Becoming a Physical Therapy Technician: Job & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a physical therapy technician career? Read on to learn about this job's duties, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a physical therapy technician is right for you.
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A Physical Therapy Technician Career: Pros and Cons

A physical therapy technician, also called a physical therapy aide, helps physical therapists maximize their time spent treating patients. For someone who is considering going to school to receive the education required to become a physical therapist, a career as a physical therapy technician could put your foot in the door.

Pros of a Career as a Physical Therapy Technician
Faster-than-average job growth (40%) expected from 2012-2022*
Can seek employment with only a high school diploma*
On-the-job training can be provided*
Provides the chance for further advancement in the physical therapy field**

Cons of a Career as a Physical Therapy Technician
Employers may prefer applicants with experience**
Usually must work evenings and weekends*
Typically must spend the majority of the working day on your feet*
Cannot provide direct patient care*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **CareerBuilder.com

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

A physical therapy technician or aide works under a physical therapist. Unlike physical therapy assistants, physical therapy technicians cannot administer direct treatment to a patient. They instead complete administrative tasks, such as filing patients' insurance claims and treatment records. They also typically set up and clean the treatment areas and might help move patients to and from their sessions.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for physical therapy aides as of May 2013 was $24,650. A 40% increase in job openings for physical therapy aides was expected from 2012-2022, in part due to an aging population needing care in their later years of life.

Career Requirements and Skills

You could seek employment as a physical therapy technician with just a high school diploma. Unlike a physical therapy assistant, licensure isn't typically required for technicians in this field. Employers might also provide on-the-job training. Because you may spend time with patients receiving treatment, you should show empathy and possess strong interpersonal skills. You also should be able to multitask, since you may need to prepare multiple treatment areas simultaneously.

Job Postings from Real Employers

In job ads for physical therapy technicians, most employers cited the importance of following safety guidelines and procedures, as well as displaying good communication skills. Below are some job postings for physical therapy technicians from April 2012.

  • An orthopedic center in Connecticut is looking for a physical therapy technician to record patients' conditions and complete tasks requested by the supervisor. This employer seeks candidates with three years of experience and good understanding of medical terminologies.
  • A rehabilitation center in the Chicago area is looking for a physical therapy technician to work in their outpatient clinic. Candidates should have a high school diploma and excellent customer service skills.
  • A religious health care provider based in Colorado seeks a physical therapy technician with a high school diploma and compassionate personality. Applicants must have Basic Life Support certification, and experience is preferred.

How to Maximize Your Skills

To increase your employability, you might consider taking individual classes at the college level, such as anatomy and physiology or a class focused specifically on physical therapy practices and procedures. You might also consider taking a class to become certified in CPR. Such classes are sponsored by the American Red Cross and are available in a variety of locations. To locate a class near you, take advantage of the American Red Cross website which contains a class directory (www.redcross.org).

In addition, if you have an interest in the field of physical therapy while you're still in high school, you might choose elective courses in science or psychology to build your knowledge of the medical field, since some employers request familiarity with medical terminology.

Alternative Career Paths

Pharmacy Technician

If you'd still like a career in the medical field but have decided that being a physical therapy technician isn't for you, you might consider becoming a pharmacy technician. A pharmacy technician helps to dispense medication in hospitals and drug stores. You can pursue a career as a pharmacy technician with only a high school diploma, but you might need to receive formal training or pass an exam. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that the median salary for pharmacy technicians was around $29,000. Like physical therapy technicians, a faster-than-average job growth was expected (32%) from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. As a pharmacy technician, you usually spend the majority of your day on your feet and may have to work evenings and weekends.

Physical Therapy Assistant

If you're looking to have the opportunity to provide direct services to patients but still work under the direction of a physical therapist, you might consider becoming a physical therapist assistant. A physical therapist assistant generally earns more than a physical therapy technician, with a median salary of about $51,000, as reported by the BLS in May 2011. There was also predicted to be an above-average increase (46%) in job openings from 2010-2020. To pursue such a career, you typically need to complete an associate degree program in physical therapy and might need to earn licensure.

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Keiser University

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration

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The University of Scranton

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Health Admin

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Colorado State University Global

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Grand Canyon University

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  • MBA: Health Systems Management
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