CECU: Career Education Addresses Shortage of Physical Therapy Assistants

February 3, 2017 - Washington, DC - This month the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 7.6 million Americans are unemployed, while at the same time 5.5 million jobs remain unfilled in America. This gap in labor exists because employers demand job-ready employees and millions of prospective employees are simply not able to bridge the skills gap without appropriate career education and training. One such career is the expected shortage of physical therapist assistants where 51,400 additional professionals are needed by 2024. 
This is projected to be a very high-growth profession: the BLS estimates a much faster than average growth rate of 40% over the next decade. This is likely due in large part to health concerns affecting the aging population of baby-boomers, reports BLS. The larger population as well is expected to seek out physical therapy services, both due to activity-related injuries and diseases such as obesity, a disease affecting 36.5% of U.S. adults according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU)’s Campaign to Create 5 Million Career Professionals, supported by research from the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS database, shows the impact postsecondary career education colleges and universities have in providing trained physical therapist assistants. From 2011-2015, the sector graduated 7,283 students with the academic credentials needed for a career as a physical therapist assistant, and is projected to produce more than 25,000 graduates in the next decade – approximately one-half of those needed.

Physical therapist assistants work with patients under the direction of a physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants administer various treatments and exercises to help alleviate patients’ symptoms, and report on the progress of patients to the physical therapist.  BLS shows a high median annual salary of about $55,000 for physical therapist assistants, higher than both the median salary for healthcare support occupations and the median salary for all occupations.

“Physical therapist assistants are a crucial part of delivering quality care to patients and helping both adults and children recover from injuries or disease,” said Stephen South, president of South College. “By studying to become a physical therapist assistant, students are preparing for a rewarding career working to improve people's lives.”

“The projections show that this is an excellent time to prepare for and enter the field of physical therapy. Professionals in this field earn good wages and have stable jobs,” said Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of CECU. “Our institutions provide well-trained professionals to fill the rapidly increasing demand.”

About Shortage of Skills
Each month CECU will profile America’s “Shortage of Skills” (SOS) in one key industry. We will examine industries that are critical to America’s economic advancement and explain how a well-educated and well-trained workforce can address these issues. See previous SOS releases here.

About Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU)
Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU) is a membership organization of accredited institutions of higher education that provide postsecondary education with a career focus. CECU’s work supports thousands of campuses that education millions of students.  

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