Physical Therapist Aide VS Physician Assistant: Which One is Right for You?

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Regular people might confuse physical therapist aides with physician assistants.

However, with a little bit of research, it is easy to understand that these 2 occupations are completely different.

Someone who might consider a career in the healthcare industry and could consider one of these positions.

You could be in this situation.

Don’t you want to know from a physical therapist aide and physician assistant, which one is right for you?

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Get information on Physical Therapy Aide programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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What is a Physical Therapist Aide?

We can have a better understanding of these 2 occupations if we have a closer look at each of them separately.

Physical Therapist Aide Job Description

One of the first things to know about this job is that it’s a supervised one.

The supervisors are both the physical therapists and the physical therapist assistants with whom the aides work.

The aides hold entry-level jobs, and as such, they complete many demanding tasks.

Below you can see the tasks that PT aides must complete:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing treatment areas and equipment
  • Washing linens
  • Performing clerical tasks
  • Moving patients to and from treatment areas
  • Observing patients before, during, and after therapy
  • Helping with pain management
  • Helping patients shower
  • Helping patients eat
  • Using various devices and equipment
  • Helping patients dress on and off
  • Documenting patients’ responses and progress
  • Educating both patients and their families
  • Liaise with physicians’ offices and hospital personnel

These duties could differ based on a series of factors, mostly related to the condition of the patients they take care of.

Requirements to Become a Physical Therapist Aide

You don’t expect that just about anyone can become a physical therapist aide, do you?

This job is demanding both mentally and physically.

Employers usually seek people that have usually have these features:

  • Having a high school diploma or GED
  • Having on-the-job training
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having a clean criminal record
  • Being calm
  • Able to handle stressful situations
  • Passion for helping people
  • Detail-oriented
  • Good communication skills
  • Patience
  • Self-motivation
  • Stamina
  • Able to work as part of a team

Of course, some employers might prefer other characteristics, such as having a license.

Education to Become a Physical Therapist Aide

By studying the law, you’ll see that physical therapist aides don’t need to earn any license or degree.

They also don’t need to enroll in any special medical program at a college or university.

Having a high school diploma or a GED along with a CPR certificate is more than enough to get hired for the position.

Despite all this, many future aides do choose to become licensed, usually to be able to advance in their careers.

The majority choose to earn an Associates’ degree diploma and then to become licensed.

Some of the individuals also choose to study for a Bachelors’ degree diploma.

These programs must be accredited regardless of whether they’re organized in person or online.

Here is a sample of the topics to be studied in these programs:

  • Medical terms
  • PTA Fundamentals
  • Principles of musculoskeletal physical therapy
  • Principles of neuromuscular physical therapy
  • Physical therapy practice for special populations
  • Patient Positioning and Transfer
  • Ethical and Legal Issues
  • Clinical Procedures
  • Biomechanics
  • Safety protocol

Physical Therapist Aide License

The license of a PT aide is issued by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

For this, you’ll need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam.

This exam has various levels of difficulty that candidates can attempt 3 times in a row and not more than 6 times in a lifetime.

Additionally, you can’t score 400 or under more than 2 times.

The license must be renewed through several hours of continuing education classes and a fee.

Employment for Physical Therapist Aides

PT aides work in many healthcare facilities.

The most common of them are:

  • Hospitals
  • Offices of physicians
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nursing care facilities
  • The offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists,
  • The offices of audiologists

Their work hours may differ based on these work settings.

Physical Therapist Aide VS Physician Assistant: Which One is Right for You

What is a Physician Assistant?

Let’s learn more about physician assistants now!

Physician Assistant Job Description

Physician assistants are also called physician associates.

These professionals are a person’s main healthcare provider.

Their training, about which we’ll talk in a few moments, allow them to perform these tasks:

  • Diagnosing illness
  • Developing treatments
  • Managing treatment plans
  • Prescribing medications
  • Taking medical histories
  • Counseling on preventive care
  • Making rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
  • Performing various procedures
  • Assisting in surgery
  • Participating in clinical research

For these professionals, the duties are pretty standard no matter where they work.

They only vary based on the patient and their ailment.

Requirements to Become a Physician Assistant

As far as physician assistants are concerned, there are requirements related to their job as well.

Here are the most important ones:

  • Being certified
  • Being licensed by the state
  • Having previous experience
  • Being compassionate
  • Having good communication skills
  • Having problem-solving skills
  • Being detail-oriented
  • Being emotionally stable

It’s not very common for these prerequisites to vary much from one employer to the next.

Previous experience can come from positions such as:

  • EMT or paramedic
  • Registered nurse
  • Nursing assistant

Other positions are also accepted as previous experience.

Education to Become a Physician Assistant

We already mentioned you’ll need to be both certified and licensed to work as a physician associate.

Before you can earn these credentials, you’ll have to earn a Masters’ degree.

Before enrolling in a physician assistant program, you must complete at least 2 years of college with a focus on science.

Additionally, you’ll have to make sure you’ll study these subjects as well:

  • Chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Biology

When enrolling in the Masters’ degree program, students will attend classes like the following:

  • Pathology
  • Human anatomy,
  • Physiology
  • Clinical medicine
  • Medical ethics
  • Infection control
  • Pharmacology
  • Engineering and work practice controls
  • Physical diagnosis

These students also need to complete some practice hours.

These classes cover:

  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • Pediatrics

These clinical hours are supervised by a physician and may lead to employment.

Physician Assistant Certification and License

Certification for these professionals is mandatory across all the states.

To become certified, you need to first pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).

The exam is organized by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

This certification has to be renewed every 2 years by completing 100 hours of continuing education.

Every 10 years, individuals also have to pass a recertification exam.

Each state also has a licensing Board that mandates these professionals to become licensed.

To obtain the license, you’ll need to meet some requirements:

  • Minimum age of 21
  • Having a certification from the NCCPA
  • Having a clean criminal background
  • Submitting a set of fingerprints
  • Submitting an application form
  • Paying the licensing fee -$115

Some states will recognize the licenses earned in other states.

There will be a specific procedure for this to take place.

Employment for Physician Assistants

Physician assistants work in many healthcare facilities.

Here they are:

  • Hospitals,
  • Medical offices,
  • Correctional institutions
  • Community health centers
  • Retail clinics
  • Nursing homes,
  • Educational facilities
  • Workplace clinics

These professionals usually only work full-time or 40 hours per week.


Hopefully, now the differences between the physical therapist aides and physician assistants are clear.

They stem from the education needed by the 2 types of professionals.

They continue with the credentials needed to be able to work and have a career.

One of the last differences can be seen in the type of employment they have access to, and the duties they complete.

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