Non-Traditional Roles For PTAs

A physical therapist assistant degree and license can be an open door to many possibilities

A vast majority of PTAs work in clinical settings of one kind or another – outpatient, skilled care, hospital, outpatient, home health… you get the idea. What many PTs and PTAs don’t know is that while there are certain limitations on what PTAs can do from a licensure standpoint, there are many non-traditional and non-clinical roles available.

This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list/post. It should help to give you an idea of the kinds of things that are possible that aren’t talked about in PTA school.

  • Clinic/agency owner – Yes, you read that right. While a PTA isn’t allowed to supervise and instruct a PT for patient treatment, there is not reason why they cannot have ownership in an outpatient clinic or home health agency.
  • Program development – Again, while you can’t be in a supervisory role, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop special programs and protocols for patient treatment. I know of PTAs who are in charge of fall prevention, orthopedic, and vestibular programs in home health agencies.
  • Education – This includes working as a professor in a PTA program and teaching continuing education courses. I personally have been a speaker twice at the APTA Combined Sections Meeting and also at the Kansas Physical Therapy Association State Conference.
  • Employee health – Many large employers, especially ones that have physically demanding jobs, are more than happy to offer services and injury prevention training to their employees. PTAs can provide many services in this area, including pre-employment work screening.
  • Quality assurance/utilization review – I know you might be thinking, “I hate documentation, why would I want to do even more of that?!” Well, then this one isn’t for you. But some PTAs have a good eye for detail and have found a niche with chart auditing, coding, and making sure their clinic/agency is current with compliance requirements.
  • Technology – There is a lot that can fit under this category. Times are changing rapidly and this area is expanding at light speed. I have found work in the past with social media marketing, technology development, and implementation of new tech to improve clinical practice.

Important note! Please make sure to check your state practice act before working in a role that you are unfamiliar with. This is true for clinical and non-traditional care. Some states are very restrictive on what is/isn’t allowed for PTAs and other states have specific requirements for those wanting to work in the wellness/fitness space. Be informed, your license could be at stake.

Important takeaway – the future is bright for PTAs

There are and will continue to be challenges ahead for physical therapist assistants. Clinical opportunities are likely to continue to grow as the baby boomer generation ages, though recent legislation is cutting back on reimbursement for PTA treatment. The advances in technology might be the most promising, both in providing patient treatment and in improving opportunities for program development, employee health, and using tech that hasn’t even been developed yet!

Interested in more non-clinical careers for therapists? Check out The Non-Clinical PT website.


3 thoughts on “Non-Traditional Roles For PTAs

  1. Thank you for this post! I’m in PTA school (about halfway through) and I’ve started to wonder if I’ve made the wrong choice/took the wrong path. It’s really been bumming me out – but this post has totally lit me up. I’m starting to feel more hopeful and excited for my career/future. I felt like being a PTA would “limit” me and my future too much – but this post is making me feel like I was wrong about that. Can’t wait to go read more posts!


    1. I’m glad you found it helpful/hopeful. The job market is upside down for more professions right now and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future. But I believe there will always be a need for quality therapists to provide rehab and care. When competition increases, it helps to have a diverse set of skills to increase your value. I strongly encourage all the students I’ve worked with to try multiple settings and get involved in whatever non-traditional roles are available. You never know where you might find your calling/niche!


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