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 2021
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
University Center, MI
A community college based in University Center, Michigan, Delta features an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant.
As one of the best physical therapy assistant programs, Delta gives students the option of pursuing an accelerated track. Professors offer courses during the day. However, many students also attend evening or weekend special events. Notable courses include clinical neuroanatomy, exercise physiology, and lifelong wellness.
Students can enroll in a dual-degree program. Dual-degree program options include physical therapy assistant and health fitness specialist or general management. The program also requires students to complete clinical practices to gain hands-on experience.
Applicants to the physical therapy assistant program take prerequisite courses prior to full acceptance. Many students begin their studies at Delta and transfer to other schools. For example, Delta signed a transfer agreement with Ferris State University. Tuition differs for in-district and in-state residents.
William Rainey Harper College
A public school located in Palatine, Illinois, Harper provides an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant that trains students to work with physical therapists.
Most students complete Harper's 68-credit associate in physical therapy assistant in two years. These two years include common prerequisite courses such as medical terminology and fundamentals of speech communication. Other notable courses include intervention fundamentals and manual techniques for the physical therapy assistant. Students can use Harper's virtual hospital to learn hands-on skills. They also participate in clinicals at offsite physical therapy facilities. The program prepares students to take the National Physical Therapist Examination.
Harper's program offers limited enrollment. Applicants must take the National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam to qualify for admission. They also submit high school and college transcripts. The program also requires applicants to attend a Health Care Careers Information Meeting.
Hutchinson Community College
A community college based in Kansas, HutchCC offers an associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant that teaches students the skills to help patients improve mobility.
Students interested in working under the guidance of a physical therapist may consider HutchCC's program. HutchCC asks students to complete prerequisites prior to admission. Prerequisites include college algebra and anatomy and physiology. Students must demonstrate a GPA of 2.5 or better in prerequisites to qualify for admission. Admitted students can take courses at their own pace. Many students complete the physical therapy assistant program in 12 months. The program requires students to participate in clinical training at offsite facilities to graduate.
Prospective students first apply to HutchCC to enroll in prerequisites. After completing prerequisite courses, applicants to the physical therapy assistant program submit reference letters to the department. The top 40 applicants sit for an interview.
Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City
Part of the Metropolitan Community College system located in Kansas City, MCC offers an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant. The program prepares students for positions as physical therapy assistants in settings such as sports clinics, extended-care facilities, and schools.
MCC's associate in physical therapy assistant program features lecture-based courses with accompanying labs. Students who need a flexible schedule can opt for online-based courses. Prior to enrolling in professional coursework, students complete prerequisite courses such as medical terminology and composition. Special program requirements include applied neurology, orthopedic pathology, and medical diseases. Students also participate in 720 hours of supervised clinical experience.
The program's admission policies include submitting all applications for the web-based or on-ground program by their respective deadlines. For applicants with less than 4 hours of physical therapy observation, the program offers the option of watching a series of videos. Applicants can watch the videos and write a one-page report.
Indian River State College
A public school based in Fort Pierce, Florida, IRSC offers an associate of science in physical therapy assistant that prepares students for the Florida Jurisprudence Examination.
IRSC's 74-credit physical therapy assistant associate program helps students learn the skills needed to pass the Physical Therapy Assistant Licensure Examination. Students first enroll in general education courses such as physics, intermediate algebra, and medical terminology. Then, enrollees complete professional courses such as ethical issues in healthcare, cardiopulmonary physical therapy, and neuromuscular physical therapy. Courses offer labs and clinicals to gain practical experience. Students can also choose to continue on to earn a bachelor's degree at IRSC.
Applicants submit separate applications to IRSC and the Health Science department. They must also submit high school and college transcripts. IRSC requires a GPA of 3.0 or better to qualify for admission. Admitted students must demonstrate proof of health insurance, CPR training, and drug test results.
A public college located in Panama City, Florida, GCSC offers an associate of science in physical therapy assistant that trains students for entry-level jobs in the field.
Graduates of GCSC's 74-credit associate in physical therapy assistant can take the national licensure exam. Courses teach students the skills needed to pass the exam, such as therapeutic exercises and intervention. Students also learn how to assess, measure, and document a patient's progress. Many courses include an accompanying lab for students to receive hands-on training. The program also requires students to complete clinical training at an offsite facility.
High school graduates can apply to GCSC's program. Completed college credits give applicants a head start in the program. Students can transfer general education courses taken at other institutions. GSCS also offers one of the lowest tuition rates in the state, making it one of the most affordable physical therapy assistant programs.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
A Florida College System public school located in Fort Lauderdale, BC offers one of the best physical therapy assistant programs. The associate of science program prepares students to work with different populations, such as children with disabilities and elderly patients.
After graduation, students can take continuing education courses at BC to learn more about a particular field in physical therapy. Students can choose to specialize in areas such as sports medicine, geriatrics, or pediatrics. Many students pursue further education to teach physical therapy at the college level. Students learn about sensorimotor, intellectual, and behavior standards to help assess a patient's progress.
Students admitted to BC receive points for grades in general education courses. Physical therapy assistant applicants with higher points are more likely to be accepted. Applicants must pass a drug screening and criminal background check prior to admission. They must also complete a medical history and physical examination.
A public two-year college located in Dearborn, Michigan, HFC offers both an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant and an associate in science in pre-physical therapy assistant.
HFC's associate in pre-physical therapy assistant provides students with general education courses to support further education in healthcare services. Students in the program take courses such as medical terminology and anatomy and physiology.
The school's associate in physical therapy assistant program prepares students for entry-level jobs in the field. The program requires students to take courses such as kinesiology, exercise techniques, and spinal orthopedics. Students also participate in clinical practica to gain full-time experience in a physical therapy facility.
Applicants do not need to obtain an associate degree in a pre-physical therapy program to apply to the physical therapy assistant program. To qualify for the physical therapy assistant program, applicants need at least a 2.8 GPA. They must also complete 20 hours of physical therapy observation.
A public community college located in Farmington, New Mexico, SJC offers an associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant that prepares students to work under the supervision of a physical therapist.
SJC's associate in physical therapy assistant allows students to choose from an on-campus or an online hybrid track. Students opting for the online hybrid program complete most coursework online. Hybrid learners only need to travel to campus once a semester for five semesters to complete lab work.
Students in either program complete prerequisite courses such as medical terminology and musculoskeletal focus for physical therapy assistants. They must also complete general education courses including college algebra and composition. Notable program core requirements include clinical kinesiology and therapeutic exercise. Students must complete clinical externships to gain experience in a direct care setting.
Admission to the program requires letters of recommendation and ATI TEAS test scores. New Mexico and certain Colorado residents also receive additional consideration.
A public school based in Indiana, VU offers one of the best physical therapy assistant programs that prepares students to join healthcare teams.
VU's physical therapy assistant associate program teaches students the skills needed to help patients improve mobility and relieve pain. Specifically, students learn therapeutic exercises, mobility training, and aquatic therapy. Notable courses include pathophysiology and physical therapy assisting. Labs accompany many lecture-based courses throughout the program. Students also participate in clinical education in three different locations. Clinical education consists of 40 hours a week for up to six weeks. Many students complete the degree in two years.
Tuition rates depend on state residency. Indiana and Iillinois residents pay less than out-of-state students. VU's program accepts about 28 students each year. Applicants must submit documentation of immunization and CPR training.
Southwestern Illinois College
A public school located in Belleville, SWIC offers an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant. The program provides courses taught by experts in the field.
SWIC's associate in physical therapy assistant requires students to take courses in biological and social sciences in addition to technical courses. Technical courses include orthopedic intervention, patient care skills, and kinesiology. The department also assigns clinical experiences to students at various offsite locations within the district or in the St. Louis area. Students complete one, four-week clinical and two six-week clinicals throughout the program. Prior to clinicals, students must complete criminal background checks and drug testing.
SWIC's program accepts 20 students each fall. Students can continue their education and earn a bachelor's degree in healthcare management or a master's in health administration. SWIC and Maryville University developed an agreement that allows students to easily transfer credits for continuing education.
A two-year public college based in Eugene, Oregon, Lane offers an associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant. Enrollees learn how to help patients improve and optimize movement.
Students looking to work with elderly patients, athletes, or injured workers may consider Lane's 94-credit associate in physical therapy assistant. Online lectures, labs, and simulations help students learn the skills needed to directly work with patients. Courses include neurological dysfunctions, complex medical dysfunction, and applied kinesiology. Students must travel to campus for one day a week during their first year. They then complete three, six-week internships under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Students typically complete the degree in two years.
Only Oregan residents qualify for admission. Students must submit transcripts with completed general education prerequisites prior to application. Select applicants interview with the department. Applicants with physical therapy work history receive additional consideration.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
A public community college in Salisbury, North Carolina, RCCC offers an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant. As one of the best physical therapy assistant programs, the curriculum prepares students to improve patient mobility through therapeutic exercises and intervention.
Many students complete RCCC's 74-credit degree in five semesters. Other students enroll part time for flexible completion of the degree. Notable courses include pediatrics for physical therapy assistants and pathophysiology. Students apply learned skills in full-time clinical education experiences. The program places students under the supervision of licensed physical therapists. Students need to complete all professional courses with a final "B" average to graduate.
Applicants must attend a physical therapy assistant information session prior to submitting their application. They must also submit documentation of at least 24 hours of observation in a physical therapy setting.
A public college located in El Dorado, Kansas, Butler features an associate in pre-physical therapy that trains students for a bachelor's degree in pre-physical therapy. The program prepares students who plan to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.
Butler's 63-credit, pre-physical therapy associate degree teaches students to use techniques and equipment for physical therapy. Students take courses in chemistry, physics, and related fields. Other courses include public speaking, medical terminology, and applied statistics. They can also choose between enrolling in person, online, or a hybrid model. Butler provides pre-physical therapy students the opportunity to work with nationally recognized athletic programs.
Applicants submit official high school transcripts. They must also submit SAT/ACT scores or complete the Butler placement exam. Application to Butler requires proof of Kansas residency. In-state residents receive lower tuition rates.
Based in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, COD offers an associate in applied science in physical therapy assistant. The program prepares students for careers working in hospitals, outpatient facilities, and schools. Students learn how to alleviate pain and improve patients' mobility under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Many students complete the program in five consecutive semesters.
COD's physical therapy assistant associate degree teaches students the knowledge required to pass the licensure exam. Students begin the program with general education courses, including mathematics, speech, and English. After completing general education classes, learners take professional coursework. Notable professional courses include documentation, special patient populations, and therapeutic assessment. Students also complete clinical practica through the program to gain hands-on experience.
Applicants must attend a physical therapist assistant advising session. They must also submit official high school and college transcripts. Admission requires documentation of observation hours and a written essay on the field.
FAQ on Best Physical Therapy Programs
How 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.
Do 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.
Where 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.
What'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.