A physical therapist requires the most education and skills of the three options, and therefore is almost always paid more. Basic duties include giving care to the patient and utilizing skills to improve mobility, function, pain relief and prevent or limit disabilities of a permanent nature. The therapist also develops the treatment plan and follows it. Educational requirements require a master's or doctorate degree in physical therapy. The prospective therapist must pass a licensing exam to earn certification.
Physical Therapy Assistant
The physical therapy assistant works directly with the physical therapist. He also delivers treatments to the patient and records progress. Education requires an associate of arts or associate of science degree from an accredited program in the field. Before being certified, the prospective PT assistant must pass a licensing exam.
Physical Therapy Aide
A physical therapy aide's work is directed by the assistant or the therapist. He'll basically get the patient ready for treatment, as well as get patients to and from the treatment area. Because a physical therapy aide receives on-the-job training, a high school diploma is the education that is required.
With advances in the medical field, people are living longer with a growing demand for rehabilitative care. Many employers are now hiring physical therapy services to evaluate work areas, teach work habits that will reduce injuries, as well as develop programs that will help the employee exercise and remain fit. Many physical therapy jobs are held in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care centers, adult day care, rehabilitation centers, sports medicine centers, and private practices.
With baby boomers reaching retirement age and often quite active, the need for physical therapy will likely rise. The employment outlook for physical therapy jobs is quite good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that through 2016, opportunities in all fields of physical therapy will continue to grow quite steadily.
If you're looking for a career in the field of physical therapy, there are several options. Your choices are physical therapist, physical therapist assistant and physical therapist aide. Each requires special educational requirements, as well as a license. Your duties and salary will vary, depending on which choice you make.