As the population ages and faces the physical limitations and injuries that come with age, physical therapists may find themselves in increasing demand. However, becoming a physical therapist is a long and difficult road, as the position requires obtaining a doctorate in physical therapy. Those who are interested in this field but do not intend to obtain a doctorate may be interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy assisting instead. Physical therapy assistants work with patients under the guidance of a physical therapist, utilizing massage, exercise, balance training and other therapeutic methods to accelerate the healing process.


Featured Online Physical Therapist Assistant Colleges in 2018-19

While physical therapy assisting does not require a doctorate, it is still a professional medical career, and becoming educated for the position is still very important. Here are a few featured schools for physical therapy programs that can help students get to where they want to be in their career. We selected these schools using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), analyzed with our proprietary methodology.


Pima Medical Institute - Tucson

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Tucson, AZ
School Type

The Bachelor of Science in physical therapist assisting program at Pima Medical Institute is designed for those who are already working as physical therapy assistants and want to enhance and further their career options. Through fully online courses, students will dive in-depth on subjects that matter in the field, including evidence-based practice, practice-specific rehabilitation, exercise physiology and more. Students can choose between the inpatient or outpatient track, thus further personalizing their educational experience. Almost five percent of all degrees conferred at PMI are for this Bachelor of Science program, which indicates there is a great deal of attention and ample opportunity to be had for students who pursue their degree.


  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
  • Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education


3350 East Grant Road, Suite 200
Tucson, AZ 85716

San Juan College

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Farmington, NM
School Type

The Associate of Applied Science in physical therapy assisting degree program offered by San Juan College is structured to prepare students to work with patients under the supervision of a physical therapist. The online program can be completed within eight semester and consists of 74 credit hours. Though most of the courses can be taken online, aspiring students should keep in mind that some on-campus work is required — this includes nine to sixteen days for PTA lab courses, taken over five semesters, as well as three clinical internships during the final year of study. San Juan College must have a good idea of what to teach their students: the school boasts a 100 percent three year ultimate pass rate on the national license exam.


  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education


4601 College Blvd
Farmington, NM 87402-4699
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

Degree Overview: Physical Therapy Assisting

Physical therapy assisting allows workers to help patients regain one of their most basic bodily functions: the ability to walk. This section discusses some of the courses students of this rewarding field may be required to take and a few of the skills they may develop from those classes.

Online Physical Therapy Assisting Courses

Those who graduate from online programs for physical therapy assistance must be ready to enter a demanding job. In order to provide this preparation, schools craft their curriculum to expose students to a range of information and skills. The following provides an example of some of the common courses that may be required in a physical therapy assistant program.

  • Medical terminology: Workers in all health care professions are expected to understand the language of medicine. This course is designed to teach this language, and may cover specific topics such as the Latin and Greek origins of medical terms, suffixes and prefixes, abbreviations, surgical and disease terms, and proper spelling and pronunciation of common words used in the medical field.
  • Physical therapy techniques: This class is intended to provide an overview of the physical therapy techniques students need to know to be successful in their jobs. Course topics may include therapeutic massage, the use of heat and cold when treating patients, gait training, preparing patients for treatments and orthopedic assistive devices. Depending on the school, students may be required to complete a laboratory component.
  • Musculoskeletal therapy: The focus of this course is the musculoskeletal disorders that affect the upper and lower parts of the body. Specific topics might include therapeutic exercises, parts of the musculoskeletal system and their functions, and the medical studies that inform techniques used in the field.
  • Acute care: Acute care courses are designed to cover how physical therapy assistants work in acute and post-acute care settings. To that end, the class may include discussions on wheelchair safety, patient care management principles, infection control, wound care and patient positioning. In addition, students may be required to complete lab work in this course.
  • Licensure exam preparation: In order to enter a career as a physical therapy assistant, graduates will be required to successfully complete a licensing examination. This class strives to help prepare students by covering state-mandated topics on the exam.

Career-Related Skills to Develop

Students of online education for physical therapy assistance are preparing to work with vulnerable patients who are in a great deal of pain, which requires a specific skill set. The following are examples of some of the skills students may have when they complete their degree programs.

  • Multitasking: PTAs work with multiple patients, so they are required to prioritize their work while ensuring each patient's individual needs are met. This requires strong multitasking skills.
  • Instruction: Professionals often tell patients, or their family members, what needs to be done to facilitate healing. They need solid instruction skills in order to explain complicated concepts and activities in a way that laypeople can understand.
  • Empathy: When patients work with physical therapy assistants, they are in a great deal of physical pain and emotional distress. These professionals must have the ability to empathize with the people they work with, so they can provide treatment with the understanding and patience required.
  • Diagnostic: To ensure that patients have positive health outcomes, people in the field must be able to correctly determine what's wrong with them. Diagnostic skills should be cultivated in order to perform tests and make assessments about what the results mean.
  • Listening: People in the physical therapy field must make determinations about what patients need, and in order to do that, they need active listening skills. It's not enough to just hear what patients are telling them; they must also be able to comprehend the information and know when to ask follow-up questions.

Physical Therapy Assisting Specializations

Physical therapy assistants work with patients who are recovering from illnesses and injuries that affected their ability to move. This is a huge responsibility — and states require that professionals obtain a license in order to take on that task. Licensure is a rigorous process that varies depending on the state. Those who want to enter the field may be required to:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • earn at least an associate's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
  • pass the National Physical Therapy Exam
  • pass a state-specific licensing test
  • successfully complete a background check

In some cases, states require workers with a physical therapy assistant license to keep their knowledge and skills current. In order to do this, states may expect professionals to complete continuing education courses annually to maintain their credentials.

Physical Therapy Assisting Career Outlook

Physical Therapy Assistants
Average Salary
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
Entry-level Education
Associate's degree

Physical therapy assistants have the rewarding job of helping patients recover from physical injuries and illnesses. Working under the supervision of a physical therapist, these professionals use their learned skills and knowledge of the human body to treat patients with a variety of techniques, including stretching, exercise and massage.

The best part about physical therapy assistant careers is they can begin with just a few years of higher education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most physical therapy assistants get started in this career with a two-year physical therapy assistant associate degree from an accredited institution.

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