Physical Therapist Assistant Associate Degree
Physical therapist assistant programs explore human physiology, therapeutic techniques and injury rehabilitation. Learn more about the program in general, accredited schools, educational prerequisites and career prospects.
What Will I Learn in a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate Program?
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.
|Typical Courses||Anatomy and physiology, rehabilitation techniques, physical therapy, kinesiology|
|Online Options||Some schools offer hybrid programs|
|Accredited Programs||The APTA accredits 340 PTA programs offered at community colleges, technical schools and universities (as of April 2016)|
|Admission Requirements||Physical examination, criminal background check, work/observational experience may be required|
|Licensure||Required throughout United States; includes passing the National Physical Therapy Examination|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||30% growth (for physical therapist assistants and aides)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$48,090 (for physical therapist assistants and aides)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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 (www.bls.gov). 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 (www.apta.org). As of April 2016, there are 340 community colleges, universities and technical schools offering associate's degree programs for physical therapist assistants.
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 2016, all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands 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 30% between 2016 and 2026. In May 2018, the BLS estimated that the national median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $58,040.