Over the course of a physical therapy assistant associate's degree program, students learn therapeutic techniques in the classroom and through hands-on clinical training. Most programs require a high school diploma or GED for admission. Many also require that students first complete a physical therapy assistant certificate program. Some schools offer a combination certificate/associate degree program. Licensed physical therapy assistants work closely with physical therapists to aid patients with mobility exercises, pain medications and physical therapy equipment.
Associate's Degree in Physical Therapy
During the first year of study, programs emphasize general education courses and introductory healthcare topics like anatomy. The second year incorporates advanced science courses and clinical training. Programs are typically split between classroom work and hands-on training. Graduates of associate's programs are prepared to take state licensure exams in physical therapy assisting. Some courses a student should expect to take include the following:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Patient care
- Medical ethics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for physical therapy assistants were predicted to grow by 27% between 2018 and 2028, which was much greater than the national average (www.bls.gov). As the number of people with disabilities or injuries increases, so will the demand for physical therapy services. The median salary for physical therapy assistants was $58,790 according to BLS data from May 2019.
Continuing Education Information
Many physical therapy assistants decide to take the next step in their training by entering physical therapist training programs. For students who are interested in this option, there are several schools that offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in physical therapy. Additionally, many professional clinics offer physical therapy assistant specialization courses, allowing physical therapy assistants to employ the specific skills desired by the physical therapists they assist.
Coursework and clinical experiences in physical therapy associate's degree programs can prepare students for employment in a promising career path. A healthy job growth was projected for physical therapy assistants during the 2018-2028 decade, and there are multiple options for students who want to continue their education and advance in the field.