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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree for Physical Therapist Assistants

Majors Overview February 28, 2014

Those interested in caring for patients may want to look into Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree programs. Graduates of these programs are able to work under physical therapists’ supervision and sit for national certification examinations.

A.A. Programs for Physical Therapist Assistants

Injured and ill patients depend on the assistance of a physical therapist assistant in improving their mobility, relieving pain associated with injury and illness, and preventing further injuries. A physical therapist assistant may assist individuals suffering from cerebral palsy, arthritis, fractures, heart disease, back pain and head injuries.

Students enrolled in Associate Degree Programs to become a Physical Therapist Assistant are required to complete coursework that typically includes both classroom lectures and clinical studies at university or college-affiliated institutions. Students who complete a physical therapist assistant degree program may be awarded an Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Science degree and provided with the skills and knowledge they would need in order to join health care teams as integral members.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Some schools also expect students to complete prerequisite classes in English, biology and mathematics.


Clinical studies are augmented by classroom lectures aimed at preparing students to maintain industry standards while performing their duties. Coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Patient care
•Health care statistics
•Health care ethics
•Rehabilitation methods
•Anatomy and physiology
•Medical terminology
•Exercise therapies

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 41% has been projected for physical therapist assistants during the decade from 2012 to 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, physical therapist assistants took home an average annual wage of $39,430.

Certification and Continuing Education Choices

Those who successfully complete a physical therapist assistant associate degree program are trained to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination, a requirement for practice in the majority of states. Additional stipulations, such as state exams may be required in other states. Some states make licensure, registration or certification mandatory for physical therapists wishing to work there. Graduates may also choose to continue their education by earning bachelor’s degrees in related fields, such as health administration or health science.

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