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How Much Do Physical Therapy Assistants Make?

NurseJournal Staff
Updated September 28, 2022
Looking for a high-paying allied healthcare career where you can make a difference in patients' lives? Check out this guide to physical therapy assistant salaries.
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Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) work with physical therapists to improve the quality of patients’ lives. These professionals help patients regain mobility, physical function, and coordination as they recover from injuries and illnesses. Compared to physical therapists who must complete a doctor of physical therapy degree to practice, PTAs can enter the workforce relatively quickly, after earning an associate degree in two years or less.

As the demand for PTAs grows, professionals can expect ample and well-paid employment opportunities in a variety of healthcare settings.

Average Salary for Physical Therapy Assistants

A physical therapy assistant salary varies by location, years of experience, and clinical setting. According to a May 2021 earnings report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PTAs make a mean annual salary of $60,740, or $29.20 an hour. PTAs rank among the highest paid in the allied health career professions, earning more than dental assistants and nursing aides.

The BLS also expects demand for PTAs to increase by 32% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the national average for all occupations. In response to the need by the baby boomer population to address chronic medical conditions and related mobility issues, the demand for physical therapy assistants and aides should continue to grow by 23,800 openings each year in that time frame.

Average Annual Salary
Source:BLS, 2022

Average Hourly Wage
Source:BLS, 2022

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The Highest-Paying States for Physical Therapy Assistants

Where you work significantly impacts how much you can make as a PTA. The five top-paying states for PTAs offer salaries that range from about $7,000-$11,000 above the national average for this occupation. California ranks as the highest-paying state, followed by Rhode Island, New Jersey, Texas, and Connecticut.

The top-paying states tend to have the highest rates of job growth and employment openings, due in part to aging populations and the unmet need for therapeutic and rehabilitative healthcare. States where the cost of living runs higher than the national average typically offer more competitive salaries.

Highest-Paying States
StateAverage Salary
Rhode Island$70,690
New Jersey$70,450

Source:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

3 Ways to Increase Pay As a Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants do not make as much as physical therapists. However, once established in their career, PTAs can increase their earning potential and career options by obtaining certifications, changing practice settings, and working as travel PTAs.

  1. 1

    Become Certified or Complete Additional Education

    PTAs who choose to earn voluntary certifications or advanced training demonstrate their superior knowledge and skills and can boost their earning potential and career prospects. The American Physical Therapy Association offers thePTA Advanced Proficiency Pathwaysprogram in specialized content areas for PTAs with five or more years of experience.

  2. 2

    Change Your Practice Setting

    Although most PTAs work in hospitals or private physical therapy offices, moving into home health care, skilled nursing care facilities, and assisted living residences can boost your earnings. According to the BLS, home health care services, the highest paid practice setting for PTAs, offers anaverage yearly salary of $75,130.

  3. 3

    Work as a Travel Physical Therapy Assistant

    The needs of the elderly and chronically-ill patients who require help with physical function and mobility drive the demand for travel PTAs. In addition, healthcare employers try to control costs by reducing the number of physical therapists on staff and relying more on PTAs. Travel PTAs willing to take temporary assignments can expect competitive salaries, attractive job perks, and the opportunity to live and work in many locations across the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Therapy Assistant Salaries

question-mark-circleWhat is the salary range for a physical therapy assistant?

The median annual salary for PTAs, according to BLS, is $61,180. The lowest 10% of earners reported making $37,280 a year, while the top 90% of earners made $80,170.

question-mark-circleWhat are the highest-paying cities for physical therapy assistants?

PTAs typically earn higher salaries in cities than in rural areas. Of the ten top-paying metropolitan areas for PTAs, eight are in California and two are in Texas. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro region in California pays the highest average annual wage of $85,960, followed by the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward urban area, which offers a yearly salary of $78,740.

question-mark-circleWhat career advancement opportunities are available for physical therapy assistants?

PTAs have many opportunities to boost their careers. They can pursue certification in neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary and other specialties. Besides traditional hospital and nursing care, they can move into other practice settings, such as private physical therapy facilities, sports medicine clinics, and fitness centers. Some PTAs become licensed physical therapists by earning a bachelor’s degree in preparation for entering a doctor of physical therapy program.

question-mark-circleWhere do physical therapy assistants earn the highest salaries?

PTAs employed in home health care earn the highest pay, making a mean salary of over $75,000 a year. Skilled nursing facilities and retirement and assisted living settings serving the elderly offer annual salaries over $69,000, well above the national average of $60,740.

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