Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 41 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 39 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Demand for physical therapy services is expected to increase in response to the health needs of an aging population, particularly the large baby-boom generation. This group is staying more active later in life than previous generations. However, many baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Older people also are particularly vulnerable to a number of chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services. These patients often need additional help in their treatment, making the roles of physical therapist assistants and aides vital.
In addition, a number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. More physical therapist assistants and aides will be needed to manage the effects of such conditions and help patients maintain their mobility.
Medical and technological developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services. In addition, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform.
Physical therapists are expected to increasingly use physical therapist assistants, particularly in long-term care environments, in order to reduce the cost of physical therapy services. Once the physical therapist has evaluated a patient and designed a plan of care, the assistant can provide many parts of the treatment, as directed by the therapist.
Opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to be very good. Physical therapist assistants will be needed to help physical therapists care for and manage more patients. However, physical therapist aides may face strong competition from the large pool of qualified people since requirements for entry are low.
Job opportunities should be particularly good in settings where the elderly are most often treated, such as skilled-nursing homes, home health, and outpatient orthopedic facilities. Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural areas, as many physical therapists cluster in highly populated urban and suburban areas.
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24
Physical therapist assistants
Physical therapist assistants and aides
Physical therapist aides
Healthcare support occupations
Total, all occupations
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program