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Oswego Career Ladders - Physical Therapist

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Physical Therapist

Industry: Healthcare
Area: Rehabilitation

Physical therapists work directly with people to enhance movement and foster optimal health and functional ability. Patients include those who have sustained injury or illness, have developmental deficits, have age-related problems, or need preventive care. Physical therapists examine and evaluate patients to determine functional abilities such as walking, work capacity and community activities. They may examine and evaluate strength, sensation, joint mobility, endurance, pain, reflexes and movement skill of patients. They plan therapy programs that may include exercises to improve functional abilities by increasing strength, endurance, balance, coordination and range of motion. Interventions also include massage, traction, ultrasound, water, heat, electricity and joint mobilizations. Physical therapists work with all systems of the body, including the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems.

Physical therapy assistants
perform a variety of tasks. Components of treatment procedures performed by these workers, under the direct supervision of physical therapists, involve exercises, massages, electrical stimulation, paraffin baths, hot and cold packs, traction, and ultrasound. Physical therapy assistants record the patients responses to treatment and report the outcome of each treatment to the physical therapist.

Physical therapy aides
help make therapy sessions productive, under the direct supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. They usually are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized and preparing for each patients therapy. When patients need assistance moving to or from a treatment area, aides push them in a wheelchair, or provide them with a shoulder to lean on. The duties of aides include some clerical tasks, such as ordering depleted supplies, answering the phone, and filling out insurance forms and other paperwork. The extent to which an aide or assistant performs clerical tasks depends on the size and location of the facility.

Work Settings

Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants work in a variety of settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private practices, home-care agencies, schools, research centers, universities, extended care facilities, corporate or industrial health centers, and sports medicine centers. Advanced expertise leads to work in administration, consulting, research and education.


A masters degree is required for all entry-level physical therapists. Physical therapy assistants require an associates degree, and physical therapy aides are trained on the job.

Job Outlook

Therapist 21 percent increase over the next 10 years; PT Assistant and Aide 29 percent increase over the next 10 years.


Physical Therapist $39,000 - $83,000 (NYS Avg. $57,340)

PT Assistant $23,000 - $46,000 (NYS Avg. $26,720)

PT Aide $14,000 - $29,000 (NYS Avg. $23,820)

Work Schedule

Hours and days vary; may include evenings and weekends

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