How Much Do Physical Therapy Assistants Make?

Many physical therapy assistants earn higher salaries than the national average. Learn more about this lucrative career.

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by Kristen Markel

Published September 15, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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How Much Do Physical Therapy Assistants Make?
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Physical therapy assistants, also known as PTAs, are involved in the direct care of patients. Under the supervision and direction of physical therapists, PTAs work in healthcare settings, assisting patients regain movement and managing pain after surgery or illness.

In 2021, the median physical therapy assistant salary was $61,180, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Physical therapy assistants must possess associate degrees from accredited programs, and all 50 states require certification or licenses to practice.

This comprehensive guide explains how physical therapy assistant salaries vary between locations and industries.

What Is the Average Physical Therapy Assistant Salary?

Physical therapy assistants' salaries vary based on location and industry. The top 10% of physical therapy assistants and aides earned more than $80,170 in May 2021, according to the BLS. Home healthcare services and nursing care facilities paid the most lucrative salaries.

PTAs working in medical offices earned much less. Doctors' offices paid $58,190, while speech therapists, physical therapists, audiologists, and occupational therapists paid PTAs $59,720 during the same period.

Prospective physical therapy assistants should also consider location when researching salaries.

How Much Do Physical Therapy Assistants Make By State?

Generally, physical therapy assistant jobs in the Northeast tended to pay higher salaries than in other areas of the country in 2021. Midwestern PTAs earned the least. According to the BLS, there were a few exceptions, as California paid the most, and Idaho paid the least.

When considering salaries, assessing your specific industry and location is essential. Some states that pay well have higher costs of living than the national average. Pay ranges also vary drastically between specific sectors.

Physical Therapy Assistant Median Salary by State (May 2021)

Source: BLS

Where Can I Make the Most Money as a Physical Therapy Assistant?

Highest-Paying States for Physical Therapy Assistants

The states that pay physical therapy assistants the most often also employ large numbers of these professionals. California and Texas are prime examples. PTAs also tend to earn higher wages in states with higher living costs.

Highest-Paying States
State Average Mean Salary (May 2021)
California $73,150
Rhode Island $70,690
New Jersey $70,450
Texas $69,470
Connecticut $68,390

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Physical Therapy Assistants

Four of the five highest-paying metropolitan areas for physical therapy assistants are in one of the most expensive states in the U.S., California.

Big urban areas typically employ more PTAs because larger populations mean more demand for services. While those locations may offer more opportunities, they also have higher housing, food, and healthcare costs than smaller, more rural areas.

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas
Metropolitan Area Average Mean Salary (2021)
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $85,960
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $78,740
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $76,390
Midland, TX $75,550
Salinas, CA $75,150

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas for Physical Therapy Assistants

According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture study, workers with more education can earn higher salaries in urban areas than rural areas. However, there are exceptions, especially for this profession.

Physical therapy assistants enjoy higher pay in several places with lower employment numbers.

There may be fewer PTAs practicing in areas like the Border Region of Texas or the North Coast of California. Yet, physical therapy assistants in those locations are likely to earn higher salaries.

Highest-Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas
Nonmetropolitan Area Annual Mean Salary (May 2021)
North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California $71,230
Massachusetts $70,190
Border Region of Texas $69,240
North Coast Region of California $69,100
Central Louisiana $67,820

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Industries for Physical Therapy Assistants

Salaries for physical therapy assistants also vary significantly among industries. While the largest concentration of these professionals worked in doctors' offices in 2021, other settings often paid more.

Home health care services, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities pay higher salaries on average. These settings are facing a severe shortage of employees. According to the American Health Care Association (ACHA), 87% of nursing home providers face moderate to high staffing shortages.

Highest-Paying Industries
Industry Annual Mean Salary (May 2021)
Home Health Care Services $75,130
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $69,890
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly $69,530
Management of Companies and Enterprises $66,540
Outpatient Care Centers $65,790

Source: BLS

How Can I Increase My Salary as a Physical Therapy Assistant?

1 Choose a Specialty

Since PTAs provide various services to different populations, many choose to specialize to increase their career opportunities. Popular specialties include geriatrics, orthopedics, and pediatrics.

Some workers can specialize their skills with on-the-job training. PTAs can join teams working within their desired specialties or seek jobs offering specific care. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) runs the PTA Advanced Proficiency Pathways program to increase students' knowledge and skills in specific areas.

2 Obtain Certification

Certifications can increase physical therapy assistants' earning potential by teaching them skills that can help them stand out to employers and do their jobs more effectively. Physical therapy assistants may earn certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support, or other first-aid skills.

3 Consider Relocating

Salaries vary considerably based on location. Moving to a state that pays well, like California, Rhode Island, or New Jersey, is one way to increase your salary as a PTA.

But you must also weigh the cost of living. Residents in states like Ohio and Texas enjoy a lower-than-average cost of living, but the mean wage for physical therapy assistants in those states is higher than average.

4 Change Industries

PTA salaries can vary dramatically between industries. If you wish to increase your salary, securing a job at a nursing care facility, assisted living, or home healthcare facility might boost your wages.

Physical therapy assistants in home healthcare typically earn over $10,000 more than workers who make the national average.

Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Therapy Assistant Salary

Is it worth it to be a physical therapy assistant?

Physical therapy assistant jobs can be rewarding. Workers provide care to those in need while earning an average salary higher than the national average salary across all occupations. According to the BLS, physical therapy assistants earned an average of $60,740 in May 2021.

An associate degree, which includes clinical training and a state license, is required to work in the field. Specialists and those with specific certifications may have more earning potential.

The field is also growing. The BLS projects that 23,800 physical therapist assistant and aide jobs will open annually, on average, through 2030.

Which physical therapy assistant jobs pay the most?

Physical therapy assistants with the most earning potential have jobs in specific industries, live in certain areas, and specialize in key areas.

Working in someone's home or in a skilled nursing or assisted living facility generally pays more than working in a doctor's office, for instance. Physical therapy assistants also earn higher salaries in urban regions, especially in California. San Jose, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco are some of the top-paying metropolitan areas in the nation for physical therapy assistants.

According to the BLS, nonmetropolitan areas like the Northern Mountain Region of California and Central Louisiana also pay PTAs higher-than-average salaries.

If you wish to increase your employment opportunities, the APTA offers specialization courses in pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, and other in-demand sectors.

How can a physical therapy assistant make more money?

PTAs can increase their earning potential in a few ways. Location, industry, and education all play roles in determining compensation.

Some states pay PTAs much higher average salaries than others. Relocating to one of those states can increase your earnings. But moving comes with the possibility of higher expenses, so do your research before making any commitments.

Many employers value career-related achievements, including certifications and specializations. Knowledge of CPR, basic first-aid, or massage therapy may help you excel in your job and catch the eye of future employers.

You can also boost your earning potential by choosing a specialty like geriatrics, pediatrics, or orthopedics.

What states pay physical therapy assistants the most?

In 2021, physical therapy assistants enjoyed the highest annual average salaries in California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Texas, and Connecticut, according to the BLS. Many of these states also employ a large amount of PTAs.

Salary numbers do not always show the whole picture, as cost of living figures can dramatically change the amount of money you need to live comfortably. Texas, for instance, has a low cost of living and pays PTAs higher-than-average wages.

While not among the top five highest-paying states for PTAs, Ohio has a reasonable cost of living comparable to the national average, and professionals in the state earn higher-than-average wages.

What is the highest salary a physical therapy assistant can make?

It is difficult to determine the highest salary a physical therapy assistant can make annually because many factors, including education, location, and industry, contribute to a professional's earning potential. But the highest 10% of earners made over $80,170 per year in 2021, according to the BLS.

These workers may be living in locations that pay more. They may also have worked in high-paying industries like home healthcare, skilled nursing, or assisted living.

PTAs can try to increase their salaries by working in specialized units or completing classes in areas that pay more. Certifications like CPR, basic life-saving, and massage therapy can make your resume more attractive to potential employers.

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