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Online Course to Be a Physical Therapy Assistant: Course Overviews

Find out a little about the types of courses that can be taken online to become a physical therapy assistant. Look at some specific courses that might be found in a program. View article »

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  • 0:01 Essential Information
  • 1:01 PTA Course Descriptions

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Program Levels Certificate programs, associate degree
Field(s) of Study Physical therapy assistant training
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Online hybrid programs are available
In-Person Requirements Lab and hands-on coursework
Program Length 1 year for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degrees
Licensure/Certification Varies by state

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Physical therapy assistant courses are administered online through computer-based readings, assignments, video lectures, and online classroom discussions. Some physical therapy assistant certificate and associate's degree programs are available through combined distance-learning and on-site courses, but due to the nature of the training, some on-site laboratory work is required for students to gain hands-on experience.

It is common for many online physical therapy assistant programs to recommend that students complete general education requirements before enrolling in a program. Online courses in physical therapy assistance generally culminate with an Associate of Applied Science, which gives students the educational qualifications necessary to sit for the National Licensing Exam for Physical Therapist Assistants administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Graduates can seek careers as physical therapy assistants, or they can continue their education to become certified physical therapists.

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Physical Therapy Assistant Course Descriptions

While there are a range of courses offered in a physical therapy assistant program, there are some that are most commonly found in every program. Let's take a look at some of these courses:

  • An intro to physical therapy course introduces students to basic professional practices and the medical issues inherent in physical therapy work. Students learn about common injuries, therapeutic exercise, and functional training.
  • A clinical and pathological physiology course teaches human movement and bodily functions, while training students to understand abnormal functioning and the diseases that can lead to limited or painful movement. The course provides an overview of diseases commonly dealt with in physical therapy.
  • A gross anatomy course provides students with a basic understanding of the locations and functions of different parts of the body. Because the course relies heavily on laboratory work, it may require more classroom time for students in distance education programs, though the ratio of online work to laboratory work varies from program to program.
  • A therapeutic exercise course focuses on the basics of therapeutic exercise, which involves the different ways people can move and train their bodies to overcome an injury or movement-inhibiting illness. This course provides students with the theoretical understanding necessary to plan out and implement various exercise regimens.
  • In a body systems terminology course, students familiarize themselves with the vocabulary used to describe systems of organs, muscles, bones, and nerves that run throughout the body, and they learn how to apply these terms in physical therapy practice.

Courses in an online physical therapy assistant program focus on teaching students about the human body and how it works, while also providing the skills needed to enter the workforce as a physical therapy assistant.

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