need to earn an associate's degree from a physical therapy assistant program. Generally, these programs take approximately 20 months to complete and focus on medical terminology, kinesiology, patient care, and anatomy/physiology. As a complement to online coursework, you’ll also participate in hands-on clinicals and lab work, which will help build your practical experience in physical therapy assisting.
Once you have graduated, it’s important to become certified. You can sit for the National Licensing Examination for Physical Therapy Assistants, which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Passing the exam and earning your PTA certification is a requirement for working as a PTA.