Physical Therapist Assistant – Education Requirements and Top Schools

Interested in how to become a physical therapy assistant? Typically, under the direct supervision of a physical therapist, a physical therapist assistant is the only provider of therapeutic services. Despite being very critical at any physical therapy institution, the physical therapy assistants also have the opportunity to change lives.


How much does a physical therapist assistant make, has been a topic of discussion for some time. To better understand how much does a physical therapist assistant make, however, depends on what they do; as per the level of education, geographic location, the degree of education, and practice setting, a typical assistant earns a median salary of $45,500.

physical therapist giving therapy to a woman


In recent years, despite the economic downturn, there is a high demand for physical therapist assistants. Regardless of how much a physical therapist assistant make, we expect that the physical therapist assistant’s jobs will grow by 40 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the US population ages, the need PTAs is seen to increase in the foreseeable future thereby producing more jobs.

Education Requirements

woman doing therapy on a legPTAs entering the profession need a degree from an accredited program. It is imperative to attain your education requirements from an accredited education program. To obtain certification and licensure, candidates have to pass a state-given national exam in most states.

Other education requirements differ from state to state as per the state laws governing physical therapy. The only accredited agency recognized by the US Department of Education is CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education).

School Curriculum

Typically, the length of an educational program is two years.
The basic schools content may include, but not limited to, exercise physiology, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, clinical pathology, neuroscience, biomechanics, ethics/value, and communication. In the PTA schools curriculum, about a quarter is dedicated to clinical education while the rest for lab study and classroom (didactic).

What They Do

After understanding how to become a physical therapist assistant, it is imperative to know the answer to; what does a physical therapist assistant do? In a typical day, an assistant closely works with an overseeing physical therapist to provide quality patient care.

Once he completes the examination and diagnosis, the physical therapist then designs a plan including short and long-term goals. The physical therapist may decide to utilize an assistant to provide all the interventions in the developed program. These responses from PTA include, but are not limited to;

  • Massage
  • Ultrasound
  • Traction
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Balance and Gait training
  • Development
  • Electrotherapy

The most important part of the response involves teaching the patients appropriate ways to perform specific tasks, promote health and wellness, prevent further injury, and move around.

From these interventions, a physical therapist assistant gets enough interaction with the patients which is particularly important when they are providing the physical therapist with information about how the patient is responding to treatment.

What Employers Expect From You

Employer’s expectations will vary depending on the organization. For you to learn how to become a physical therapist, you need to understand the critical expertise required. However, most of what the physical therapist does include;

  • Instruct nursing staff or resident’s family in follow-through programs
  • Assist in the development of treatment plans, per state laws
  • Provide follow up treatment and feedback to plan for discharge effectively
  • May modify specific therapy treatment per patient status within the scope of treatment plans designed by the physical therapist
  • Secure patients onto and into therapy equipment
  • Clean the work area and store equipment after treatment

If you feel that you are cut out to be a physical therapist assistant, contact us today for more information and learn how.