Best Physical Therapy Assistant Associate’s Degrees

ASO Staff Writers
Updated June 19, 2023
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Physical therapy helps individuals improve, restore, and maintain body movement and function. Individuals at every life stage can benefit from physical therapy. Available careers in the field depend on the individual’s education level. For example, physical therapy aides, who work under the supervision of physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, do not need a postsecondary degree.

Physical therapy assistants implement treatment plans to help patients improve their mobility and quality of life. These professionals work under the direction and supervision of licensed physical therapists. Physical therapy assistants need strong listening and communication skills, along with the ability to work as part of a team.

Physical therapy professionals work in hospitals, schools, and fitness centers. An associate degree in physical therapy assistance can lead to positions in this growing field. Full-time students typically earn their associate in physical therapy in two years.

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Best Physical Therapy Programs

City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X
LocationChicago, IL

A system of colleges with multiple locations in Chicago, MXC offers an associate in applied science in physical therapist assistant. The program prepares students to aid licensed physical therapists.

MXC's associate in physical therapy assistant teaches students therapeutic techniques needed to work in direct patient care settings. Students learn these skills in courses such as orthopedic practice and neuromuscular rehabilitation. Courses such as health promotion and wellness and therapeutic procedures ensure students know the foundations of physical therapy.

The program also provides students with hands-on experience through clinical education. Clinical education includes placement in inpatient and outpatient physical therapy environments. Students interested in the personal fitness trainer program can enroll in the personal trainer practicum.

Minimum requirements for the competitive program include graduation from high school or a GED certificate. Applicants must complete prerequisites with a "C" or better to qualify for admission. Students entering the program must submit documentation of health history and criminal background checks.

Sinclair Community College
LocationDayton, OH

A community college based in Dayton, Ohio, Sinclair offers an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant. The program trains students to provide rehabilitation services in settings such as schools, hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities.

Students interested in a healthcare profession focused on movement and rehabilitation may consider applying for Sinclair's associate in physical therapy assistant program. Enrollees begin the program with general education courses such as anatomy and physiology and English composition. Later, they take technical courses taught through lectures, clinical education, and lab training. Notable courses include modalities, the medically complex patient, and functional mobility.

Students complete the program with a clinical education practicum and corresponding seminar. Learners take practica for 40 hours per week for eight weeks.

Applicants must complete a criminal background check. They also need to provide proof of health insurance and a health history.

Lorain County Community College
LocationElyria, OH

A community college located in Elyria, Ohio, LCCC features an associate in physical therapy assistant that prepares students for careers working in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities.

LCCC's five-semester program helps students obtain state licensure to practice as physical therapy assistants. Students take prerequisite courses such as anatomy and physiology and college 101. Technical courses include physical therapist assisting procedures and general pathology. At the end of each year, students complete a clinical practicum to gain hands-on experience. Enrollees can join student organizations like the Physical Therapy Assistant Association to network and learn from other students.

The program requires applicants to submit at least a high school transcript or GED certificate. Applicants must also complete high school biology and algebra with a grade of "C" or better. If applicants possess less than 15 hours of college credit, they must also demonstrate a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Central New Mexico Community College
LocationAlbuquerque, NM

A community college based in Albuquerque, CNM offers an associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant. One of the best physical therapy assistant programs, the 63-credit degree teaches the skills and knowledge needed for careers as physical therapy assistants.

Students complete an online screening process with the Coordinated Program Entry Office prior to registration. This process allows the school to determine a student's readiness for coursework. After the screening process, students register for courses such as clinical kinesiology, pathophysiology, and clinical preparation. The program requires students to complete three full-time clinical practica under professional supervision.

Tuition costs depend on state residency. New Mexico residents receive reduced tuition prices. Students can apply for financial aid to help fund their education. Applicants must submit criminal background checks prior to starting the program.

Ivy Tech Community College
LocationIndianapolis, IN

Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, ITCC offers an associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant. The program prepares students to implement physical therapy treatment plans under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

ITCC's 69-credit associate in physical therapy assistant teaches students how to use equipment and provide treatment interventions. Students learn physical therapy modalities and documentation skills. Technical courses include diseases, trauma, and terminology. Students also take courses such as treatment modalities and kinesiology. Prior to taking technical courses, students must complete general education coursework. Enrollees also complete clinical education for professional, hands-on training.

The program requires applicants to take the TEAS. Accepted students must submit criminal background checks, drug testing, and physical exam results. Accepted students enter the healthcare support program with a concentration in physical therapy assistant until they complete prerequisite courses.

Florida State College at Jacksonville
LocationJacksonville, FL

FSCJ offers a physical therapy assistant associate in science that prepares students to pass the state-administered national exam. This exam allows students to work as a licensed physical therapy assistant.

The associate in physical therapy assistant combines general education courses with technical courses. Technical courses teach physical therapy theories and practices through lectures, labs, and clinical experience. Notable courses include basic patient care and therapeutic exercise. Students complete clinical training at local facilities for practical learning experiences.

FSCJ's program requires students to complete 23 credits of general education prior to starting professional coursework. Students must complete these courses with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. They must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA in all professional courses to remain in the program.

Applicants must complete at least 10 hours each of outpatient and inpatient physical therapy observation. They must also take the HESI-A2 entrance exam and score at least a 75% across all categories.

Miami Dade College
LocationMiami, FL

The largest college in the Florida College System, MDC features an associate in science in physical therapy assistant. The program prepares students to work with licensed physical therapists to implement treatment plans.

MDC's 74-credit associate in physical therapy assistant program prepares students to work in areas such as wound care, service learning, and orthopedics. Most students complete the program in at least two years. Notable courses include applied kinesiology and disabilities and therapeutic procedures. The program provides both online and in-person classes for flexible learning. Many courses offer recorded video lectures for students, including lab settings. Students complete clinical training at local facilities to graduate.

Applicants must complete introduction to healthcare and introduction to healthcare lab prior to program entry. They also need at least 25 hours of physical therapy observation to qualify for admission. MDC's program gives preference to Florida residents.

College of Southern Nevada
LocationLas Vegas, NV

The largest public college in Nevada, CSN offers an associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant that prepares students to work in settings such as hospitals and home health.

CSN's 72-credit associate in physical therapy assistant program allows students to choose from various general education courses. For example, students can take psychology or sociology to supplement their professional coursework. Professional coursework includes administration in physical therapy and principles of physical agents. Students participate in clinical training at the end of the program. Prior to clinical training, students must have current CPR and First Aid cards, as well as personal health insurance.

Students complete a health programs orientation prior to starting the program. They must also meet with a health programs advisor. Applicants complete a limited entry workshop prior to submitting their application. CSN grants limited entry and only accepts top applicants.

College of Lake County
LocationGrayslake, IL

A public college located in Illinois, CLC offers an associate of science in pre-physical therapy that prepares students to transfer into a four-year, pre-professional bachelor's program.

CLC works with students to ensure they meet transfer criteria for the four-year school of their choice. The pre-physical therapy program offers recommended courses for students without a school in mind. Recommended courses include abnormal psychology, exercise physiology, and contemporary health issues. Students also complete general education prerequisite courses.

The school offers small class sizes for individualized attention, making CLC home to one of the best physical therapy assistant programs. Student development counselors help students determine the best course of study once they choose a school. Familiarity with the transfer school of choice is strongly recommended early in the program.

Applicants must submit high school or college transcripts. Tuition rates depend on district and state of residency. CLC also offers scholarships to students for tuition, books, and other fees.

Clark State Community College
LocationSpringfield, OH

A two-year college located in Springfield, Ohio, Clark State offers an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant. The program prepares students to take the state licensure exam needed to practice physical therapy.

Clark State's 65-credit associate in physical therapy assistant allows students to learn online and in person. For example, many courses offer an online lecture component and onsite labs. Notable courses include rehabilitation, physical therapy assistant procedures, and lifespan human growth. Students complete two directed practices in local clinical facilities. Prior to directed practices, students must submit a criminal background check and enroll in liability insurance.

The program accepts 36 students each year. Applicants must submit separate applications to Clark State and the physical therapy assistant program. They must also complete high school physics with a "C" or better. Students must complete prerequisite courses with a GPA of at least 2.5.

FAQ on Best Physical Therapy Programs

question-mark-circleHow long does it take to complete a physical therapy assistant program?

Physical therapy assistant programs usually take two years to complete. However, part-time learners may take longer to graduate. Some programs offer accelerated options.

question-mark-circleDo I need a license to be a physical therapy assistant?

Most states require physical therapy assistants to hold a license. Graduates of physical therapy assistant programs must pass a state-administered national exam to qualify for licensure.

question-mark-circleWhere do physical therapy assistants work?

Physical therapy assistants often work in medical settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, and skilled-nursing facilities. These professionals can also work in schools, workplaces, and sports facilities.

question-mark-circleWhat’s the difference between a physical therapy aide and a physical therapy assistant?

Physical therapy aides need only a high school diploma or the equivalent. They typically perform nonmedical tasks and gain skills on the job. Physical therapy assistants work directly with patients and need at least an associate degree.

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