Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) can seek a rewarding career by helping others to recuperate from their injuries or to learn to better manage their ongoing pain. They work under the direction of a physical therapist (PT) who typically has doctorate-level education. They may be able to specialize in specific fields that range from aquatic therapy to sports medicine.

Physical Therapist Assistants picture    Physical Therapist Assistants image

Physical Therapist Assistant Schools

Becoming a PTA typically takes an investment of two years of associate degree education and passing an exam to become certified or licensed in a state. The following five schools offer associate degrees in physical therapy assistance, and are accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association.

  • Amarillo College: This college in Texas trains students in the key skills necessary to enter the field of physical therapy assistance.
  • Broward College: This college in Florida provides the framework for students to learn how to work with patients who have lost function due to illness, surgery, or other conditions.
  • Clark State Community College: This community college located in Springfield, Ohio combines didactic and clinical learning experiences for future physical therapy assistants.
  • Mercyhurst University: Located in North East, Pennsylvania, this university's physical therapy assistant training program prepares students to become important members of a health care team.
  • San Diego Mesa College: This college offers an associate degree which trains physical therapy assistants to work safely and ethically with a wide variety of patients.

Physical Therapist Assistant Education Requirements

An associate degree is usually needed to become a physical therapist assistant. Students enrolled in a degree program gain hands-on clinical skills and may learn about:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Communication
  • Human Physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Sports injuries

Associate degree programs in physical therapy assisting typically last about two years, and they must be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Physical Therapist Assistant Certification and Licensing

In addition to completing classroom education, it is necessary for physical therapy assistants to get clinical training and experience. The American Physical Therapy Association reports that physical therapy assistant students spend an average of sixteen weeks in full-time clinical education, which is typically a total of about 25 percent of a physical therapy assistant program.

Certification may be needed in some states where licensing is not required. In fact, all states, except for Hawaii require either certification or licensing, according to the BLS. Passing a national exam is a requirement and graduation from an accredited program is imperative. There also are advanced credentials that PTAs may wish to pursue after certification or licensing, such as the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency offered by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

In many states, licensing may be the more common terminology than certification. To become licensed, students need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination, which is offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The FSBPT offers a list of licensing agencies for each state and also provides details about state-specific requirements, such as whether a criminal background check or fingerprinting is required.

Physical Therapist Assistant Resources


  1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm
  2. Amarillo College, https://www.actx.edu/phys_therapist/
  3. Broward College, http://www.broward.edu/academics/programs/pta/Pages/default.aspx
  4. Clark State Community College, https://www.clarkstate.edu/academics/majors-programs/physical-therapist-assistant
  5. Mercyhurst University, http://northeast.mercyhurst.edu/academics/physical-therapist-assistant
  6. San Diego Mesa College, http://www.sdmesa.edu/academics/schools-departments/physical-therapist-assistant/

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Physical Therapist Assistants

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Physical Therapist Assistants jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 2160 $67,580
Long Beach 2160 $67,580
Los Angeles 2160 $67,580
Dallas 2050 $74,270
Arlington 2050 $74,270
Fort Worth 2050 $74,270
Detroit 1740 $49,460
Warren 1740 $49,460
Dearborn 1740 $49,460
West Palm Beach 1240 $60,110
Total Employment for Physical Therapist Assistants - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Total Employment for Physical Therapist Assistants
Salaries for Physical Therapist Assistants - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Salaries for Physical Therapist Assistants
Total Employment and Salary for Professions Similar to Physical Therapist Assistants

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Physical Therapist Assistants

To find out more about building a career as Physical Therapist Assistants, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Physical Therapist Assistants

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 32,360 52% $45,540
Hospital 19,050 31% $45,630
Nursing And Residential Care 6,890 11% $50,630
Office Services And Staffing 1,140 1% $52,250
Government 730 1% $42,450
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  • Physical Therapy Aide
  • Occupational Therapy Aide
  • A private, accredited distance learning college based in Norcross, Georgia founded in 1987.
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  • Offers all-inclusive tuition: textbooks, learning materials, and academic support are covered in the cost.
  • Allows alumni to enroll in any future program at a reduced rate.
  • Physical Therapy Aide/Sports Rehab Program
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
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  • Respiratory Therapy
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Associate of Occupational Science in Respiratory Therapy
  • Offers a free trial period so students can attend classes before paying tuition.
  • Provides blended courses that combine traditional classroom instruction with online learning.
  • Lets students connect with peers at any time, and instructors during office hours with online chat rooms.
  • Gives students the chance to participate in externships and clinical training work under the general supervision of college staff.
  • Has accelerated programs that allow students to take the same coursework in a shorter timeframe.
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  • Massage Therapy/Therapist
  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
  • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
  • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
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  • Degree - Respiratory Therapy
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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  • Massage Therapy

About Brightwood College

Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

About Education Corporation of America

Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

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  • Respiratory Therapy (AS)
  • Offers several scholarship opportunities for students who qualify.
  • Laptop computers are issued to each student at the beginning of their program.
  • Provides programs in health care, business, information technology, and graphic arts.
  • Respiratory Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Our family of non-profit colleges admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin.

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San Diego
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  • Massage Therapy
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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  • Massage Therapy
  • Features the Success Education Program, with numerous scholarship opportunities to students who qualify.
  • Offers a paralegal program and several healthcare programs including pharmacy technology, medical assisting, massage therapy, and diagnostic medical sonography.
  • Provides an active Placement Assistance Program for all qualified gradutes.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
  • 7 southern California campuses available in West Covina, Pomona, Pasadena, Glendale, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Long Beach.
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Santa Ana
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Physical Therapist Assistants.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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