How Much Can You Make in a Physical Therapy Assistant Career?
Graduates of online physical therapy assistant schools can pursue a variety of health-related careers, many of which come with median annual salaries of more than $49,000. With a graduate degree, individuals can become physical therapists, who earn a median annual salary of $87,930, according to the BLS.
No degree guarantees a specific career or salary, but the table below details common options for professionals with a bachelor's degree in physical therapy assistant. Some occupations may require additional licensure or certification.
- Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
Physical therapist assistants and aides help patients recovering from illnesses and injuries learn to manage pain and regain physical skills. These professionals work under the supervision of physical therapists, who must hold a doctoral degree. Physical therapist assistants and aides often move patients, set up and clean treatment areas, and perform clerical duties.
Median Annual Salary: $48,090
Job Growth (2018-2028): 26%
- Medical Assistants
Medical assistants perform clinical and administrative duties in healthcare settings such as hospitals and physicians' offices. Medical assistants in large practices may specialize in an area such as administration, clinical, optometry, or podiatry. Medical assistants often record patient information, schedule appointments, administer medications and injections, and measure vital signs.
Median Annual Salary: $33,610
Job Growth (2018-2028): 23%
- Exercise Physiologists
Exercise physiologists create exercise and fitness programs for sick and injured patients. These professionals develop treatment plans, assess risk related to exercise, and analyze each patient's medical history. Exercise physiologists typically need a bachelor's degree with health and science coursework. Some exercise physiologists work in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, while others are self-employed.
Median Annual Salary: $49,270
Job Growth (2018-2028): 10%
- Recreational Therapists
Recreational therapists coordinate recreational treatment programs for people with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities. These therapists use sports, arts, crafts, music, and dance to help patients recover, integrate into the community, and reduce depression and anxiety. They assess patient needs, develop treatment plans, and evaluate interventions. Most recreational therapists need a bachelor's degree, and many employers require certification.
Median Annual Salary: $47,860
Job Growth (2018-2028): 7%
- Athletic Trainers
Athletic trainers prevent, diagnose, and treat sports-related injuries. They work under the supervision of a doctor. Athletic trainers typically need at least a bachelor's degree, and most states require licensure or certification. These professionals can work with athletes of all ages and skill levels. Common responsibilities include providing first aid, evaluating injuries, planning injury-prevention programs, and keeping records and writing reports.
Median Annual Salary: $47,510
Job Growth (2018-2028): 19%
Salaries and job growth potential for physical therapy professionals vary by specific career. Individual salaries also depend on factors such as geographic location, which impacts demand and cost of living.
According to the BLS, some of the highest-paying states for physical therapy assistants include Texas, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts. The highest paying metropolitan areas for physical therapy assistants include New York-Newark-Jersey City, Chicago, and Dallas. States with the highest concentrations of physical therapy assistant jobs include Tennessee, Ohio, and West Virginia.
What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Physical Therapy Assistant Degree?
The curricula of bachelor's in physical therapy assistant programs typically include general education classes, physical therapy coursework, and clinical experience. Coursework covers topics such as human anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, and therapeutic exercise. Although course requirements vary by program, most students in online physical therapy assistant school complete the following classes. Learners should research each prospective program for information about required courses and available electives.
This course explores the basic functions of the human body. Learners examine the anatomy, physiology, and histology of the muscular, skeletal, endocrine, and nervous systems.
Students learn about the mechanisms of movement in the human body. The course covers theories of biomechanics, principles of therapeutic exercise, and muscle and joint structures.
This class examines how the human body responds to stress during various types and levels of exercise. Students explore topics such as cardiovascular analyses, indirect calorimetry, and exercise physiology research.
This introductory course covers basic theories and practices of the therapeutic approach to exercise. Students learn how to appropriately use exercise equipment.
This class explains the role of physical therapy in treating neurological disorders. Students learn about issues including disease pathology, diagnostic procedures, and evaluation and treatment strategies.
How to Choose the Best Online Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Students researching physical therapy assistant bachelor's programs should consider factors such as cost, reputation, program requirements, faculty, and accreditation. Many programs offer this information online. Learners can also contact the program directly. The strategies below can help you choose the best online physical therapy assistant program for your needs.
Do I need to attend an accredited online physical therapy assistant program?
A. Students who plan to pursue licensure as a physical therapy assistant must earn a degree from a program with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). CAPTE is the only recognized accrediting agency for physical therapy assistant programs, and a degree from an accredited program is required to sit for the licensure exam. CAPTE maintains a directory of accredited physical therapy assistant programs.
Are there any concerns about earning a physical therapy assistant bachelor's degree online?
A. Many schools offer high-quality, accredited physical therapy assistant degrees to distance learners. However, students cannot typically fulfill all program requirements online. Online students complete practice laboratories and clinical experiences in person. Most programs allow distance learners to fulfill these requirements at a location near their home.
What strategies should I use to choose physical therapy assistant courses?
A. Most physical therapy assistant bachelor's programs require specific coursework, including general education credits, electives, major coursework, and an internship or professional experience. CAPTE-accredited physical therapy assistant programs deliver all of the necessary preparation for entry-level physical therapy assistant positions.
How will a physical therapy assistant bachelor's degree help me reach my goals?
A. Accredited bachelor's in physical therapy assistant programs qualify graduates to sit for the National Physical Therapy Exam, which all states require for licensure of physical therapist assistants. Although an accredited associate degree can qualify candidates for licensure, a bachelor's degree can improve job prospects and qualifies learners to pursue graduate studies.
Are internships required in physical therapy assistant online programs?
A. Yes, all online and on-campus CAPTE-accredited physical therapy assistant programs must include hands-on, in-person clinical experiences and practice laboratories. Distance learners often earn their degree primarily online while completing clinical experiences at a local site. Contact your prospective program for information about internship requirements.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Students can fund an online bachelor's degree in physical therapy assistant using options such as loans, employee reimbursement programs, and assistantships. Scholarships are the preferred form of funding, since they do not require repayment. The scholarship programs below are available to students pursuing a physical therapy assistant degree.
- The American Physical Therapy Association offers scholarships of varying amounts to minority physical therapy assistant students. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and must identify as Asian, African American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino/a, or Native American. Applicants must be in their final year of study and must demonstrate a potential for professional excellence, along with evidence of contributions to minority affairs.
- Available to students in their last year of study in a CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant program, this scholarship includes a $3,000 award and recognition at the organization's annual conference. The applicant's physical therapy assistant program must nominate them for the award. Each school can nominate one student for the physical therapy assistant award each year. Candidates must submit a completed application, an enrollment verification form, an essay, and two letters of support.
- Each year, APTA offers this $500 scholarship to an outstanding physical therapy assistant student. Applicants must demonstrate exceptional contributions to APTA, the profession, and the Student Assembly. Candidates must be in their final year of study at an accredited physical therapy assistant program and must be a current APTA member. Applicants must submit a support statement from a clinical instructor, transcripts, and a copy of their APTA membership card.
- Founded to highlight the importance of CPR and first aid training, this scholarship program supports learners studying fields related to healthcare and education. Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. institution and must be at least eighteen years old. Candidates submit an essay and academic transcripts.
- The Physical Therapy Fund awards this scholarship to minority physical therapy assistant students in their final year of study. The scholarship includes financial support, a certificate, and a medallion. The monetary amount of the award varies. Applicants must demonstrate the potential for academic excellence and show evidence of participation in minority affairs and services. Applicants must submit a personal essay, three reference forms, and official transcripts.