Guide to Physical Therapy Assisting Programs

If you're interested in working as a physical therapy aide, you'll need the right credentials to do so, starting with a degree. You can earn an associate's or a bachelor's degree that will qualify you for employment. While limited, there are options available for becoming a physical therapy aide through online programs. These programs can help you start a career in this field but more training may be required if you want to work as a physical therapist. Online programs are uniquely designed to help you enter the field with the skills you need to succeed. Below are links to schools with exact or related programs for physical therapy assisting.

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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What Types of Physical Therapy Aide Degrees Exist and What are They Called?

Physical therapy aides are usually required to have some sort of formal training, such as a degree at the associate level and/or certification. Below, we have listed some of the options available for aides.

  1. Associate of Science – Allied Health: This two year degree is often chosen by medical assistants, including the physical therapy aide.
  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 aide 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 aides 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 aides, it is important to know what they are before choosing a degree or program for physical therapy aides.

Where Can I Find Physical Therapy Aide Rankings?

Before choosing any school or program to become a physical therapy aide, 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 both physical therapists and physical therapy aides.

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.

Can I Transfer Physical Therapy Aide Degree Credits?

Students who have completed any collegiate level courses such as in a junior or community college, or even college level credits in high school, can be eligible for transfer credits. These credits allow students to receive recognition for classes already passed and can put them way ahead in their studies to become a physical therapy aide. Because they can save both time and money, research any potential school’s transfer credit policy as soon as possible.

One of the most frustrating aspects of transfer credits is the issue of nationally accredited physical therapy aide degrees versus regionally accredited degrees. Luckily, since there is generally just the one accrediting agency, this is less of a problem. A visit to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education can tell you which programs have been approved. Because it is a national accrediting agency for physical therapy aide degrees, transfer credits can often be allowed in between approved schools, although each one is different.

Even students who do qualify for transfer credits still experience limitations. For example, the institute granting the degree as a physical therapy aide usually asks for the bulk of – if not all – the specialty courses to be taken there. Also, courses that are transferred must be passed with a certain grade point average, usually a 2.0 (C) or better.

What Careers are Common With a Physical Therapy Aide Degree?

Physical therapist’s aides 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 often provide care and therapy services under the supervision of licensed physical therapists.
  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.

And the above are just some of the careers available in physical therapy and as one of the many forms of physical therapy aide.

How Do I Become a Physical Therapy Aide?

The first step to becoming a physical therapy aide is earning a high school diploma or equivalent. There are even many high schools that specialize in the health sciences or even offer a few courses in physical therapy. Because many physical therapy aides are offered on the job training, this alone can lead to a career as a physical therapy aide.

However, the most common route to becoming a physical therapy aide is to graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. They list physical therapy aide/assistant programs across the country that can take anywhere from four months to two years to complete.

Once an accredited program has been passed, each of the 50 states and District of Columbia has their own regulations for physical therapy aides. 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 is the Average Salary of Someone With a Physical Therapy Aide Degree?

The best source for reliable information on salaries in this field is The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 2010, The BLS listed the median pay of physical therapist assistants as $37,710 per year. The median salary for occupational therapist assistants was $47,490 per year.

Where Can I Find Physical Therapy Aide Scholarships and Grants?

To help pay for a physical therapy aide degree, we have gathered a few resources that include scholarships and grants below.

  1. FAFSA: This form is a first step to any education funding and can tell students which grants they qualify for and how much they are worth.
  2. PTCAS: The Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service offers many tools and resources to physical therapy students and even has fee waivers for those who qualify.
  3. Tylenol Scholarship: This drug maker is currently awarding $5,000 and $10,000 scholarships to 40 students based on leadership qualities and academic performance who are pursuing careers in the medical field.
  4. Scholarship of Excellence: The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions sponsors scholarships to students currently studying in the field of allied health in the amount of $1,000.
  5. IOKDS: The International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons offers many scholarships, including this one for those studying a health career.
  6. National Rehabilitation Hospital Endowed Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to a full-time graduate student in the department of physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech language pathology and audiology.
  7. HS & HP: Finally, if you need even more information on physical therapy scholarships and grants, click here for a list of sources available to many students.

Scholarships and grants are the best way to pay for college, because they never need to be paid back. Recipients are expected to maintain good grades and attend school at least half-time, but these stipulations are a small price to pay for thousands of dollars in assistance.

The financial aid office at any college can inform you of your options for governmental scholarships and grants, and there are many ways to find out about private sources of student financial aid. Conversations with friends and family, internet searches, and sites like this one can all lead you to financial aid opportunities.

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