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What is the difference between a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant and physical therapist technician?

I am looking forward to going into physical therapy school but I am not sure what of these three I want to be. Mostly because I don't know what each one is.

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Lauren’s Answer

PT is a doctorate degree. They evaluate patients and set the plan of care which includes what body part needs to be addressed and what needs to be done to get the patient better.
PTA is an associates/bachelor's degree. They assist and progress activities and exercises that will help the patient progress towards their goals (set by the PT).
Tech is on the job training. Depending on facility, they assist with exercises, modalities (hot/cop pack application, estim or ultrasound).
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Margie’s Answer

Hi Yareli,
The main difference between a PT and a PTA is 1. education/degree and 2. roles and responsibilities in the field.
A physical therapist (PT) is now a doctorate degree which means they require a 4 year undergraduate (bachelor's degree) then a 3 year doctoral (PT program). Tuition average $120K.
A physical therapist assistant (PTA) is an associate's degree (2 years). Tuition averages $10-20K.
School is a combination of classroom/didactic work, labs and clinical rotations.
Both require a degree, passing of the national board exam in order to acquire your license.
A PT performs an evaluation, see patients for follow up treatments, performs re-evaluations and discharges.
A PTA can see patients for follow up treatments.
Both can work in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings.

A PT tech does not need a degree or any formal training. A PT tech works under a PT or PTA and helps out where it is needed.
Some roles of a PT tech includes cleaning in between patients, assisting with exercises, front desk/clerical duties and keep the area/clinic/office neat and organized.

I was a PT tech for 3 years before I went back to school to be a PTA.
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Raquel "Rachel"’s Answer

Hi. Great question. A Physical Therapist requires an extensive time in school and also does all of the patient evaluations, come up with each patients plan of care and treats them. A Physical Therapist Assistant will follow the PT plan of care designed by the Physical Therapist and treat each patient accordingly. Each Therapist can treat the patient With therapeutic interventions how they feel best serves the patient. You can choose to work with many different patient setting ( adult, geriatric, pediatric, sports medicine, neurological like stroke, Parkinson’s disease or traumatic brain injury.) The PTA is required to work under the supervision of the Physical therapist, however, not necessarily directly supervised. I am a PTA and work in skilled nursing rehabilitation and neuro and I graduated from a two-year Applied Associates Science degree from a community college. A technician does not require special training or school, however, many who work this job are students in PT school and it can be tough to get a job otherwise. Good luck with your decision and thanks for the question!
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Albert’s Answer

Hi Yareli,

A Physical Therapist Assistance is able to provide treatment to patients while a Physical Therapy Technician cannot. To become a PTA I believe also requires an Associates degree.
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Yareli
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