Physical Therapy Assistant License Information and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a physical therapy assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and credentialing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

A physical therapy assistant (PTA) is not required to hold a license. However, many states regulate physical therapy assistants by ensuring that they complete some form of credentialing, whether that's certification, licensure or registration. An associate's degree in physical therapy assisting is the minimum educational requirement to enter into the profession.

Required Education Associate's degree in physical therapy assisting
Credentialing Varies by state; PTAs must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 41%*
Median Salary (2013) $53,360*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

License Information for Physical Therapy Assistants

Many states regulate the physical therapy assistant occupation, but a license is not required to work. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) mentions that most states regulate the profession by requiring physical therapy assistants to hold either a license, certificate or registration. While these regulations may vary from state to state, two requirements are fairly common.

First, a physical therapy assistant must have completed a degree program that is accredited. Second, graduates of an accredited physical therapy assisting degree program must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (www.fsbpt.org).

Those states that do require a license to practice also ensure that a minimum number of continuing education courses be completed to keep the license valid. State licensing boards are the best source of information on requirements governing physical therapy assistants.

Education Requirements

Many states require that would-be physical therapy assistants complete a 2-year associate's degree program in physical therapy assisting. Students should look for physical therapy assisting programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). CAPTE-accredited programs are listed on the website of the American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org).

Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assisting

An associate's degree program in physical therapy assisting combines general education courses with classes in physical therapy assisting field experiences and theory. Students receive instruction on the major areas of physical therapy assisting but must first complete foundation courses in areas such as anatomy and physiology, sports performance and human development.

Core classes address subjects such as pathology, therapeutic exercise, orthopedics, neurological disorders and advanced physical therapy procedures. Clinical experiences are taken in the second year of enrollment, and they require students to test their knowledge of physical therapy assisting while working in a controlled, supervised environment. An internship, if offered, supplies additional practical experience that provides graduates with a stronger chance of securing a full-time position.

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