Educational Requirements, Certifications, Daily Responsibilities, and Salary
When people experience severe injuries, illnesses, or disabilities, they may have trouble traveling to rehabilitative care. In instances like this, they rely on professionals, like home health physical therapist assistants (PTAs), to bring rehabilitative care into their homes. Becoming a home health physical therapist assistant lets you form close relationships with your patients while also earning a very comfortable living. We recently featured home health physical therapist assistants on our top 8 PTA jobs list.
This career guide will give you all the details about what it takes to become a home health physical therapist assistant. We’ll cover the required schooling, certifications, and what to expect from your daily work life. You’ll also learn how much you could make as a home health PTA and how long it usually takes to launch your new career.
Are you interested in becoming a PTA but not sure you’d enjoy working in patients’ homes? Explore the other options on our list of the top 8 physical therapist assistant careers.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Definition
What Is a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
Home health physical therapist assistants are experienced PTAs who travel to patients’ homes and administer rehabilitative care to people recovering from major surgeries, illnesses, or accidents. Depending on the patient populations they treat, home health PTAs may specialize in specific therapeutic areas like neurology, oncology, orthopedics, or geriatrics.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant: Job Description
What Does a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Do?
Like all physical therapist assistants, home health PTAs work under the supervision of physical therapists to implement treatment plans that improve patients’ strength, mobility, and independence. Home health PTAs frequently monitor and record patients’ progress, and help them safely perform rehabilitative exercises. They also educate patients and their caregivers on how to continue rehabilitation therapy on their own.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant: Work Environment
Where Do Home Health Physical Therapist Assistants Work?
Home health physical therapist assistants care for patients in various living situations. They may work in private residences like family homes or apartments or treat people in assisted-living facilities who prefer to receive their care in a familiar and comfortable environment.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Duties
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of home health physical therapist assistants include:
- Interviewing and observing patients and recording their status
- Helping patients perform specific exercises as part of their treatment plan
- Treating patients with hands-on techniques like stretching or massage
- Helping patients use exercise equipment or medical devices like walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs
- Educating patients and their caregivers on how to continue their progress at home
Other physical therapist assistant duties may include preparing and maintaining equipment, and light administrative work like scheduling appointments or responding to emails.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Hours & Schedule
Most home health physical therapist assistants work full-time, 40-hour workweeks, though part-time jobs are also available. Home health PTAs sometimes work evenings or weekends to accommodate their patients’ schedules and availability. They also spend a fair bit of time traveling to different locations to perform their duties. Because they work in a non-emergency capacity, home health physical therapist assistants usually have fairly predictable schedules and rarely work late nights.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
The best home health PTAs are caring and empathetic people who find satisfaction in helping others heal. Becoming a home health physical therapist assistant also requires strong problem-solving skills, as you won’t always have access to all the specialized tools and equipment in most physical therapy clinics. Adapting to the limitations of your patients’ living spaces while following their treatment plan is a critical component of the job. Like all PTA careers, good physical strength and stamina are also important for home health physical therapist assistants. You’ll frequently be squatting, bending over, or possibly even lifting patients who may have limited mobility.
Why is Home Health a Great Career Path for Physical Therapist Assistants?
Working with people who are unable to travel for treatment means you’ll be a part of many milestone moments for your patients—whether that’s relearning how to move around on their own, or simply reaching over their heads to put something away in the pantry. Because no two people’s homes or medical situations are quite alike, every day at work is a new experience for home health PTAs.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Schooling, Training, & Certifications
What Degree Do You Need to be a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
To become a home health PTA, you’ll first need to complete a physical therapist assistant associate’s degree program from an accredited college or university. Most associate’s degree programs require two full years in school, but with an accelerated degree program, you could earn your PTA degree in as little as 21 months.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
Like any other significant life achievement, the journey to becoming a home health PTA is best broken down into a series of smaller, more manageable goals. People who work full-time jobs while taking PTA classes part-time may take longer to complete their degree than PTA students taking a full course load.
Our step-by-step guide breaks down what it takes to become a home health physical therapist assistant:
1. Enroll in a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Degree Program
The first step toward becoming a home health physical therapist assistant is enrolling in a PTA program at an accredited college or university. If you weren’t a straight-A student in high school, that’s okay. You’ll find that PTA careers are accessible to almost anyone willing to do the work. To qualify for the PTA degree program at Provo College, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED, a passing score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam, and a reliable Internet connection. Some PTA programs may also require completing background checks or drug screenings.
2. Earn Your Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree
Like any associate’s degree program, your physical therapist assistant education will include a few general-education requirements like math, English, science, and psychology. These courses will build your communication and problem-solving skills, and prepare you to adapt to changing conditions as your work takes you into different patients’ homes.
The bulk of your PTA degree program will focus on the specific skills and knowledge you need to excel as a home health physical therapist assistant. Coursework includes building a deep understanding of the human body and how it moves, plus how to provide therapy to all types of patients with wide-ranging medical conditions. You’ll take courses covering kinesiology, pharmacology, and orthopedics, and learn about various diseases and disabilities. You’ll also participate in plenty of hands-on training to teach you how to rehabilitate patients safely and effectively.
During the final stage of your physical therapist assistant education, you’ll perform supervised therapy work with real patients in a controlled clinical setting. Home health PTAs need to be prepared to handle surprises, which makes this type of real-world experience invaluable for building your confidence and therapeutic skills.
When deciding where to attend school for your physical therapist assistant degree, you may want to consider colleges that offer additional benefits like career counseling and job-placement services. Getting your PTA education from an institution that supports you in your job search can give you an advantage when it comes time to start your new career.
3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam
Before earning your PTA license and starting work as a home health physical therapist assistant, you’ll need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) to prove you’re capable of providing safe and effective patient care. The exam is a multiple-choice test with around 200 questions. You’ll have approximately four hours to complete the exam.
Practice exams can be a huge help when you’re preparing for test day. You can find practice exams through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (the same organization that administers the NPTE). The Practice Exam and Assessment Tool—or PEAT for short—will give you an idea of what to expect during the actual exam. You’ll also receive real-time feedback on any areas you may need to review before taking your certification exam.
Not everyone passes the NPTE on their first attempt, including many people who eventually become successful PTAs. If you come up short of the required passing score on your first try, don’t give up! However, be advised that you can only retake the test up to three times in any given 12-month period, so be sure to stay proactive about your NPTE exam prep.
4. Get Your PTA License on a State-By-State Basis
Once you’ve passed the NPTE, you’ll be eligible to become licensed in the state(s) where you plan to work. Because the NPTE is a national exam, it’s usually simple to transfer your scores and gain licensure in different states. If you’re working across state lines as a home health PTA, you’ll need to be licensed by every state in which you practice. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy will be your go-to resource for determining each state’s licensing requirements for PTAs.
Different states have varying requirements for maintaining your PTA license. However, most states will require occasional completion of ongoing education programs or proof of current employment and relevant work experience.
5. Gain Work Experience and Earn Additional Certifications
Before you can become a home health physical therapist assistant, you’ll likely need to build some work experience in more general physical therapy settings. Home health PTAs must be able to adapt to unpredictable situations and environments, so honing your skills is an important step before you can land one of the best jobs for home health PTAs.
Some of the most common advanced certifications for home health physical therapist assistants include specializations like orthopedics, neurology, oncology, and geriatrics. The American Physical Therapy Association offers some of the most-recognized advanced certifications for PTAs in all of the above areas. These advanced certifications help you better understand your patients and how to care for them, whether they’re dealing with brain injuries, serious physical trauma, a cancer diagnosis, or simply the effects of aging.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
The cost of earning a physical therapist assistant associate’s degree varies significantly between institutions and according to your financial situation. When comparing the cost of college, be sure to ask how much you can expect to spend on lab fees, books, and other materials. Some colleges will include all these as part of a flat-rate pricing structure per credit hour, saving you money in the long run.
Wherever you’re pursuing your PTA education, you should inquire about financial aid programs which can make college significantly more affordable. Most college’s financial-aid offices can help you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines your eligibility for federal and state grants, plus loans and institutional aid.
Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant Salary
How Much Do Home Health Physical Therapist Assistants Make?
Physical therapist assistants throughout the United States earn an average annual salary* of around $61,180, which is about $29.42 per hour. Salaries for PTAs among the top 25% of earners start at over $75,000. The highest-paid PTAs in the top 10% of earners routinely bring in $80,000 per year or more.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide salary* data specifically for home health physical therapist assistants, home health PTAs tend to be on the higher end of the salary* range. Home health physical therapist assistants often have years of experience and advanced certifications, making them more attractive candidates for the highest-paying PTA jobs.
Ready to Start Your Career as a Home Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
If you love meeting new people and enjoy working in different locations instead of in the same office day after day, becoming a home health physical therapist assistant should be one of the top PTA careers you consider. You’ll experience variety between patients and their home environments—but one thing that won’t change is the fulfillment you’ll experience while helping people along their recovery journeys.