Physical Therapist vs. Physical Therapy Assistant

In the world of physical therapy, you will hear the words physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) used frequently. What is the difference you may ask?

The main difference is that a PT is responsible for conducting evaluations and creating a plan of care, while a PTA is specialized in performing treatments based on the plan created by the PT.

Physical Therapists:

  1. Receive doctorate degrees (required starting in 2016)
  2. Evaluate a new patient to assess need for PT services
  3. Create goals and a plan of care for each new patient
  4. Supervise the treatments provided by PTA
  5. Re-assess patients and write progress notes

Physical Therapist Assistants:

  1. Specialize in treatment based on plan of care in order to reach set goals
  2. Assist PT staff with managing caseloads by performing treatments
  3. Collaborates with PT to create optimal treatment plans for each individual patient
  4. Receive associate degrees; however, many continue education with a bachelor's degree in other fields.

PTs and PTAs work hand-in-hand to ensure the best possible treatment and outcome for the kiddos at Sidekick Therapy Partners as well as any other therapy setting. The PTs and PTAs of Sidekick are always in constant communication to ensure each child is receiving the best care possible, brainstorming ideas for treatments, and coming together to ensure the goals and plan of care established is what is best for each individual child.

-Amy Smith, PT, DPT


The Clinical Doctorate (or “DPT”) Becomes the Only Degree Conferred by CAPTE-Accredited Educational Institutions. – APTA Centennial. Published 2021. Accessed September 22, 2021.

About Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants. American Physical Therapy Association. Published 2021. Accessed September 22, 2021.

Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant. Published 2021. Accessed September 22, 2021.