Becoming a Rehab Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a rehab technician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a rehab tech is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Rehab Tech

A rehab technician may have a number of responsibilities, including scheduling rehab sessions, transporting therapy patients to their sessions and maintaining clean treatment areas. To determine whether this job is right for you, check out the pros and cons below:

Pros of Becoming a Rehab Tech
A high school diploma or its equivalent is the only education requirement*
May receive on-the-job training*
Good job security (projected 40% job growth during 2012-2022)*
Jobs plentiful in rural areas*

Cons of Becoming a Rehab Tech
May spend a lot of time on your feet*
May have to work evenings and weekends to accommodate patient needs*
Due to a large pool of candidates, job search can be competitive*
Duties are limited due to lack of formal training*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

Rehab technicians are also known as physical therapy technicians or aides. As a rehab technician, you will work under the supervision of physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapy assistants (PTAs). You may schedule rehab sessions, transport patients to sessions, maintain the cleanliness of treatment areas and order supplies. You may also copy or file patient records, enter data into computers and facilitate communication between patient and practitioner. You may need to lift and position patients for their treatments. Your work schedule may fluctuate, and you may be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays.

Salary and Job Prospects

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determined the median annual wage of physical therapist aides to be $24,650 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected that employment opportunities for physical therapy aides or rehab techs will increase 40% during 2012-2022, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

To qualify as a physical therapy aide, you only need a high school diploma or the equivalent. There is no licensure requirement for rehab techs, and because of this, technician job duties are largely clerical. Most training will occur through on-the-job training. Depending on the facility, training periods can last from several weeks to several months.

Handy Qualities

The job of physical therapist aide combines office work and assisting in healthcare treatments. Due to this combination of job duties, physical therapist aides should have the following qualities:compassion, stamina, strength, dexterity, attention to detail, good interpersonal communication skills, and the ability to follow instructions.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Even though employers generally provide on-the-job training, the training may be specific to a particular facility. Some employers may want you to have a certain amount of qualifying work experience. You also may be required to hold a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification or be willing to obtain certification once you're hired. Below are some examples of real job postings found in May 2012:

  • A rehabilitation facility in Michigan advertised for an individual to fill the role of rehabilitation technician. Applicants needed a high school diploma and some work experience in a long-term care rehab setting. Duties included patient transport, cleaning rehab equipment and treatment areas and filing treatment reports.
  • A Washington, DC, hospital sought a rehab technician with at least three years of work experience in a healthcare setting. Preference was given to certified nurses aides (CNAs). Duties included maintenance of inventory, continuous quality improvement (CQI) activities and assisting therapists as needed during treatment sessions.
  • A senior care facility in Texas wanted to hire a rehab tech who had at least one year of experience working with seniors in a home health care or assisted living setting. Preference was given to those who had experience in exercise physiology, group classes, aquatics or yoga. Applicants should be skilled in Microsoft and other specialized computer programs. Duties included monitoring compliance with OSHA regulations.
  • An assisted living facility in Nevada sought to hire a clinical rehab tech. Applicants must have had valid driver's license and automobile. Duties included providing personal assistance services as needed during a 24-hour shift. Job entailed working under the direction of the clinical team to provide patient training in independent living skills, grooming, social integration, self reliance and independence.

How Can I Stand Out in the Field?

The BLS notes that competition for jobs as a rehab technician is expected to be intense. However, there are several steps you might take to distinguish yourself from the crowd. First, during high school, take courses that familiarize you with healthcare terminology and procedures. Additionally, you can pursue CPR certification prior to applying. Finally, having work experience in a healthcare or rehabilitation facility can help you stand out against competition.

Education

The BLS makes it clear that your duties as a physical therapy aide or rehab tech are limited by the nature of the position. You may want to look into pursuing courses that lead to an associate's degree in physical therapy. The fact that you're trying to learn more about physical therapy and looking to advance in the field may impress potential employers.

The American Physical Therapy Association maintains an online directory of schools offering programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), which lead to an appropriate associate's degree. Once you've earned an associate's degree from a CAPTE-accredited school, you may be eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination for physical therapy assistants. The licensing examination is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Most states require PTAs to be licensed. Some states have individual requirements in addition to FSBPT licensure.

Alternative Career Paths

Occupational Therapy Aide

Physical therapy focuses on activities such as balance, walking and general movement. Occupational therapy is directed more towards self-care activities and maintaining a degree of independence. Physical and occupational therapists often work together in rehabilitation programs.

As an occupational therapy aide, your duties are similar to those performed by physical therapy aides. Most of your time is taken up by clerical duties such as scheduling appointments, handling communications and assisting with billing procedures. You'll also be responsible for maintaining treatment areas and transporting patients to and from sessions. You may spend a good deal of time on your feet and occasionally be required to lift patients. The only education requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent. Your professional preparation takes place through on-the-job training. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for occupational therapy aides are expected to increase by 33% during 2010-2020. In 2011, according to the BLS, the mean annual wage for occupational therapy aides was determined to be about $32,000.

Psychiatric Aide

Perhaps your interests lie more toward the mental side of the rehabilitation process. If so, you might want to look into becoming a psychiatric aide. As an aide, you'll perform duties to assist technicians and help patients with their daily activities. Psychiatric aides may receive on-the-job training that can last a number of months. Because you'll be dealing with mentally ill patients, you may be called upon to help restrain those who become violent. Therefore, the job poses some risk of injury.

The BLS projects that employment opportunities for psychiatric technicians and aides are expected to increase 15% during 2010-2020. The BLS determined the 2011 mean annual salary for psychiatric aides to be roughly $27,000.

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Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

College of Health Care Professions

  • Physical Therapy Technician-Certificate
  • Massage Therapy

What is your highest level of education completed?

South University

  • Physician Assistant (MS)
  • Healthcare Administration (MBA)
  • Occupational Therapy (OTD)

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

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  • Diploma in Massage Therapy
  • Diploma in Assistance in Health Care Facilities - Assistance la Personne en tablissement de Sant

What year did you graduate high school?

Cortiva Institute

  • Massage Therapy

What is your highest earned degree?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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