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Degree Overview: Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant

Majors Overview March 8, 2014

A master’s degree program is required for the field of physical therapy, Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree programs are not available for physical therapists. However, those interested in a career as a physical therapy assistant can look into Associate of Science (A.S.) degree programs in physical therapist assistant.

A.S. Programs in Physical Therapist Assistant

Students enrolled in Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Degree Programs learn to perform supervised work on the watch of a physical therapist in administering treatments and overseeing therapies for individuals suffering from mobility-limiting disabilities and injuries. Both clinical studies and classroom lectures are included in these two-year degree programs that are devised to assist students in gaining the knowledge and skills they would need to work with such patients in a professional healthcare environment.

Before they are taught tasks specifically suited to the physical therapist assistant’s role, students are imparted knowledge on the rudiments of healthcare science, medical terminology and human anatomy. Clinical experiences include in such programs are taught to assist students with communicating one-on-one with patients, working under the supervision of physical therapists, performing basic therapeutic exercises and handling real-world problems likely to arise in a clinical setting.

Education Prerequisites

Admission criteria related to physical therapist assistant associate’s degree programs typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma; they are also required to have completed introductory college level or advanced high school-level courses in English, chemistry and biology.


It typically takes 4-5 semesters to complete the program; in the first few, theory and science coursework is covered and in the later semesters, students are required to complete clinical and laboratory experience. Coursework may often include:

•Physical therapy fundamentals
•Musculoskeletal conditions
•Physical therapy modalities
•Human anatomy
•Health science laboratory
•Disabilities procedures
•Clinical physical therapy assistance

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2012, there were about 121,400 physical therapy aides and assistants hired by healthcare organizations, including nursing home facilities, hospitals and health practitioners, in the United States; (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2012, assistants took home an average annual wage of about $39,430; Florida, Texas and Ohio were among the highest paying states for the profession.

Continuing Education and Certification Choices

Licensure is compulsory for physical therapist assistants in most states; passage of the National Physical Therapy Exam will help accomplish it. Qualification for the exam requires completion of an associate’s degree program in physical therapy that carries the accreditation of the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. While a master’s degree is necessary for physical therapist assistants to become physical therapists, they can aspire to teaching and administrative roles with work experience in physical therapy departments.

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