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Top Skills Physical Therapist Assistants Should Have

Physical therapist assistants help patients rehabilitate from a physical disability or an injury.

The work environments that a physical therapist assistant works in, such as a hospital, nursing home, or physical therapy office, are almost as diverse as the patients they work with every day.

Although many find a career as a physical therapist assistant to be rewarding, not everybody is meant to pursue this career path.

Those who embody certain skills may find that becoming a physical therapist assistant is the right move for them.


physical therapist assistant top skillsBefore individuals can become physical therapist assistants, they must first earn their associate’s degree in physical therapy.

Before allowing students to enroll, most colleges require applicants to have earned their high school diploma or GED. Once accepted, the physical therapist assistants are put through a rigorous academic program that challenges even the most intelligent of individuals.

Common courses in the physical therapist assistant degree program include:

  • Healthcare law
  • Physiology
  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Human development
  • Medical terminology
  • Rehabilitation procedures

After successfully completing the physical therapist assistant degree program, individuals must ensure they meet their states licensure requirements.

If required, graduates must complete a CAPTE-accredited physical therapy assistant program and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

Hard Working

The demanding coursework and clinical requirements of most physical therapist assistant degree programs require students to be hard working.

Upon graduation and licensure, physical therapist assistants must continue to be hard working, especially since most states require them to complete continuing education credits in order to keep their license current.

The work of a physical therapist assistant is demanding, meaning that individuals must be willing to be completely dedicated to their career.

Able to Follow Directions

The job description of a physical therapist assistant is to follow through on the instructions of a physical therapist for a patient.

For this reason, individuals who are interested in becoming physical therapist assistants must prove that they can take directions from one person and fully complete them with another.

Depending on the situation, some patients may struggle and resist the exercises due to pain or other discomfort. Physical therapist assistants need to be able to work with these patients and follow the exercise routine the physical therapist has prescribed.

Physically Fit

Approximately 40 percent of physical therapist assistants work with injured patients at a nursing home or hospital. Physical therapist assistants who work at these locations must be able to lift and move patients onto and off of exercise equipment, with most of these patients not being able to move themselves.

With most work shifts lasting for eight hours, physical therapist assistants need to move patients as needed while spending most of the eight hours standing.

Before enrolling in a physical therapist assistant program, individuals should proactively exercise to help improve their physical stamina once they enter the workforce.

Able to Think Critically

Some settings, such as a fitness room or physical therapy room at a nursing home, may not have every tool physical therapist assistants need for their patients to complete the program.

Individuals who are interested in becoming a physical therapist assistant must be good at critical thinking, coming up with unique solutions for patients to properly perform the exercises with only the tools on hand.

Physical therapist assistants must also know how to adjust exercises to allow for those patients who may not have the strength to complete the motion properly.

Good at Communicating

Physical therapist assistants need to take the exercise prescription from a physical therapist and effectively communicate the motions to their patients.

Aspiring physical therapist assistants must not only be good at communicating with their mouth but also be able to properly show the motions with their bodies.

Before individuals enroll in a physical therapist assistant degree program, they must work on improving their communication skills, especially since communication plays an essential role in the success of a physical therapist assistant.


Since the needs of the patients may vary drastically from one case to the next, physical therapist assistants must be able to quickly switch gears to help each patient as much as possible.

Over 50 percent of physical therapist assistants work in a private practice setting that is designed for patients of all ages and mobility issues. Physical therapist assistants need to adjust their mindset and exercise program quickly to accommodate for each patient that comes in.


Depending on where a physical therapist assistant is employed, some work environments, such as nursing homes, may have patients who are unpleasant to work with.

The ideal physical therapist assistant will be able to look past the tough exterior and connect with the patient, regardless of the difficulty of the situation. As with every health profession, physical therapist assistants must have a desire to see their patients heal and improve their quality of life.


Since physical therapist assistants work with their hands all day long, individuals looking to enter this exciting field must have full dexterity in their hands, arms, and legs.

From preparing a treatment area to helping a patient through an exercise routine, physical therapist assistants have constant physical contact in every sector of their job.

Individuals who have any health issues that prevent the full usage of their hands and arms may want to consult with their physician prior to enrolling in a physical therapist assistant program.

Individuals who embody all of the skills listed above are preferred candidates for physical therapist assistants.

Although the work of a physical therapist assistant can be demanding, many also find the challenges they face on a daily basis to be rewarding.

Those who love making a difference in people’s lives and enjoy helping patients reach pre-injury status will find that a career as a physical therapist assistant is exactly what they may be searching for.

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