Guide to Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant or Aide

Welcome to PhysicalTherapyAide.org. We provide students with information on degrees and entry-level career opportunities for becoming a physical therapy aide or physical therapy assistant. To work as a physical therapy assistant, most states require licensing in order to practice, while aides often do not require certification or credentialing and can seek employment directly after graduating from high school. However, in many cases, obtaining further education can be helpful in any physical therapy career. If you’re unsure what career path to follow, click on the question below to find additional information and resources.

If you’re interested in a physical therapy education, the schools and programs we’ve listed offer accredited programs. You can request more information by clicking on the specific degree or school.

Kaplan University – Kaplan University is one of the nation’s largest providers of online education. The school has a bachelor program for Health and Wellness as well as Health Science. While these programs will help students in learning many of the credentials needed for physical therapy assisting, on the job training and further education may be required.
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AT Still University – For students who wish to obtain their education while holding part- or full-time jobs, AT Still University makes that possible by offering an online program for their MS in Physician Assistant Studies. This program is designed for students seeking a career in healthcare and helps prepare them for various positions like Physical Therapy Aide.
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Click here to see more online Physical Therapy programs


How do I become a physical therapy assistant or aide?

The first step to becoming a physical therapy assistant or a physical therapy aide is by earning a high school diploma or equivalent. Physical therapist assistants are required to have associate’s degrees in most states and become licensed. However, physical therapy aides enerally have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job.

To work as an assistant, it’s important to know that each of the 50 states and District of Columbia has their own regulations for physical therapy assistants. A visit to The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy can connect you with your state board as well as outline the particulars for licensing, certification, etc. There are also loads of other resources available for students and candidates such as information on the national exam, practice tools, a downloadable handbook, and much more.

What are popular schools and programs for physical therapy assistants?

If becoming an assistant is the route you wish to take, you will be required to have sformal training, such as a degree at the associate level and/or certification. Below, we have listed some of the options available for this role:

  1. Associate of Science – Allied Health: This two year degree is often chosen by medical assistants, including the physical therapy assistant.
  2. Associate of Science – Medical Assisting: Students learn a variety of medical and health care management skills in this degree, including limited x-ray systems, office management, patient care, and more.
  3. Associate of Science – Occupational Therapy Assistant: Occupational therapists help patients recover from injuries by helping them engage in various ways with a particular task or occupation. This can be useful for people who become disabled and need to shift careers or learn a new skillset to deal with their injuries.
  4. Associate of Science – Physical Therapy Assisting: Students are taught how to work with patients with physical disabilities, limited mobility, and accident victims in a variety of areas.
  5. Physical Therapy Assistant Program: These programs specifically teach high school graduates the basics of being a physical therapy assistant and can in some cases be completed in a few months.
  6. Bachelor of Science in Biology – Physical Therapy: This four year degree teaches a host of subjects including physics, genetics, ethics, communication, and much more.
  7. Master’s in Physical Therapy: This degree is intended for physical therapy assistant or others who hold applicable bachelor’s degrees to learn to become licensed physical therapists.
  8. Doctorate in Physical Therapy: Someone who earns a doctorate in physical therapy can open a practice or do research in the field.

Because each state has its own requirements for physical therapy assistants, it is important to know what they are before choosing a degree or program.

Where can I find program rankings?

Before choosing any school or program, it is important to know whether or not it has been accredited. Because both employers and the government require the completion of a program at an accredited school, it is an essential part of landing a career or entering another school. The American Physical Therapy Association is a national agency that accredits programs for physical therapists assistants.

A visit to their Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education contains a directory of schools and programs in the field that are accredited. They are listed by state, or you can search for PTA schools by key codes. Best of all, the list is updated on a weekly basis.

If looking for some form of physical therapy school rankings, try a site like U.S. News & World Report. They listed the top graduate schools in physical therapy for 2008 and share the list here. However, with items such as distance, flexibility of classes, out of pocket costs, and transfer credit policies, having different priorities to different people, schools should be chosen by which fit them the best.

What are common careers in physical therapy?

Physical therapist’s assistants can work in an assortment of venues, and not all PT careers turn out the same. The following is a list of potential careers for people with degrees from accredited PT or PT assistant programs.

  1. Physical Therapy Aide: These aides are integral to preparing the therapy area and helping clean after sessions. Additionally, they help with clerical and administrative responsibilities.
  2. Physical Therapy Assistant: Similar to the above, physical therapy assistants also provide other services that can include treatment interventions, discharging patients, and more.
  3. Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant: This assistant is one who has graduated from an approved program and received the proper licensing and certification credentials from their respective state.
  4. Physical Therapist: These advanced physical therapists need at least a graduate degree, with the doctoral being the most common. Passing a licensing exam, jurisprudence exams, and even continuing education can all be asked of.
  5. Occupational Therapist Aide: Occupational therapy assistants need an associate’s degree to enter the field. They earn a higher average salary than physical therapist aides, which can make the competition for jobs a little stiffer.
  6. Occupational Therapist Assistant: An associate’s degree from an accredited program is often required to become an occupational therapy assistant, along with meeting other state requirements.
  7. Rehabilitation Aide: These physical therapy aides work for rehabilitation centers, clinics, and other physician’s offices that offer it.
  8. Rehabilitation Assistant: Working under similar conditions as the above, the rehabilitation assistant can also be charged with more patient interaction and other responsibilities.

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