How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

A PTA helping out a patient

Many fields in STEM have been becoming very popular within colleges and universities. It’s because these types of fields have been ever-changing and growing.

Many fields within medicine and hospitals have also been growing as well.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy is something that has become very popular within the past few years of college students.

It is because it is in high demand and also tends to have a high salary.

However, becoming an occupational therapist or physical therapist requires many years of schooling, volunteering, etc.

If you are interested in the medical field being an assistant is a great way to not do so much schooling.

You would still get similar training as a physical therapist, however, you would attend less school.

It is also a great opportunity for you to see what it’s actually like to be involved in physical therapy.

You could always end up going back to school to become an actual physical therapist if you ever wanted to in the future.

It does not limit you it just shows you what it is like to be a part of physical therapy without having to go to school for almost 7 years.

Obviously, as an assistant, you will not have all of the certifications to do the same things as a physical therapist.

A physical therapist will be in charge of you and you’ll be working underneath them.

If you were hoping to have more responsibility and command, then you would have to go to schooling to become an actual physical therapist.

However, most people do not care about this aspect and just wanna be within the field in general.

This is obviously something that you want to research for yourself and see what your strengths and passions lie.

Every person is going to feel differently about each major and it may take you a long time to realize what the best part is for you individually.

What does a physical therapy assistant do?

A physical therapy assistant is going to be under the direct supervision of an accredited physical therapist.

This gives physical therapist assistants the opportunity to help patients of all ages with different medical problems. You will be mainly working with patients that just had surgery or an injury.

I had ACL knee surgery and shoulder surgery the last few years. After each surgery I had to go to a PT to rehab the areas where I had surgery.

Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are going to focus on the physical aspects of patients.

Many people get occupational therapists and physical therapists confused.

This is easy to understand why people get confused because the two careers are very similar.

Occupational therapists focus on more of the overall outlook of the patient including my mental state.

Physical therapists are going to focus on just the physical activity of the patient.

A PT will focus on helping them move their bodies and function better.

Physical therapist assistants are able to practice certain therapies and exercises with the patient. The PTA has to work under the assistance of an actual physical therapist.

How many years of schooling to be a physical therapy assistant?

If you were going to become a physical therapist, you would have to go to school for seven years.

In order to be a physical therapist, you are required to go to four years of undergraduate school. Then you will take three years of graduate physical therapy school.

Along with this when you are required to take many prerequisite courses in your undergraduate class schedule as well as volunteer.

You’re also then required to take the GRE test to get into graduate school.

You will then have to take the board exams after graduating from graduate school in order to be an accredited physical therapist.

However, if you want to be a physical therapy assistant all that you have to do is get your two-year associate’s degree.

This is an amazing opportunity to work within this field without having to go to five years of extra schooling.

You’re not only saving time but you’ll be saving money as well.

Think about the amount of money that you would spend on seven years of schooling.

Most places that offer physical therapy assistant degree programs tend to be community colleges or commuter schools.

This is also another great opportunity for you to save money. Going to a community college you will usually not have to pay for room and board.

What is the best major for a physical therapy assistant?

Because physical therapy is a two-year program to be an assistant, your major will be a physical therapy assistant.

You cannot major in physical therapy in a four-year undergraduate degree. You will have to get an undergraduate degree.

As a physical therapy assistant, you have the opportunity to just train to be a PTA. You do not need a ton of undergraduate classes.

This means that you will not major in anything else.

What classes do you take as a physical therapy assistant?

You will take many classes as a physical therapy assistant that are similar to classes that physical therapist takes.

Some of the first classes that you were probably going to take include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Exercise science
  • Kinesiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Human nutrition
  • Communication
  • Behavioral science
  • Clinical pathology
  • Biomechanics

Because it is only a two-year program, you will only be taking around four semesters. These classes alone will probably take up almost 2 semesters.

After that, you will take classes that will be in physical therapy. There is also hands-on work depending on what program you are a part of.

Looking at the classes above, you can tell that this is a very science-heavy program.

If you are not good at science, then this may not be the major for you.

It is important to remember that you are dedicating two years of your life to educate yourself on this subject. You do not want to hate the work so make sure you are interested.

Even if you end up changing your program. It is good to know your potential, your strengths, and your weaknesses.

You always have the opportunity later in life to go back to school to become a physical therapist if you want to.

What classes should I take in high school to be a physical therapy assistant?

There are no required classes for you to take in high school to become a physical therapy assistant.

My best advice for you is to take as many accelerated courses as you possibly can.

If your school offers accelerated, honors, or college credit courses within science this would be your best bet. Physical therapy is a very science-based program so the more science classes you take the better.

If you take accelerated science courses in high school, your knowledge going into your associate’s degree will be better.

I also encourage you to take any college classes that you can because it will help you in the end.

Taking more college classes in high school free up your college credits in college.

If your classes count towards college credit it will lower your college cost.

How much does a physical therapy assistant make a year?

The salary of a career field can really depend on a variety of different things. The first thing that could really make a difference is location.

Because different states have different minimum wages, their other jobs can really variance salaries as well.

It also depends on where the jobs are in demand more.

Just because a physical therapist is in demand does not mean that a PTA job is in demand as well.

Normally when a certain job is in demand, the company is going to pay more. The more the need the higher the pay.

Overall right now the average salary of a physical therapy assistant is around $40,000 a year.


Overall, this is a really great field to get into if you are interested in physical therapy.

You are still helping people every single day and immersing yourself in the field.

Make sure that you take the time to see if this is really the route you want to go. If you like science courses and like helping people this will be a good major.

Either way, you will find something that suits you. If you choose to be a physical therapy assistant you were going to be doing great things in the world.

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