Physical Therapist Assistant Associate Degree

Physical therapist assistant programs explore human physiology, therapeutic techniques and injury rehabilitation. Learn about accredited schools, degree requirements, educational prerequisites and career and salary info. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Where Can I Find a Program Leading to a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate's Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states will require you to have an associate's degree in order to practice as a physical therapist assistant ( The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is the only recognized accrediting agency for PTA programs, which has a directory of accredited schools ( As of August 2011, there were over 230 community colleges, universities and technical schools offering associate's degree programs for physical therapist assistants.

What Do These Programs Involve?

Within two years, you can earn an Associate of Applied Science or an Associate of Science degree for physical therapist assistants. The curriculum can have 72-111 credits, but some schools will allow you to complete general education courses prior to admission. Core courses can include anatomy and physiology, physical therapy, kinesiology, therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation techniques. Due to the nature of the occupation, you'll also undergo clinical training at school-approved health care facilities. Your ability to pursue online instruction in a PTA associate's degree program is quite rare. Hybrid programs may limit the online components to general education and prerequisite courses.

What Prerequisites Are There?

Some schools will require you to have verified work and observational experience at one or more physical therapy facilities. In some situations, a certain amount of time spent as a patient in a physical therapy facility may count toward experience. Prior to acceptance, you'll generally have to undergo a criminal background check. Once accepted, you must pass a physical examination.

What Job Outlook and Salary Can I Expect?

The APTA states that as of 2011, 48 states and the District of Columbia require you be licensed, registered or certified to practice as a PTA. Once you've earned your degree, you may qualify to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination. States may add their own individual requirements for licensure.

The BLS reported that job prospects for licensed physical therapist assistants were very good, projecting that employment of PTAs and physical therapy aides would increase 35% between 2008 and 2018. In May 2010, the BLS estimated that the national mean annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $49,810.

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