Physical Therapy Assistant  What They Do

Just the Facts


Assists physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with State laws, assist in the development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, document the progress of treatment, and modify specific treatments in accordance with patient status and within the scope of treatment plans established by a physical therapist. Generally requires formal training.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Observes patients during treatments to compile and evaluate data on their responses and progress and provides results to physical therapist in person or through progress notes.
  • Instructs, motivates, safeguards, and assists patients as they practice exercises or functional activities.
  • Confers with physical therapy staff or others to discuss and evaluate patient information for planning, modifying, or coordinating treatment.
  • Administers active or passive manual therapeutic exercises, therapeutic massage, aquatic physical therapy, or heat, light, sound, or electrical modality treatments, such as ultrasound.
  • Measures patients' range-of-joint motion, body parts, or vital signs to determine effects of treatments or for patient evaluations.
  • Communicates with or instructs caregivers or family members on patient therapeutic activities or treatment plans.
  • Transports patients to and from treatment areas, lifting and transferring them according to positioning requirements.
  • Secures patients into or onto therapy equipment.
  • Trains patients in the use of orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices.
  • Assists patients to dress, undress, or put on and remove supportive devices, such as braces, splints, or slings.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Related Careers


Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Physical Therapy Aide -- Prepares patients for physical therapy treatments, assists PHYSICAL THERAPIST (medical ser.) 076.121-014 or PHYSICAL THERAPIST ASSISTANT (medical ser.) 076.224-010 during administration of treatments, and provides routine treatments.
  • Massage Therapist -- Gives body massage treatments for relaxation and healing purposes. Massages the soft tissues of the human body, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massages parts of the body that have been injured or made inactive due to age or illness to help in
  • Biomedical Therapy Manager --
  • Physical Therapy Technician --
  • Physical and Corrective Therapy Assistant/Aide --
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy Specialist --