Therapy Technician vs. Physical Therapist Assistant: Differences and Similarities

What are the differences between a physical therapist assistant and physical therapy aide?

Aside from a Doctor of Physical Therapy, there are other supporting roles within the industry to give aid, treatment, and support to patients. In today’s post, let’s take a look at the responsibilities of a physical therapist assistant and physical therapy technician.

Physical Therapy Technician: Job Description

Also called a physical therapy aide, a PT tech works in different physical therapy facilities such as fitness centers, universities, hospitals, private clinics, and more. However, technicians are not qualified to solely give treatment to patients.

One of the responsibilities of a physical therapy aide is to do clerical and administrative duties in the clinic.

Their main priority is to keep the clinic running smoothly. They ensure that the patients can move from station to station or room to room easily and comfortably.

Aside from those tasks, PT technicians can also assist in administrative tasks and other clerical and paperwork duties. This ensures that the clinic can offer the services their patients need without any administrative hold-ups delaying them.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, a PT tech is a “support staff who conducts designated tasks related to the operation of the physical therapy treatment.” These tasks mentioned above relate to the activities that don’t necessitate significant medical decisions that only a Doctor of Physical Therapy or physical therapist assistant can do.

Technicians are not allowed to conduct an initial exam, evaluation, or re-exam, create or alter a treatment plan, decide when to provide treatment to patients, determine when to discharge a patient, submit supporting documents, provide any diagnosis or prognosis, or deduce patient referrals.

Physical Therapist Assistant: Job Description

A physical therapist assistant or PTA, on the other hand, can offer general assistance in the treatment and care of all patients. They can also work in different healthcare settings, such as hospitals, private clinics, fitness centers, universities, etc.

A physical therapist assistant has more rigorous training and education requirements than a PT aide.

They operate under the direct supervision of their superior. Some of the primary responsibilities of a physical therapist assistant are:

  • Accurately collect and record patient information, such as muscle test findings, goniometric measurements, etc.
  • Offer treatments as directed by a physical therapist such as therapeutic exercises, electrotherapy, warm water therapy, the use of physical therapy machines, and other rehabilitation programs as developed by a physical therapist.
  • Ensuring the patients and caregivers have all the information they need in order to recover – whether it’s for an exercise program to do at home or a diet to follow.

According to the APTA, a physical therapist assistant are the ones who “implement selected parts of patient and client treatment, procure data related to the treatment, and make changes as needed in selected treatment sections – either to ensure the safety and comfort of the patient or to accelerate the recovery progress as directed by the physical therapist.

Education Requirements for PT Techs and PTAs

These two supporting roles in the industry have different education and training requirements. In terms of hierarchy, a physical therapist assistant is above a therapy technician. The former helps physical therapists provide the treatment patients need. 

In many cases, PTAs can also make on-the-spot clinical decisions when the situation calls for it. Because of this responsibility, the educational requirements and training requirements of assistants are more demanding than those of technicians’.

To become a physical therapist assistant, here are the educational requirements:

  • Associate’s Degree
  • Complete an accredited PTA program
  • Pass the licensure exam
  • Continue to obtain education units (this stipulation applies in most states)

To become a PT Tech, here are the education requirements:

  • 18 and older
  • GED or high school diploma
  • On-the-job training


No matter what the professional role is, the pay is influenced by the location of the job. This also applies to physical therapist assistant and technician jobs. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for PT assistants is $57,700. Texas pays assistants the highest (up to $69,000) out of all the states in the country. The final number will change depending on what type of setting an assistant works in a hospital, private clinic, assisted living facility, etc.

On the other hand, a technician earns an average of $28,000 annually. California pays PT technicians the most (up to $31,000). Similar to an assistant role, the salary of a technician also depends on the healthcare setting he or she is employed in. The highest-paying ones are in local government, technical consulting, and management settings.