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How to Choose a Physical Therapy Technician School

Associate degree and non-degree programs in physical therapy assisting exist to prepare graduates for a supporting career in the physical therapy field. These programs can be found at community colleges, technical schools and vocational institutes.

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A physical therapy technician may refer to aides or assistants who help licensed physical therapists treat patients who are impeded in their mobility through illness or injury. Postsecondary education is not typically required for a physical therapy aide, though several schools offer 1- to 2-year formal training programs that help students develop foundational knowledge to enter the field as well as associate's degree programs for aspiring physical therapy assistants.

10 Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

Some physical therapy assistant programs in the United States are offered at the institutions listed here.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*
Loma Linda University Loma Linda, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Associate's $32,572
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AK 4-year, Public Associate's In-state $8,050; Out-of-state $14,050
College of Central Florida Ocala, FL 4-year, primarily associate's, Public Associate's In-state $2,570; Out-of-state $10,126
Jackson State Community College Jackson, TN 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $3,933; Out-of-state $15,333
Great Falls College, Montana State University Great Falls, MT 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $3,130; Out-of-state $9,382
Broward College Fort Lauderdale, FL 4-year, primarily associate's, Public Certificate In-state $2,753; Out-of-state $8,875
Illinois Central College East Peoria, IL 2-year, Public Associate's In-district $4,050; In-state $8,700; Out-of-state $10,050
Lorain County Community College Elyria, OH 2-year, Public Associate's In-district $3,077; In-state $3,679; Out-of-state $7,302
ECPI University Virginia Beach, VA 4-year, primarily associate's, Private for-profit Associate's $14,755
Pearl River Community College Poplarville, MS 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $2,855; Out-of-state $5,253

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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School Selection Criteria

There are several things to consider when selecting a physical therapy technician program:

  • Students will want to decide whether they want to work as an aide or as an assistant; the responsibilities of aides generally fall into the administrative and preparation categories, while physical therapy assistants provide more hands-on support to physical therapists and have more interaction with patients.
  • Since most states mandate licensure for physical therapy assistants, students are encouraged to review the specific requirements as outlined by their state licensing boards, as well as the accreditation and licensure objectives of prospective programs.
  • Aspiring physical therapy assistants may gain advanced employment opportunities through specialization in areas such as neuromuscular, geriatric, musculoskeletal and pediatric studies, so students may wish to look for associate degree programs that offer academic and clinical opportunities in these areas.
  • Students should consider available school-sponsored or student-run associations or clubs that help to establish greater connection amongst peers for academic and professional networking, as well as research opportunities and professional activities that offer additional learning outside the classroom.

Training Programs for Physical Therapy Aides

Coursework for a physical therapy aide program introduces students to the rehabilitation environment. Students learn about the muskuloskeletal system, how to monitor vital signs and different movement and motion exercises. Typically, these programs do not lead to a degree.

Associate Degrees for Physical Therapy Assistants

Associate degree programs for physical therapy assistants typically take two years to complete and qualify students for the appropriate certification or licensure within their states. Students learn different methods for treating disabilities or injuries, pediatric and geriatric considerations, medication treatments and specialized approaches for such areas as orthopedics or neurological issues. Students typically participate in one or more clinical rotations, gaining experience under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

No formal postsecondary training is required to be a physical therapy aide; however, physical therapy assistants are required to have an associate's degree. Physical therapy assistants must be licensed by their state, so it is important to select a program that is accredited.

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