Physical therapy assistants may aid patients with therapeutic exercises or utilize stretching movements to treat various ailments. Most physical therapy assistants earn an associate's degree or receive on-the-job training. Coursework focuses on the administrative aspect of physical therapy assisting, which includes data collection and the measurement and documentation of a patient's progress. Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the examination required to become a licensed physical therapy assistant.
The minimum education prerequisite for an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Physical Therapy Assisting is a high school diploma or GED. Most programs also require a minimum high school GPA and the demonstration of competency in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics. Proficiency in these areas may be demonstrated through a placement test or by previous college coursework. Interviews are a common aspect of the admissions process for an associate's degree program in physical therapy assisting as well.
AAS in Physical Therapy Assisting
Students of an AAS degree program in physical therapy assisting learn a variety of rehabilitation procedures, including ultrasound, heat, massage and hydrotherapy, which help reduce pain, improve mobility and prevent further disability in patients. An AAS in physical therapy assisting is generally a 2-year program that combines lecture and laboratory coursework. A supervised clinical externship at a local healthcare facility is a requirement of most programs, as well as the following courses:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical ethics
- Medical terminology
- Physical therapy techniques
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Most employers for physical therapy assistants are found in hospitals, physician's offices, nursing homes and therapist's offices. Physical therapy assistants may also travel to patients' homes to help them with their treatment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a physical therapy assistant as of May 2015 was $55,170. Due to a rapidly increasing demand for physical therapy services, employment in this field is expected to grow by 41% between 2014 and 2024, which is significantly higher than the average rate for all occupations.
Students looking to become physical therapy assistants can complete a two-year associate's degree program. The program typically includes hands-on training in a supervised clinical externship.