As the U.S. economy continues to add jobs in the health-care sector, employment of physical therapy assistants and aides is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Physical therapy aides work under the supervision of a physical therapist. They keep the treatment area clean and organized and provide assistance for patients moving from one area to another. They also provide clerical support by ordering supplies, answering phones, and completing insurance forms. Physical therapy assistants tend to work more closely with physical therapists. Physical therapist assistants help patients with exercises, massages, electrical muscle stimulation, and may also apply ice packs or take ultrasounds. The assistant also records the patient's response to treatment and reports results to the physical therapist.
Although physical therapy aides often learn relevant skills on the job, physical therapy assistants typically have an associate degree--in fact, some states require physical therapy assistants to hold a physical therapy assistant associate degree. A physical therapy assistant associate degree typically lasts two years, and includes both academic and hands-on training. Academic coursework includes algebra, anatomy, physiology, biology, psychology, and chemistry. The more hands-on portion of the physical therapy assistant associate degree includes CPR certification and first-aid techniques.
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