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Physical Therapy Assistants



Schools and Education

What's Needed:

  • Most states require an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist school
  • Students should seek programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
  • Clinical experience is vital to most employers

What you study:

Associate in Physical Therapist Assistant degree programs focus on rehabilitation methods. These programs include academic coursework and clinical experience. Most include three clinical practicums in the last three semesters of the program. Some physical therapist assistants obtain additional education to obtain jobs in management administration and education.

Studies typically include:

  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Medical terminology
  • Physiology
  • Healthcare law
  • Rehabilitation procedures
  • Human development
  • Human anatomy
  • Kinesiology

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as a physical therapist assistant student.

Introduction to Physical Therapy AssistanceHistory of physical therapy; overview of a modern physical therapy practice; roles of the physical therapist and assistant in the processes of healing and rehabilitation; terminology used in the field; potential issues; safety standards and practices; ethical and legal concerns.Provide foundational knowledge on the work of a physical therapy assistant.
Physical Therapy in PracticeBasics of patient care; properly following a physical therapy and/or rehabilitation plan as set out by the therapist; theory and practice of main treatment modalities (forms and approaches); clinical record-keeping and patient management.Prepare students to work with a physical therapy team in a clinical setting.
KinesiologyTheory of human movement; anatomy and physiology (function) of the musculoskeletal system (muscles muscle groups and bones); normal and abnormal posture; techniques for assessing and treating problems that concern movement and posture.Enable students to identify and treat postural and movement-related problems.
NeurologyAnatomy and physiology of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves throughout the rest of the body); neurological problems that can be treated with physical therapy; acquisition and improvement of motor skills.Provide understanding of physical therapy's importance in rehabilitating nerves.
Therapeutic ExerciseUse of exercise activities to treat and prevent physical problems; administering accurate exercise instruction to patients; tailoring exercise programs to the strength flexibility and endurance limits of each patient's body; safe and effective use of exercise equipment.Ready students to organize and work through an effective exercise program with patients.
Aging and GerontologyBody development in older patients; changes in regeneration of bones muscles and organs and in recovery time as patients age; current research findings in the field of aging; tactics for adapting physical therapy programs to the needs and capacities of older patients.Give understanding of the aging process and of its impact on physical therapy practices.

Video Overview

An introduction into the work of physical therapy assistants. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

In most states physical therapy assistants are required to complete a postsecondary program accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. There are more than 270 physical therapy assistant programs approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education organization. Most of these programs provide an associate's degree.

Physical therapist assistants are required to have licensure or certification in every state except Hawaii and Colorado. Licensing requirement vary by state. Candidates are required to pass three National Physical Therapy examinations provided by the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy however some states provide their own exams.

Physical therapist assistants may have to obtain continuing education credits to regularly renew licensure or certification. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides a certification program for specialists with at least 2000 hours of relevant work experience and 60 hours of continuing education in the last five years.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time: Most physical therapist assistants work full-time. About 25 percent work part-time. Many physical therapy offices and clinics have weekend and evening hours.

Work location: PT assistants work in hospitals clinics fitness centers physical therapy offices nursing homes and patients' homes.

Recommended Websites

  • American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides information about PTA careers and surveys and statistics. The APTA provides useful information for prospective students and also career development information. The American Physical Therapy Association website also provides information about courses and conferences. Also job seekers can browse available jobs at the website.
  • The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy promotes safe and competent physical therapy practice. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy develops and administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapist assistants in all 50 states. The website also provides helpful hints. The APTA student assembly focuses on issues related to students. The organization represents students from accredited or developing education programs across the nation.
  • PhysicalTherapist.com provides a discussion board and an array of articles. The website also offers important resources for people interested in beginning a career in physical therapy studying for a degree and for those already in the profession. Job seekers can also search for jobs at the website.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook — This US Department of Labor resource covers in a textbook like manner the PT assistant (and PT Aide) occupation. It offers a broad set of statistics and descriptive information about this career.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
ALAnniston – Oxford$53800$43K – $60K300.08%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$48870$26K – $70K5000.10%
ALDecatur$54360$42K – $70K300.06%
ALDothan$47360$39K – $64K600.10%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$63000$43K – $73KN/AN/A
ALGadsden$56640$39K – $71K1200.35%
ALHuntsville$52530$35K – $70K1300.06%
ALMobile$51880$35K – $62K1800.10%
ALMontgomery$55060$23K – $71K1100.07%
ALTuscaloosa$31130$21K – $66K500.06%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$48410$30K – $68K1100.05%
ARFort Smith$48760$25K – $66K1200.10%
ARHot Springs$48270$28K – $68K300.09%
ARJonesboro$49370$36K – $61K600.12%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$51200$22K – $73K2100.06%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$41400$21K – $60K6500.04%
AZTucson$49250$25K – $69K1300.04%
CABakersfield – Delano$60580$28K – $84K600.02%
CAFresno$63480$52K – $74K600.02%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$58360$28K – $75K11800.03%
CAModesto$77390$52K – $92K600.04%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$65760$42K – $82K2100.02%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$50140$35K – $69K1200.04%
CARedding$59120$21K – $75K500.09%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$60810$50K – $75K3600.03%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$62510$41K – $87K2400.03%
CASalinas$65660$45K – $85K300.02%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$53050$41K – $72K4500.04%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$62130$30K – $76K1200.01%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$62350$36K – $76K1400.02%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$67040$38K – $86K10400.07%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$45690$24K – $62K800.05%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$57480$45K – $75K400.02%
CAStockton$55470$49K – $66K500.03%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$64470$46K – $73K400.03%
COBoulder$58340$37K – $73K400.02%
COColorado Springs$42510$29K – $55K1000.04%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$49230$28K – $63K2700.02%
COGreeley$41320$26K – $58KN/AN/A
COPueblo$45350$26K – $63K700.13%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$60320$50K – $74K1300.03%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$60810$45K – $74K1500.03%
CTNew Haven$62890$48K – $73K800.03%
CTNorwich – New London$44660$31K – $58K300.03%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$52460$39K – $74K7500.03%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$59440$43K – $85K1400.04%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$55680$43K – $71K1100.06%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$58990$42K – $74K400.05%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$66680$51K – $77K1500.10%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$55930$43K – $73K5300.07%
FLGainesville$54620$42K – $70K800.07%
FLJacksonville$63700$43K – $83K2700.05%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$73330$43K – $123K1200.06%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$47160$33K – $71K4800.05%
FLNaples – Marco Island$61330$47K – $74K400.04%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$54070$43K – $68K1700.07%
FLOcala$61840$47K – $74K1100.12%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$55780$42K – $73K3800.04%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$61740$44K – $75K1700.09%
FLPanama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach$49430$39K – $66K300.04%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$55320$43K – $74K1000.07%
FLPort St. Lucie$62510$50K – $74K1500.13%
FLPunta Gorda$60260$39K – $73K700.16%
FLSebastian – Vero Beach$49840$34K – $69K700.16%
FLTallahassee$65780$50K – $76K700.04%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$58800$35K – $74K7600.07%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$60330$46K – $73K3300.06%
GAAlbany$52790$41K – $68K400.06%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$51090$27K – $70K6300.03%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$49990$28K – $69K1400.07%
GABrunswick$54320$23K – $71KN/AN/A
GAMacon$61470$36K – $73K700.07%
GASavannah$47190$39K – $66K400.02%
GAValdosta$52200$41K – $72KN/AN/A
HIHonolulu$48940$23K – $58K2000.05%
IACedar Rapids$46080$35K – $61K800.06%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$47820$35K – $65K1300.07%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$48630$29K – $60K1400.04%
IAIowa City$48750$31K – $61K800.09%
IASioux City$37850$26K – $59K600.08%
IAWaterloo – Cedar Falls$41740$29K – $54K700.08%
IDBoise City – Nampa$48070$26K – $68K900.04%
IDCoeur d'Alene ID$49390$23K – $58K500.09%
ILBloomington – Normal$44680$28K – $58K300.04%
ILChampaign – Urbana$47980$31K – $71K500.05%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$54520$27K – $73K15300.04%
ILKankakee – Bradley$47990$33K – $65K400.10%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$42300$26K – $66K1300.04%
ILPeoria$42720$27K – $61K2200.12%
ILRockford$52600$33K – $74K700.05%
ILSpringfield$38150$30K – $60K300.03%
INElkhart – Goshen$46840$38K – $67K400.03%
INEvansville$45710$39K – $59K1500.09%
INFort Wayne$50830$34K – $69K1400.07%
INGary (Metro Area)$52220$39K – $67K1500.06%
INIndianapolis – Carmel$55720$37K – $72K6400.07%
INSouth Bend – Mishawaka$51ute$55170$48K – $67K400.05%
KSManhattan$53120$29K – $79K300.07%
KSTopeka$55570$36K – $74K1500.14%
KSWichita$62380$42K – $110K1700.06%
KYBowling Green$45570$35K – $57KN/AN/A
KYElizabethtown$54670$41K – $86K300.07%
KYLexington – Fayette$43940$32K – $64K2400.10%
KYLouisville – Jefferson County$53680$38K – $70K4600.08%
LABaton Rouge$46730$20K – $70K2200.06%
LAHouma – Bayou Cane – Thibodaux$27670$25K – $32KN/AN/A
LALafayette$47870$23K – $59K900.06%
LALake Charles$32320$21K – $42K600.07%
LANew Orleans – Metairie – Kenner$52390$39K – $61K1700.03%
LAShreveport – Bossier City$47890$35K – $58K1200.07%
MABarnstable Town$62310$45K – $74K600.07%
MABoston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)$55070$39K – $70K7300.04%
MABrockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area)$56550$46K – $72K400.05%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$41810$28K – $61K800.05%
MAHaverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area)$52410$37K – $69K700.09%
MALawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Are)

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