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Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants assist physiotherapists in the implementation of treatment programs designed to improve or maintain clients' abilities to function independently.

  • Avg. Salary $34,775.00
  • Avg. Wage $20.85
  • Minimum Education 2 years post-secondary
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 4,400
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Physical Therapy Assistant, Physiotherapist Assistant, Rehabilitation Assistant, Therapist Assistant, Physical/Occupational Therapist Assistant

NOC & Interest Codes
The Physical Therapist Assistant is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Therapy Assistants
NOC code: 3414.2

Interest in copying information to assist patients as directed by health care professionals


Interest in assisting patients by helping elderly and incapacitated patients to dress and undress, by accompanying patients to treatment rooms and by supporting them in other activities


Interest in handling to prepare and maintain work materials and supplies; and in assisting patients in the use of therapeutic equipment

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Dec 19, 2016

Physical therapist assistants' duties vary from one position to another. For example, they may work in outpatient clinics with clients who have orthopedic issues, in extended care settings with geriatric clients, or in hospital settings with patients who have a variety of disorders or who have undergone surgery. Whatever the setting, they work under the direction and supervision of physiotherapists.

Physical therapist assistants may:

  • implement treatment plans, designed by physical therapists, for individual clients and groups
  • perform lifts and transfers, and help patients correctly position themselves
  • prepare and apply hot or cold packs, hydrotherapy and wax treatments
  • assist patients with activities such as stretching, individual exercises, posture re-education and gait re-education
  • administer electrotherapy treatments such as ultrasound, interferential treatment, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and electrical muscle stimulation
  • measure patients for walking aides (for example, canes, walkers) and educate patients on their use
  • apply braces or artificial limbs and instruct clients in the use of crutches, canes and walkers 
  • lead or participate in group exercise or activity classes
  • monitor patients during treatments, individual activities and exercise classes, and report patient performance
  • perform postural drainage, percussions and vibrations for treatment of respiratory conditions and teach deep breathing exercises.

Physical therapist assistants also may:

  • adjust and monitor the operation of equipment
  • prepare treatment areas and electrotherapy equipment for use by physiotherapists
  • check and store equipment
  • clean physical therapy equipment and treatment areas
  • change and launder linen
  • perform clerical tasks such as documenting activities, keeping track of statistics, maintaining an inventory of equipment, ordering supplies and equipment, answering telephones and scheduling appointments.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Physical therapist assistants work in a variety of settings including private practices, hospitals, continuing or long term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, schools and private homes. They generally work weekdays but may be required to work some evenings and weekends. Health care settings can be high stress environments.

The work can be physically demanding. Physical therapist assistants help clients to transfer, stand, walk and exercise and may be on their feet for long periods of time.  They also may be required to move equipment weighing up to 20 kilograms. To avoid injury, they must use proper methods for lifting and moving.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Physical therapist assistants need the following characteristics:

  • physical and mental fitness
  • good observation and organizational skills
  • the ability to deal with people who are under physical and emotional stress
  • the ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • the ability to encourage patient confidence and participation
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • good interpersonal skills
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • patience
  • manual dexterity
  • strength and stamina
  • the ability to follow directions closely.

They should enjoy having clear guidelines and organized methods for their work, helping people and using therapeutic equipment.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Employers generally prefer to hire graduates of related post-secondary diploma programs.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Bow Valley College

NorQuest College

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Above-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Physical therapist assistants are employed in:

  • hospitals
  • rehabilitation centres
  • continuing care facilities
  • community and government health agencies
  • home care agencies
  • physiotherapists' offices and clinics
  • schools.

Some positions involve working as an occupational therapist assistant as well as a physical therapist assistant (for more information, see the Occupational Therapist Assistant occupational profile).

Without further education, advancement opportunities for physical therapist assistants are limited.

Physical therapist assistants are part of the 2011 National Occupational Classification 3237: Other technical occupations in therapy and assessment. In Alberta, 87% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 7,700 Albertans are employed in the Other assisting occupations in support of health services occupational group. This group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.2% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 246 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As physical therapist assistants form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for physical therapist assistants.  

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Wages for physical therapist assistants typically range from $20.23 to $24.49 an hour (2010 estimate).

Wages in private practice settings tend to be lower than those in public service settings such as hospitals. 

Physical Therapist Assistant are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 3237: Other technical occupations in therapy and assessment.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Other technical occupations in therapy and assessment occupational group earned on average from $20.16 to $27.51 an hour. The overall average wage was $20.85 an hour. For more information, see the Other technical occupations in therapy and assessment wage profile.

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services
    • Health Care Services
    • Recreation Leadership
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website: 

Physiotherapy Alberta College + Association website:

Therapy Assistant Association of Alberta (ThAAA) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 20, 2014. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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