Physical Therapy Assistant Training Programs and Requirements

Physical therapy assistants are responsible for assisting physical therapists with a variety of clinical tasks. Assistants work closely with full-fledged therapists and may administer much of a patient's treatment.

Essential Information

The majority of physical therapy assistants complete at least an associate degree in the field. Some may pursue a bachelor's or more advanced degree in a related field. Advanced degrees are only necessary for students who wish to go on to become a physical therapist. Assistants usually gain experience working with patients before entering the workforce and must be certified before practicing.

  • Program Length: 2 years for associate's degree
  • Program Specializations: Pediatric Physical Therapy, Neuromuscular Physical Therapy
  • Experiential Learning: Clinicals

Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assisting

The Associate of Science (A.S.) in Physical Therapy Assisting is a 2-year, undergraduate degree program that introduces students to the basics of the field. Students generally take core courses, such as English composition and psychology. They also complete physical therapist assistant classes, such as physiology, pathology and rehabilitation. Most A.S. programs for physical therapy assistants include off-campus, organized clinical experience. Students can therefore engage in hands-on, practical therapy with patients in a clinic. Some clinical experience may take place during the semester while some may be offered during the summer months. This experience is valuable to physical therapists who seek qualified assistants. Some course topics might include:

  • Rehabilitation
  • Administrative procedures
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Physical therapist assistant techniques

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, physical therapy assistants make a mean annual wage of $54,330 as of May 2014. The job outlook for this career is expected to grow 41% from 2012-2022, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Continuing Education

Physical therapist assistants must be licensed by the state in which they wish to work. This involves graduating from an accredited institution and passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) administers an exam specifically for physical therapist assistants. Some states may also require assistants to pass a state-administered exam.

Many workshops are available to physical therapist assistants who wish to develop their knowledge of the field. Because technology in the field is always changing, seminars to keep assistants current may be available. Professionals may learn to use new techniques in the treatment of physical therapy patients. Physical therapist assistants may choose to further specialize in a particular area of the field, such as pediatric or neuromuscular physical therapy. They may also pursue a career in an administrative or management role at a physical therapy clinic.

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