How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

Learn how to become a physical therapist assistant. Find information on programs, training, certification, job growth and salary. View popular physical therapy schools that prepare students for careers as physical therapist assistants.


Individuals interested in becoming a physical therapist assistant may enroll in a certificate or associate-level degree program. A certificate program may provide students the foundation needed to transfer credits into an associate program, since physical therapist assistant need at least an associate degree to work in their field. These certificate programs may take one year to complete, and may be known as pre-physical therapist assistant programs. Associate-level programs may contain a diverse curriculum, covering rehabilitation, bodily diseases, and human anatomy. Popular physical therapist assistant courses may include the following:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Vocabulary
  • Human Kinesiology
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Applied Neurology


In order to become a physical therapist assistant, individuals need an associate degree at minimum from an accredited physical therapist program. These programs may contain hands-on training for students, where they may learn how to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, prevent disability, and restore function. Students may also work side-by-side with patients to ensure that they meet the goals or plans for patients. Select programs may also include an internship or capstone experience, which may include clinical rotations at a local health care facility.

License & Certification

Most states require physical therapist assistant to have licensure. Individuals may obtain licensure by completing an accredited physical therapist assistant program and then passing the National Physical Therapy exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The exam typically includes 250 multiple-choice questions, and applicants may complete the exam at specific locations four times annually. Some states may require additional examinations as well as continuing education courses.

Job Outlook & Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for those pursuing careers as physical therapist assistants are expected to increase by 46% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than the national average. Demand may increase due to a need for health needs of an aging population, and people may find jobs in orthopedic, hospital, and nursing settings. The BLS also reported in May 2010 that the median annual salary for physical therapist assistants was $37,710, while the median hourly salary was $18.13.

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