Students in physical therapy assistant associate's degree programs take part in lecture-based classroom sessions and multiple clinical experiences that cover physical therapy treatments and procedures. Some courses can be taken online. Upon program completion, graduates are prepared for state-mandated licensure or certification in physical therapy assisting.
Prerequisites include background courses in anatomy, physiology, medical vocabulary or physical therapy. Optional personal interviews or college placement tests are also possible.
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Associate's Degree in Physical Therapy Assisting
Physical therapist assistant students are required to participate in a clinical practicum and professional work experiences. General education coursework is part of the curriculum as well. Major topics of study include:
- Exercise and strengthening techniques
- Body movement
- Human body structure and internal system functions
- Nature of disease
- Disorders of the nervous system
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Physical therapist aides and assistants work in a variety of health care settings, including private physical therapy practices, nursing homes and hospitals. Between 2014 and 2024, employment of physical therapy aides and assistants is predicted to grow 40%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, physical therapy aides made a median annual wage of $25,120, while physical therapy assistants earned a median annual wage of $55,170.
Professional Certification and Continuing Education Information
Most states require physical therapist assistants to obtain professional credentials, while none are required of physical therapist aides. Licensure requirements include completing a training program, passing an exam and participating in field experience. CPR and first aid certification may also be necessary. The most common exam for licensure qualification is the National Physical Therapy Exam, offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (www.fsbpt.org).
Job growth for both physical therapy aides and assistants far exceeds the national average for all other jobs. Although formal education is not required for aides, there are associate's degree programs for aspiring assistants.