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Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides Job Outlook

Employment of physical therapist assistants is expected to increase 46 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of physical therapist aides is expected to increase 43 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow faster than that of aides, as assistants deliver therapy services directly.

Demand for physical therapy services is expected to increase in response to the health needs of an aging population, particularly the large baby-boom generation. This group is staying more active later in life than previous generations.

However, baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Older people are particularly vulnerable to chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services. These patients often need additional help in their treatment, making the roles of assistants and aides vital.

Medical and technological developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services.

Physical therapists are expected to increasingly use assistants and aides to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. Once the physical therapist has evaluated a patient and designed a treatment plan, the physical therapist assistant can provide many parts of the treatment, as directed by the therapist.

In addition, changes to restrictions on reimbursements for physical therapy services by third-party payers will increase patient access to services and increase demand.

Job Prospects

Opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to be very good. With help from physical therapist assistants, physical therapists can manage more patients.

However, physical therapy aides may face keen competition from the large pool of qualified people.

Job opportunities should be particularly good in acute hospital, skilled nursing, and orthopedic settings, where the elderly are most often treated. Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural areas, as many physical therapists cluster in highly populated urban and suburban areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition