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. Students have the option of selecting program specializations such as pediatric physical therapy or neuromuscular physical therapy.
Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assisting
The Associate of Science (A.S.) in Physical Therapy Assisting program introduces students to the basics of the field. In addition to courses such as English composition and psychology, students 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 experiences, which may be offered during the semester or during the summer months. Some course topics might include:
- Administrative procedures
- Therapeutic exercise
- Physical therapist assistant techniques
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, physical therapy assistants made a median salary of $55,170 as of May 2015. The job outlook for this career is expected to grow 41% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.
Physical therapist assistants must be licensed by the state in which they wish to work. The first step is graduating from an accredited institution, then 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. They may also pursue a career in an administrative or management role at a physical therapy clinic.
Physical therapy assistants must obtain an associate's degree, and they must be licensed in their state in order to work this profession. Individuals in this career field have the opportunity to specialize or obtain more schooling if they want to earn more money in this fast growing career.