Physical Therapist's Assistant Certification and Degree Programs

A physical therapist's assistant helps people recover physically from trauma, disease or disability. Get information on the job duties, degree program options and state certification requirements for this profession. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Physical Therapist's Assistant Do?

A physical therapist assistant helps physical therapists provide aid to clients who have suffered from physical disabilities, pain or mobility issues resulting from disease, trauma or chronic conditions. You provide clients with instructions, help perform treatments and prepare therapy equipment. Additionally, you assess how patients react to treatment and write reports for your supervising physical therapist.

Job ResponsibilitiesHelp clients perform treatments, prepare therapy equipment, write reports, assist the physical therapist
Degree ProgramsDegrees are typically offered at the associate degree level
Common CoursesKinesiology, physical therapy principles, patient care, medical terminology, physiology
LicensureStates set their own licensure requirements, but generally you must complete an accredited program and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam
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

What Degree Programs Are There?

The law generally requires you to have at least an associate's degree to become a physical therapist assistant. Many community colleges and some universities offer physical therapist assistant programs. The programs last approximately two years and include a combination of classroom and clinical instruction. Some programs may be partially offered online, although externships need to be completed onsite. Prerequisites vary from school to school, but in general, programs require you to meet a minimum GPA in your prerequisite and general education courses. You may be required to pass a background check.

What Courses Will I Take?

Programs focus on a combination of general education and physical therapy courses. Classes you may take include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, psychology, kinesiology, disabilities and treatment, physical therapy principles and patient care. Most programs also include hands-on clinical courses where you can apply what you've learned in the classroom to a work setting. In addition, you may be required to maintain CPR and first aid certification throughout your course of study.

Do I Need to Be Licensed or Certified?

Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but most require you to graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam offered through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Your state may require additional state exams, and there may be continuing education requirements to maintain licensure. Contact your state's licensing board for more information. Certification for physical therapist assistants isn't available, although the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties acknowledges physical therapist assistants with skills in specialty areas.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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