The Physical Therapy Assistant role is projected to be one of the highest growing medical fields in America.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) is forecasting that an additional 43,000 jobs will be added before the end of 2029.
When you pair a plentiful job market with a median annual wage of $58,790 things start to make sense quick…
...or do they.
The last statistics we have from the BLS are from 2019. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic decimated employment in the United states and around the world.
In this Guide our team outlines:
The Job Outlook for Physical Therapy Assistants
How COVID-19 is impacting PTA’s and future PTA’s
How to strategically search and apply for PTA jobs
Resources to drastically improve your PTA job search
Before discussing the PTA job outlook we want to make sure that you understand the “PTA” medical abbreviation. We are referring to the PTA meaning of “Physical Therapy Assistant”. This should not be confused with Physical Therapy Aide, which some articles incorrectly use as the PTA medical abbreviation.
The difference is significant between these jobs. The BLS offers a nice description but to sum it up a PTA needs to obtain an associates degree and be licensed to practice while a Physical Therapy Aide needs a high school diploma and on the job training.
Many Physical Therapy Aides go on to obtain their degree and become a licensed PTA.
Both positions play a critical role in medicine and wellness.
Physical Therapy Assistant Job Outlook
The job outlook for PTA’s was strong prior to COVID-19, is that still the case?
The short answer is, Yes.
The long answer is much more interesting. We think :)
The pandemic took a toll on employment as a whole. Countries around the world are still reporting significant unemployment numbers.
Many businesses closed down and will never open their doors again.
Read our August 2020 Employment Statistics bullet list where we outline the state of employment in America and link to immediate hire jobs in the fastest growing sectors.
We said earlier that 43,000 jobs were projected to be added by 2029.
That projection means that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics believes that PTA jobs will grow by 33% over the next decade.
What is behind this staggering projection?
The increased aging population.
America has an extremely large baby boomer population.
Baby boomers are people born between the years of 1946 and 1964. A population estimated to be 73 Million strong.
By the year 2030 baby boomers will be a minimum age of 65. Meaning the entire population will be within the age range typically needing medical attention and services.
Attention and services provided by PTA’s.
The government knows this and in a recent article from the U.S. Census they outline the importance of recording the baby boomer population.
Properly counting the baby boomers and knowing the cities and towns that they reside in, allows lawmakers to start working on policies to support them.
This is a VERY important point.
The government is focused on making sure that our aging population is taken care of and is focused on identifying the areas of the country that these people live within.
As they collect data they will begin to make changes, maybe even requirements, so that the aging population gets the medical attention they need.
While the data is not in…
This is a very good sign for the job outlook for PTA’s.
When there is demand for service...
...Employers will race to meet the demand by creating jobs.
PTA Job Outlook by State
Right now the only data that we have regarding Job outlook is the BLS data from 2019 and the Local Remote Jobs internal data we see in our job count numbers.
As of writing this guide we have approximately 102,000 healthcare and medical jobs.
Roughly 13,000 of those jobs have a title that includes Physical Therapy.
This is within the United States only.
Within the United Kingdom we have an additional 4,000 jobs.
This is a decent amount of Physical Therapy jobs even when you keep in mind that some of those jobs are seeking aides, Physical Therapists, and other medical professional titles that might include “Physical Therapy” as a key term required in the job description.
Here are the states with the highest amount of available PTA jobs, at the moment.
We included the Annual Mean Wage just for fun.
State Employment Annual Mean Wage
Arkansas 1,370 jobs $59,180
Ohio 6,040 jobs $59,410
Tennessee 3,290 jobs $56,470
West Virginia 760 jobs $53,410
No surprise that Ohio, a state with robust medical systems, led the number of jobs.
The 2020 census is going to provide a ton of detail not only for PTA position outlook but also detail on where you can find a PTA job.
Areas with higher concentrations of baby boomers will be the areas with increased demand for PTA’s and thus will have more PTA jobs available.
COVID-19 impacted the aging and elderly populations more than any other population.
The 2020 census will provide you with the most up to date information on baby boomer population size and their residency.
Two items that almost solely determine the job outlook and best job markets for PTA’s over the next two decades.
The Impact of COVID-19 on PTA’s and the future of PTA Jobs
The aging population is dramatically impacted by COVID. The CDC reports that people 85 or older are at the greatest risk for severe illness from COVID.
The population that will determine the availability and location of PTA jobs is at high risk of illness from a pandemic.
This impacts the way that you have to think about work, the pay you receive, and the specialty you focus on should you choose to have a specialty.
Let’s start with how you think about work and applying for jobs.
In 2019 the BLS reported that there were 98,700 PTA’s working.
The largest employers for Physical Therapy Assistants were:
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists - 46%
Hospitals - 23%
Skilled Nursing Facilities - 10%
Home health services - 9%
Office of Physicians - 5%
Everyone of these locations has an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 over say someone working a remote job.
Some of the listed locations carry a higher risk than others. As an example a skilled nursing facility has a higher concentration of vulnerable people living in close proximity.
As you look for jobs this will be a major point of consideration.
Do you want to be in an environment where your exposure to COVID-19 is dramatically increased?
Or do you prefer to work with patients in an office setting where risk is somewhat reduced?
Every PTA is different.
No answer is the right one here.
It depends on you and your desires.
When searching for jobs you will want to create multiple alerts with varying location keywords to be notified when a position becomes available.
By doing this you will be able to see jobs based on your preferred priority of the job's physical location (hospital, office, etc.). Making it easier to review and apply to all the jobs that meet your requirements.
We will go through this step in detail in the next section.
COVID-19 has not only impacted your decision on where to work, but also how much you make.
Are you willing to take less pay for less risk, or are you a PTA who feels comfortable with risk but only when rewarded with increased wages?
COVID-19 will play a big role in determining the future of PTA’s salary.
Our team and the BLS can forecast job counts over the next decade, but forecasting salaries is an entirely different challenge.
The pandemic introduced a variable of risk for medical workers that few could have predicted.
The state of Vermont put up $28 Million in hazard pay for health care and emergency workers. To help workers and their families who take on tremendous risk by simply doing their job.
While it is hard to determine what this means for PTA’s, it is not out of the question to think that this could become the new normal.
Offering supplemental monetary incentives for PTA’s that work in specific facilities, that work a specified amount of hours, or that work with a particular type of patient.
Lastly, and this may be the most important point is the role COVID-19 plays in the type of work you do.
In your PTA program you may have been offered electives, generally those were focus areas for you to determine the type of work you would want to do.
More formally the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers certifications in physical therapy specialities of:
Some of these specialties carry with them work that has the PTA spending significant time with high risk patients in high risk locations.
Improving your skill set through certifications allows you to have preference in the roles you take and enables you to negotiate a higher salary for the work you do.
Certifications could be the extra bump you need as a candidate to secure a PTA role that meets all of your requirements instead of settling for second best.
How to Strategically Search and Apply for PTA Jobs
Most people do not know how to search and apply for jobs.
...And the more growth and competition a particular industry has, the more important it becomes to have advanced job seeking skills.
Step 1: Clearly Identifying your criteria for a PTA job you would take.
If you are a PTA you know what you like to do and what you don’t like to do. If you are new to the field of Physical Therapy you may not be in tune with what you prefer yet.
Using the data provided in this guide and the data from your experience (school included) you should document your preferences.
We recommend using Google sheets or excel to prepare a list of criteria before you apply to PTA positions.
We have developed a tool for you to use in the next steps of your PTA job search.
We call it the PTA job tracker. ←------ Use it for free. No catch. Promise.
On the second tab of the PTA job tracker you outline all of your desired criteria.
This is your dream job criteria. If all the stars aligned this would be the position.
Locations (geographic) you are willing to work
Environments you are willing to work (i.e. hospital, office)
Status (full time, part time etc.)
This may seem like a lot of work but we assure you it is time well spent.
Applying for jobs that meet your criteria is key to finding the ideal job, but it also has technological benefits you may not be aware of.
Recruitment technology, the space that we at Local Remote Jobs work within, has advanced dramatically over the last few years.
Almost every medical facility has implemented a piece of recruitment technology called an Applicant Tracking System or ATS for short.
This software tracks applicants and scores them before the applicant is delivered to the hiring manager or recruiter for manual review.
Basically, this means that a computer judges you, so that you can be weeded out.
Applying to 10 PTA jobs within the same organization could be a red flag to the hiring manager for one or all of those positions.
Leading them to believe that you do not really have interest in the position they are responsible for managing, because you are blanket applying to all of the positions that their company has to offer.
Identifying your acceptable criteria allows you to find a job that fits your needs while preventing you from over applying. This step helps you avoid jobs you would not take anyway, giving you more time to search for and apply to jobs you would take.
Step 2: Finding available PTA jobs
Now we need to find jobs that meet our criteria.
The key to this is doing so in a timely and efficient manner.
You are going to want to use the PTA job tracker for this as well.
On the third tab titled “active PTA jobs” is where you are going to store the information from this step.
In order to find the most up to date and relevant information on available openings you are going to create email alerts on every job board that has PTA jobs.
Let’s start with our site :)
But you should be doing this on: indeed, ziprecruiter, glassdoor, etc.
We list our job email alert creation on almost every page.
On on our homepage we have the button here:
Once you login you will be presented with a form to create your job alert.
The first part of the form allows you to create a name for the alert and how often you get the emails.
The “Alert Name” that you choose should be memorable and specifically related to the jobs that will be in the email. The more specific the better.
For this example I named my email alert “PTA jobs Chicago Illinois Full Time” because I am going to set the criteria for jobs I want emailed to me to include:
Properly naming your email alerts will allow you to find them, use them, and delete them when appropriate.
Next you will want to fill in the “Send emails” section. This option allows you to choose when your job alert email is sent.
This is an important decision to make as a more frequent email may allow you to apply faster, while a daily or weekly email will allow you to stay more organized and apply in a more thought out and efficient way.
We recommend setting the “Send Emails” option to : daily
It will make finding, managing, and applying much easier.
The next step is to fill in your email alert criteria. Here is what I did:
This is a very important section as it is the main field used by the job board to search for available jobs. All other fields refine the results from there.
Understanding what keywords are used for PTA jobs is fairly straightforward.
PTA is the abbreviation for Physical Therapy Assistant.
You should create an email alert for both of these terms. Each employer will be different in the way that they post jobs and depending on the job board you may not get all available PTA jobs by only running one alert with the one keyword you think is best.
In the first section of this guide we pointed out that PTA is used by some employers incorrectly to represent Physical Therapy Aides. This is important to remember.
Always be safe and create alerts for all popular words used to identify your desired position.
The safe rule is to use the full name and the abbreviated name at minimum.
This is self explanatory but important. Choose the countries you want to work in.
Do you want to work in multiple countries?
Create an alert for every country you would work within.
Sector (Industry) Selection:
Some job boards use the word sector, some use industry, but they are the same thing.
You will want to be careful with this as an option. If you want to be very specific with the jobs that are emailed to you then choose an industry or sector.
PTA jobs generally fall under the category of “Healthcare & Medical” but there are instances where a PTA job may not be classified in that way.
Imagine if a manufacturing company is looking to have an on staff Physical Therapy Assistant for in house provided care to the workers.
Some job boards classify industries / sectors based on company and others base their job categorization on position.
If you know that you want to see every PTA job in your selected location, we recommend leaving this selection option blank.
If you want to be more selective use this field to refine your results.
Job Type Selection:
Choose whether you want to see the full time, part time, or temporary positions.
Note that you can select multiple.
The rule here is simple. Leave it blank unless you have a very good reason to fill it in.
The reality is that most employers do not post the real salary.
Most leave those fields blank when creating job postings and some create estimates that may not truly represent the salary offered.
By entering in salary values you can drastically limit your results.
After you save your email alert you will be taken to the account management screen where you can easily view and manage your email alerts.
As positions become available you will be able to view jobs that match your criteria.
Here is a position I was sent from my email alert:
Step 3: Utilize the PTA job tracker to organize jobs and then apply!
If you followed our recommendations and set your job email alerts to be sent daily, you will only get one email per day (if jobs match your criteria for that day).
Open tab three on your job tracker and fill in the information about the job.
These items include:
Job Posting URL
Did you apply? Drop down
By setting up email alerts like the one above across several job boards you have created a system where you can go about your life and check for available jobs from your inbox.
Allowing you to avoid logging in, searching, and navigating several job boards each day.
The reality is that most people don’t have the time for manually searching every job board. This leads candidates to only using one job board with only one job boards available PTA jobs.
By storing available job information in a central location (tab three of the job tracker) you can then apply and keep track of your applications, next steps, and work to be done without referencing your email for links when you are ready to sit down and do the application.
Depending on the company and position, applications can take upwards of 1-2 hours to fully complete.
Fumbling through emails to find the link to the job you liked can be a tedious task and add on to the already lengthy process of applying.
Using a network of email alerts is one of the most effective ways to find available positions, efficiently apply, and organize your PTA job hunting.
Resources to improve your PTA Job Search
We built the Ultimate PTA Job Seeker Guide to improve you as a job seeker by enhancing your knowledge of the position and industry; and to enhance your skills of finding and applying to available PTA jobs.
But there is more.
Here are some excellent resources for the PTA job seeker:
Note that we are not affiliated with any of the links below. We recommend the content because we believe it to be useful and enhancing to your PTA job search. We do not endorse any products that may be sold from the respective resources.
Physical Therapy Assistants - Facebook Group
This facebook page created in 2013 boasts over 15,000 followers that engage in PTA discussions from a currently practicing level to a student level.
Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) Network - Linkedin Group
This group is the largest PTA group on Linkedin. Created in 2010 and having over 9,000 members, it invites recruiters and hiring managers to post available positions within the PTA field.
Physical Therapy Licensing Authority Contact information - FSBPT.org
Every state has a Physical Therapy Board. This is a list of their contact information (including website links). At some point you will need to reference the website of your state board. This link will get you there.
Do you have a useful link for PTA’s?
Leave a comment.