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OTAs, PTAs Ride Demographic Wave to New Opportunities

OTAs, PTAs Ride Demographic Wave to New Opportunities

Cindy Mehallow, Monster Contributing Writer

“Research today has a greater emphasis on function and participation, which lends itself to occupational therapy,” she says. To learn about research opportunities, contact local universities.

PTAs: Stay Competitive

More on Occupational Therapists


Salary: $40,840 - $89,450
Min. Education: Master's
Related Careers: Physical Therapist, Social Worker

For PTAs, the good news is that demand for their services exceeds supply. As more patients experience physical therapy and enjoy its benefits — like quicker recovery after a joint replacement — they’re more likely to seek these services again.

“Our patient population is becoming more educated,” says David Emerick Sr., a PTA and acute rehab program manager for Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia. “Older people and their younger relatives are demanding services and asking educated questions.”

The bad news is that all this demand is attracting competition. Athletic trainers, exercise physiologists and massage therapists are all college-educated professionals targeting the same patients. “Everyone is jockeying to be reimbursed for physical therapy,” Emerick explains. “But only two are approved right now through Medicare and Medicaid — PTs and PTAs.”

One survival strategy for PTAs: Acquire the skills to compete. Become dual-certified, perhaps as a certified athletic trainer or exercise physiologist, Emerick suggests. Get a sense of where patient volume is — cardiology, neurology or wound care, for example — and gain the skills to become marketable in those areas.

The American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) advanced proficiency recognition program, launched in 2004, allows PTAs to demonstrate proficiency in one of the following areas: neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, integumentary (skin) and cardiovascular/pulmonary. These credentials demonstrate to employers that you’ve broadened your knowledge. PTAs can also take courses through the APTA’s Section on Geriatrics.

For both OTAs and PTAs, combining transferable skills from a previous career with therapy expertise can open other doors. Using administrative skills to manage a wellness program or leveraging construction skills in a modifications consulting venture are two such examples.

Find out more about becoming an occupational therapy assistant!


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