California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Physical Therapist Aides in San Diego County

May also be called: Occupational Therapy Aides; Physical Therapy Aides; Rehab Therapy Aides; Rehabilitation Aides; and Rehabilitation Technicians

What Would I Do?

Ancient Greek and Roman cultures knew the healing value of heat and massage. However, the real worth of physical therapy was not recognized until World War II. At this time, medical teams in the military were able to restore seriously injured patients. Their success caused more people in the medical field to appreciate the good that physical therapy could do.

Physical Therapist Aides work under the direct and immediate supervision of a physical therapist. The Aides provide help when a patient is receiving physical therapy. Aides help make therapy sessions productive. They prepare for each patient's therapy by getting the equipment ready for the session. Aides keep treatment supplies in order and sterilize equipment and instruments. In addition, they provide physical support to patients. These patients require assistance with changing positions or moving on and off therapy equipment. Aides also perform clerical duties such as ordering supplies, filing medical records, and delivering messages.

Because they are not licensed, Aides do not perform the clinical tasks of a physical therapist assistant. Aides give water treatments, paraffin baths, and apply hot and cold packs. They transport patients to and from treatment centers, using proper techniques according to the patients' conditions.

Tools and Technology

Physical Therapist Aides may use scheduling and medical software to schedule and maintain patient records. Aides use blood pressure cuffs, hydraulic lifts, and hot or cold packs. They also work with orthotic devices, parallel bars, prosthetic devices, and walkers.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Instruct, motivate, safeguard and assist patients practicing exercises and functional activities, under direction of medical staff.Oral Expression
Confer with physical therapy staff or others to discuss and evaluate patient information for planning, modifying, and coordinating treatment.Active Listening
Observe patients during treatment to compile and evaluate data on patients' responses and progress, and report to physical therapist.Social Perceptiveness
Change linens, such as bed sheets and pillow cases.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Transport patients to and from treatment areas, using wheelchairs or providing standing support.Trunk Strength
Maintain equipment and furniture to keep it in good working condition, including performing the assembly and disassembly of equipment and accessories.Information Ordering
Assist patients to dress, undress, and put on and remove supportive devices, such as braces, splints, and slings.Customer and Personal Service
Secure patients into or onto therapy equipment.Near Vision
Record treatment given and equipment used.Written Expression
Administer active and passive manual therapeutic exercises, therapeutic massage, and heat, light, sound, water, or electrical modality treatments, such as ultrasound.Service Orientation
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Physical Therapist Aides generally work in hospitals and clinics. Aides may also work in rehabilitation centers and private physical therapists' offices. Aides need to be physically able to assist patients with movement. Sometimes they may need to lift patients. In addition, they frequently have to kneel, stoop, bend, and stand for long periods. Aides may work full- or part-time, depending upon their employer's needs. Many outpatient physical therapy offices are open long hours to coincide with patients' personal schedules. Aides at these locations may work evenings or weekends.

Physical Therapist Aides are not typically represented by unions.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Physical Therapist Aides may appeal to those who enjoy providing service to others and working in a team situation. Those who enjoy communicating with people and teaching others should also enjoy this type of work. It is helpful to be well-organized, detail-oriented, caring, and able to follow instructions. It is also beneficial to have strong verbal and writing skills.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Physical Therapist Aides in California was $27,314 annually, or $13.13 hourly. The median wage for Physical Therapist Aides in San Diego County was $25,117 annually, or $12.08 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$23,012$27,314$32,904
San Diego County$22,562$25,117$32,096
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Full-time Physical Therapist Aides generally receive benefits. Typical benefits include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance. Additional common benefits are paid time off and retirement plans. A few employers even offer tuition reimbursement. However, some employers offer only partial benefits. Some do not provide benefits to part-time Aides. Others will offer benefits to those who work a set minimum number of hours.

What is the Job Outlook?

As insurance companies cover an increasing number of physical therapy services, more patients will have access to services. The increasing elderly population will also increase the number of people who need therapy. These individuals are more vulnerable to conditions that require therapeutic services. The technological developments in the medical field should increase the survival rate of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects. These patients will create an added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services.

Physical therapists are expected to increase their use of assistants and Aides to reduce the cost of their services. Therefore, the desire to reduce costs and the increase in demand and for services should enhance the demand for Physical Therapist Aides. On the other hand, Aides may face intense competition from the large pool of qualified applicants.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Physical Therapist Aides is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Physical Therapist Aides are expected to increase by 33.9 percent, or 2,000 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Physical Therapist Aides is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Physical Therapist Aides are expected to increase by 28.6 percent, or 200 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Physical Therapist Aides
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
5,9007,9002,00033.91,300
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
70090020028.6160
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 200 new job openings per year is expected for Physical Therapist Aides, plus an additional 130 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 330 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 20 new job openings per year is expected for Physical Therapist Aides, plus an additional 16 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 36 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Physical Therapist Aides
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
200130330
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
201636
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most Physical Therapy Aides are trained on the job. However, employers prefer that Aides have a high school diploma or GED. Some employers require candidates pass a drug and background check, as well as a physical evaluation. In addition, some employers want applicants to have a valid California driver license and automobile insurance.

Experience

Some employers prefer candidates have at least one year of experience as an Aide or in some sort of health care position. Employers who combine the position of Aide with clerk may also require one year of clerical experience.

Early Career Planning

Courses helpful to Physical Therapist Aides include English, biology, computer, and algebra. Because a few employers advertise for bilingual Aides, a foreign language may be of benefit. Students could also benefit from exposure to the health care environment by working or volunteering in health care facilities. Some Regional Occupation Programs (ROP) offer an introductory course in therapeutic services. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Certification

Some employers require applicants have current CPR certification. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Healthcare, Physical Therapy, and Rehabilitation.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Physical Therapist Aides are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 65.6%
Offices of Physicians 12.8%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 9.6%
Nursing Care Facilities 4.6%
Community Care Facility for the Elderly 1.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Job openings can be located in newspaper classified ads. It can also be helpful for candidates to contact facilities providing physical therapy services. Even if no job announcement has been posted, many employers still accept applications. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Physical Therapist Aides.

  • Physical
  • Physical Therapy
  • Rehabilitation

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Some Physical Therapist Aides become physical therapist assistants after completing an accredited education program and obtaining a license to practice. Aides could advance to physical therapists by completing a four-to-six-year college program and obtaining a license.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Physical Therapist Aides with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Athletic TrainersProfile
Child, Family, and School Social WorkersGuide
Dental AssistantsGuide
Medical AssistantsGuide
Physical TherapistsGuide
Recreational TherapistsGuide
Social and Human Service AssistantsGuide

Other Sources

  • Department of Consumer Affairs, Physical Therapy Board of California
         www.ptbc.ca.gov
  • American Physical Therapy Association
         www.apta.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification31-2022
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Physical Therapist Aides31-2022.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SRC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Physical Therapy Technician/Assistant.510806
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Physical Therapist Assistant122200