Online Physical Therapy Assistant Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online physical therapy assistant school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, on-campus factors, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Prospective physical therapy assistants can seek out online training in the form of associate's degree. Before deciding on a program, they should consider whether the program will prepare students to take various licensing exams, the in-person requirements of the programs, and the technical requirements of the program.

How to Select an Online Physical Therapy Assistant School

Students considering online physical therapy schools must make their decision based on several key factors. There are only a few available programs offered through distance education that lead to a professional degree in physical therapy assisting. Distance education programs for physical therapy assistants are offered in hybrid or low-residency formats, typically by 2-year schools. A hybrid program features online courses but also requires students to spend at least part of the time on campus. This gives students a chance to complete lab reviews and field examinations. Students must then weigh the technical requirements with the accreditation steps.

Technical Requirements

Online degree programs require high-speed Internet to accommodate the download of course materials and the transmission of media files like video or live streaming. Students must have access to a fast online network with a DSL or a cable connection. Students are expected to spend at least 20 hours per week studying, reading and reviewing online course materials. Up-to-date operating systems and browsers are also necessary.

Accreditation and Licensure Prep

Programs accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association are designed to prepare students for the National Physical Therapy Assistant Exam. Although not all states require a license, many employers may prefer to hire certified or licensed physical therapy assistants.

Online Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

Associate Degrees for Physical Therapist Assistants

The online curriculum for physical therapy assistants is designed for a 2-year full-time or 3-year part-time schedule. The curriculum includes general liberal arts electives in English and math, as well as major-specific courses in biology, psychology, human anatomy and physiology.

Since hybrid programs contain a mandatory on-campus residency requirement, hands-on courses such as the introduction to physical therapist practice course and introductory lab courses are offered on-campus. In addition to the on-campus course requirement, students enrolled in the online program must complete a clinical residency program usually during the last semester of their studies. After a successful completion of the program, students qualify for the state-licensing exam. Core requirements for the degree include:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Clinical kinesiology
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Rehabilitation principles

Schools with Online Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

San Juan College offers a partially online Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assisting. Students who enroll in the online program can complete the degree in eight semesters, though there are some on-campus requirements. For every lab course that students are enrolled in, they can expect to spend from nine to 16 days on campus at the end of each semester to complete the hands-on requirements. In the final year of the program, students will also have to complete three clinical internship experiences. The online program is designed so that students complete about two courses every semester, meaning they likely will have the time to hold a full time job.

Jefferson State Community College offers a hybrid Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assisting. This degree requires that students complete general education and prerequisite courses before moving on to the actual PTA coursework. As a hybrid program, students are required to be on-campus for laboratory courses, though they can access lectures online. During the first two semesters, students are expected to be on-campus for labs two or three days a week. During the third semester, students must complete a 40 hour per week clinical internship at a health care facility.

In summary, students can partially pursue Physical Therapy Assistant programs online, though they should keep in mind that in-person clinical components will have to be completed in order to graduate and to meet professional certification standards.

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