What Are the Classes in an Online Physical Therapy Assistant Program?

Physical therapy assistants perform many of the same functions as physical therapists, and train through comprehensive associate's degree programs. Due to the hands-on nature of the occupation, online physical therapy assistant programs are not available. Read below for information regarding the possible core classes of a physical therapy assistant program. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties and Qualifications

Physical therapy assistants are responsible for carrying out many physical therapy-related tasks, including hot and cold pack application, electrical stimulation and patient education. Assistants may help physical therapists document a patient's response to therapy and prepare equipment. Most states require that physical therapy assistants earn a license, which generally requires completing an accredited training program and passing a competency exam.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Compassion, detail-oriented, dexterity, interpersonal skills, physical stamina
Work Environment Physical therapist offices and hospitals
Median Salary (2018) $48,090 (for physical therapy assistants and aides)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 30% (for physical therapy assistants and aides)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Overview

While some online physical therapy assistant courses are available, the hands-on nature of the job makes an exclusively online degree program impossible to provide. Students benefit from the practical, clinical experience they gain in on-site programs.

These are associate's degree programs typically offered by community colleges. Most require about two years of full-time study. They are designed to introduce students to the techniques and skills used in the field and include lab classes and field experiences in addition to classroom instruction. Some of the core classes found in physical therapy assistant programs are discussed below.

Introduction to Physical Therapy

This course is designed as a broad overview of the field of physical therapy. Students examine the role that a physical therapy assistant plays within the overall health care system. Historical events and eras that have shaped the modern practice of physical therapy are studied. Laws and regulations related to the field are investigated, and students learn about the licensure requirements for physical therapy careers.

Patient Care Skills

Physical therapy assistant students in this course explore the behavior and techniques necessary to run an effective clinical practice. Health care professional standards are examined and students are introduced to the various ethical and legal issues associated with physical therapy. The patient-staff relationship is discussed, and students examine the repercussions of professional misconduct.


This course examines the lower extremity and its related biomechanics. Students discuss gait analysis and muscle insertion and origin. Muscle strength testing is explored, and students learn basic lower extremity exercise techniques. Techniques for correcting atypical gait patterns are also investigated.

Other Core Classes

  • Physical therapy procedures
  • Clinical education
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Therapeutic exercise

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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