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Overview of Associate Degree Programs to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

Majors Overview March 9, 2014

Physical therapy assistants perform work on the watch of physical therapists in various places, such as schools, hospitals and sports clinics, and help to restore the physical functioning of those who may be ailing from disease or injury. It is also a highly demanding job (BLS). Individuals who seek careers in the field should earn an associate’s degree involving classes and clinical studies that they can also use to obtain licensure.

There are also many certificate programs in physical therapy assisting for those who may have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated area. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education is the agency that accredits programs offered by colleges and universities.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Incoming students to some programs are required to have completed high school level courses in biology, chemistry and algebra with a passing grade of ‘C’ or above.


Coursework in the 2-year program typically includes general education courses, such as English composition and math, in addition to specific courses in physical therapy. One or more clinical internship experiences are included in most programs. Coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Exercise as therapy
•Physical therapy for patients with medical conditions
•Basic and advanced anatomy and physiology
•Physical therapists on a health care team
•Muscle testing and posture analysis

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 41% has been projected for physical therapy assistants during the decade from 2012 to 2022 (BLS). This increase is expected to be driven by a general wish to lower health care costs by an aging population. In 2012, physical therapy assistants took home an average annual wage of $39,430.

Certification, Continuing Education, and Licensure

Earning a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy will help physical therapy assistants boost their career prospects though employers prefer candidates to hold master’s degrees (BLS). Continuing education opportunities in physical therapy and job placement help are offered by a professional organization called the American Physical Therapy Association.

Physical therapy assistants require licensure in most states. The National Physical Therapy Exam, a requirement for licensure, is administered by an organization called the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy working with individual states for the purpose.

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