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Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degrees: Best Programs, Jobs, and Salaries

Kyo Zapanta - March 05, 2022


Physical therapist assistant associate degrees are an ideal way to break into the field of physical therapy. An associate degree will give you the foundational skills needed to train and learn under a licensed professional as you work toward career goals. You can also use your associate degree as a pathway to a physical therapy license or a bachelor’s degree.

Physical therapist assistant associate degree requirements are easy to fulfill and take two years to complete. This guide will help you find the best colleges for physical therapist assistants as we look at program requirements, costs, and various physical therapy services on offer.

What Is a Physical Therapy Assistant?

Physical therapy assistants, often called PTAs, work under the direction and guidance of a physical therapist to provide patient care and guidance in rehabilitation. They keep track of patient data, for example how they respond to certain treatments. PTAs analyze this data with the physical therapist.

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PTAs help patients of all ages. Treatment can target specific injuries or disabilities. However, some patients may be looking to regain mobility or increase their fitness levels. PTAs provide treatment plans for their patients to do at home, as well as in-person treatments offered at clinical facilities. This can include, massage, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, or weight training.

What Is a Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree?

A physical therapy assistant associate degree is a two-year program that teaches students the fundamentals of physical therapy. Core courses often include anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. After successful completion, graduates can take the National Physical Therapy Examination to acquire a physical therapy license .

A physical therapist assistant program will qualify you for entry-level jobs. You can look for work in sports training facilities, skilled nursing facilities, or any clinical setting. This hands-on experience is vital if you wish to become a physical therapist. Alternatively, your credit hours can count towards prerequisite courses for a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy.

Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Requirements

PTA associate degree education requirements include a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Some institutions may require a certain grade point average (GPA). Others require a physical exam, drug screening, and criminal background check for admission.

Typically, it takes two years to finish a PTA associate degree and you’ll need to complete a minimum of 70 credit hours. The curriculum will usually include professional courses plus clinical rotations. These are prerequisite courses for successful completion of the PTA program. You will also take general education classes in math, biology, and English.

How Much Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported an average of $3,621 in tuition and fees for associate degrees, and it could reach $11,381 with board and dormitory fees. The program costs could increase with added fees for laboratory and clinical experiences.

Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Financing Options: How to Pay for Your Physical Therapy Assistant Degree

The American Physical Therapy Associate states that many PTA students graduate with loans. However, there are plenty of PTA scholarships available to students. If you are looking for a federal financial aid program you can fill out a FAFSA application .

Best Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
Albany State University Physical Therapist Assistant, Career Associate of Science Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Carl Albert State College AAS Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Chippewa Valley Technical College Associate Degree Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
College of Alameda AA-T Degree in Kinesiology Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Fox College Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Lake Area Technical College Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Northeast Community College Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science Degree Higher Learning Commission
San Jose City College Public Health Science AS-T Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
State Technical College of Missouri Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Vincennes University Physical Therapist Assistant (ASCT) Higher Learning Commission

Best Colleges for Physical Therapy Assistant: Top Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Programs

The PTA program curriculum usually covers direct patient care, plan of care, physical therapy interventions, and clinical training, among others. With these, you’ll be ready to be part of a healthcare team in no time. Below are some best colleges for physical therapy assistant associate degrees.

Physical Therapist Assistant, Career Associate of Science | Albany State University

Albany State University offers degrees and certificates both on-campus and online. An ultimate pass rate of 75 or higher is required in each subject to remain in the program. Core courses include intro to physical therapy, therapeutic exercises, clinical pathology, and applied neurology and gait analysis.

AAS Physical Therapist Assistant | Carl Albert State College

CASC provides students with an affordable education. Its AAS PTA program prepares you for entry-level PTA work while connecting you to clinical education. The curriculum includes classes on clinical orientation, physician disabilities, clinical experience, and kinesiology.

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Associate Degree Physical Therapist Assistant | Chippewa Valley Technical College

Chippewa Valley Technical College has campuses in 11 counties. This program features open lab times where you can practice your skills and work together with other students. Second-year students take on a mentor role to first-year students. There are also local health care centers and facilities where graduates can find work as PTAs.

AA-T Degree in Kinesiology | College of Alameda

Alameda College is known for its vocational student support programs and pleasant atmosphere. The AA-T Degree in Kinesiology mainly prepares students to work in rehabilitation. However, coaches and athletic trainers are also encouraged to study here.

Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant | Fox College

Students at Fox College receive a hands-on education that leads to an AAS degree. The PTA program at Fox College allows you to work under the direction of licensed physical therapists. You will operate various equipment to assist the PT and help patients regain mobility. Graduates will have a strong understanding of muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons.

AAS in Physical Therapist Assistant | Lake Area Technical College

Lake Area Tech is the first technical school in South Dakota. Their PTA program provides cutting-edge classroom training as well as valuable clinical experience. Core subjects include anatomy, medical terminology, sociology in healthcare, and electrotherapy. About 99% of their graduates are either pursuing further education or are employed.

AAS in Physical Therapist Assistant | Northeast Community College

Northeast Community College was selected as one of the nation’s top ten community colleges by the Aspen Institute. Their PTA program prepares you for employment as a valuable healthcare provider and to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The curriculum includes clinical management, anatomy, and clinical pathophysiology.

Public Health Science AS-T | San Jose City College

Since 1921, San José City College has provided students with a high-quality education. The AS-T degree in Public Health Science prepares you to transfer to a four-year institution by providing a strong foundation in public health and the health sciences. The program offers lectures, labs, and work experience.

AAS in Physical Therapist Assistant | State Technical College of Missouri

State Technical College of Missouri is one of the best institutions of higher education in the state. Their PTA program will prepare you to pass the licensure exam. The program combines theory with hands-on work in the labs. You will acquire communication, professionalism, critical thinking, and leadership skills to help you achieve your career goals.

Physical Therapist Assistant (ASCT) | Vincennes University

Vincennes University is known for its innovation and success in delivering high-quality educational experiences. You will learn through lectures, labs, and real-life clinical experience. Their PTA program prepares you for the National Physical Therapist Assistant Exam. Their employment rate in 2019 and 2020 was 100 percent .

Best Online Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
Albany State University Physical Therapist Assistant, Career Associate of Science Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Carl Albert State College AAS Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Chippewa Valley Technical College Associate Degree Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
College of Alameda AA-T Degree in Kinesiology Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Fox College Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Lake Area Technical College Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Northeast Community College Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science Degree Higher Learning Commission
San Jose City College Public Health Science AS-T Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
State Technical College of Missouri Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Higher Learning Commission
Vincennes University Physical Therapist Assistant (ASCT) Higher Learning Commission

Best Colleges for Physical Therapy Assistant: Top Online Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Programs

If you can’t attend school in-person, you can enroll in an online physical therapist assistant program. The degree requirements are the same, and for hands-on experience or practice settings, there are hybrid arrangements or internships. Below are the best online colleges for PTA programs.

AAS in Physical Therapist Assistant | Clark State Community College

Clark State College strives to engage and empower diverse students by providing high-quality online programs and services. The AAS-PTA is a hybrid program with asynchronous courses like anatomy and physiology, but clinical classes are normally done synchronously.

AS in Physical Therapist Assistant | Clarkson College

Clarkson College began as Nebraska’s first nursing school. Now, its AS-PTA program hones students to provide ethical and compassionate rehabilitation. The online program offers asynchronous classes, four or five on-campus skills weekends, and one semester of final clinical experiences.

AAS in Physical Therapist Assistant | Delta College

Delta College focuses on community leadership, innovation, and instructional excellence. Its AAS-PTA program is a cohort program that runs for four semesters, requiring a full-time commitment. You may plan your classes for a hybrid of online and on-campus classes, days or nights.

AS in Physical Therapist Assistant | Mendocino College

Mendocino College promotes success via academic excellence, social fairness, and anti-racism. Today it offers a hybrid AS-PTA program to accommodate students amid the pandemic. This program requires students to be on campus two days a week for lab classes. The AS is competency-based and provides theoretical and practical learning.

Physical Therapist Assistant, Associate in Science | Miami Dade College

Miami Dade College is a diverse college with a student body representing 167 nations and 63 languages. Its AS-PTA prepares students for immediate work in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, private offices, and other certified health institutions. The curriculum covers neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, service learning, and wound care.

AAS Physical Therapist Assistant | Olympic College

Olympic College is a public community college with over 13,000 annual students. Its online AAS-PTA program prepares graduates as entry-level physical therapy assistants. Its program includes general education, physical therapy theory, practical training, and clinical training.

Associate Degree Physical Therapist Assistant | Provo College

On top of cutting-edge competency-based education, Provo College teaches students leadership and personal effectiveness. With an associate degree in PTA from Provo College, you can take the licensure examination and launch a career as a PTA in as little as 21 months. Core subjects include therapeutic exercise, kinesiology, and pharmacology.

Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree | Rasmussen University

Rasmussen University serves the changing requirements of different communities. Its PTA program curriculum requires you to be on-campus a couple of days in a row for immersive lab classes. You’ll also have clinical practice in a hospital. The rest of the program consists of virtual lectures and activities.

AS Physical Therapist Assistant | Santa Fe College

Santa Fe College’s ethos has always been student-centered. Its PTA hybrid program is divided into four semesters, with courses offered on-campus, online, and remotely. Students will also complete clinical internships at nearby hospitals. Professional core classes include principles of disease, kinesiology, anatomy, and modalities.

AAS Physical Therapist Assistant | San Juan College

San Juan College strives to empower individuals to thrive in this ever-changing world. Amid the pandemic, it offers the PTA online hybrid program with onsite laboratories available to students during college hours. Core covers include intro to PTA, principles of rehabilitation, PTA procedures, clinical kinesiology, and therapeutic exercise.

What’s the Average Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Salary?

A male physical therapist assistant with glasses and a beard helping his patient lift a small pink weight.  Physical Therapist Assistant Associate Degrees
A physical therapist assistant associate degree program prepares you to help patients regain their mobility and stop their pain.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for a physical therapy assistant is $49,970 . Furthermore, physical therapist assistant careers are at an all-time high with a 35 percent growth rate, meaning jobs are rapidly expanding across the country.

One reason to become a physical therapy assistant is the high job outlook and various career paths available to you. You can work at acute care or extended care facilities after completing the necessary educational requirements.

Top Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Jobs and Salaries: Overview

Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Jobs Average Salary
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides $60,950 per year
Physical Therapist Assistant and Aides $49,970 per year
Medical Assistants $35,850 per year
Psychiatric Technicians and Aides $33,140 per year
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies $30,830 per year

Best Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Jobs Explained

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

  • Average Salary: $60,950 per year
  • Job Outlook: 34%
  • Number of Jobs: 49,000
  • Highest-Paying States: California, Nevada, New Jersey

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help improve patients’ everyday living and health through treatment or support. They work in offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, while a good number are in nursing care facilities. They need a license to practice.

Physical Therapist Assistant and Aides

  • Average Salary: $49,970 per year
  • Job Outlook: 32%
  • Number of Jobs: 140,500
  • Highest-Paying States: California, Connecticut, Texas

PTAs help physical therapists in treating injured or unwell patients so they can regain movement and manage pain. You typically find them working with physical, occupational, and speech therapists and audiologists or in hospitals. All states require PTAs to have a license to practice.

Medical Assistants

  • Average Salary: $35,850 per year
  • Job Outlook: 18%
  • Number of Jobs: 720,900
  • Highest-Paying States: Alaska, Washington, District of Columbia

Medical assistants work at doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their roles depend on the practice’s location, specialty, and size. They can keep records, help measure blood pressure, or take blood samples.

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

  • Average Salary: $33,140 per year
  • Job Outlook: 11%
  • Number of Jobs: 145,600
  • Highest-Paying States: California, District of Columbia, Connecticut

Psychiatric technicians assist persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities. They typically work in psychiatry and substance abuse hospitals, administering therapeutic care and monitoring patients. Most states don’t require a license, but California is among those that do.

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

  • Average Salary: $30,830 per year
  • Job Outlook: 8%
  • Number of Jobs: 1,440,700
  • Highest-Paying States: Alaska, New York, California

Nursing assistants provide basic care to patients and activities of daily living. They usually work at nursing care facilities or hospitals. They need to pass a competency exam and, in some states, a license or certification to practice. Requirements vary from state to state.

Should You Get an Associate Degree in Physical Therapy Assistant?

Yes, you should get a PTA degree if you want to improve people’s quality of life, enjoy science courses, and want a rewarding career. Furthermore, a PTA educational program is an important step in becoming a physical therapist .

A PTA associate degree program gets you ready to work in a variety of settings such as long-term care facilities, nursing homes, other healthcare facilities, and fitness centers. The number of jobs is set to rise by about 21 percent in the next ten years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will always be a need for professionals in this field.

Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree FAQ

What will I learn in a physical therapist assistant associate program?

A physical therapist assistant education offers a two-year study of the human body, patient interventions, physical therapy treatments, and general education courses that can either help you land a job or proceed to a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy.

What do you need to know as a PTA?

First of all, you must learn medical terminology. You also need to understand changes in the human body, body language, and expressions. You should be able to identify abnormal and normal movement, interpret the accessibility of the surroundings before you can create a care plan for a patient, assemble data, and compile medical reports.

How long does it take to become a physical therapist assistant?

It will take you between two to two and a half years to complete a physical therapist assistant associate degree. This is the minimum educational requirement for you to take the national licensure examination and thus be able to practice.

What does a physical therapist assistant do?

Physical therapy assistants work on helping patients with exercises, massages, gait training, balance training, and other therapies under the direction of a physical therapist. They keep track of the patient’s progress and report directly to the PT.

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Kyo Zapanta

About the author: Kyo is a writer and educator. After teaching college research and communication for nearly a decade, she worked full-time as a writer and editor for various online news and academic sites before finally joining the Career Karma team. She also continues her volunteer work as a research instructor for senior high school distance learners.

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