How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) in 4 Simple Steps


What is a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Being a physical therapist assistant (PTA) is a rewarding and fulfilling job. PTA’s are involved in helping patients recover from injuries, illnesses, and dealing with chronic conditions. Continue reading to learn how to become a physical therapist assistant.

They are a fundamental part of a patient’s recovery. Not only working closely with individuals, but also carrying out a wide range of tasks to keep a physical therapist’s practice running smoothly from an operational and clerical stance.

Before going into the details of the education, credentials, and qualifications required to become a physical therapist assistant. Let’s take a look at the job description and the qualities that not only attract people to this profession, but make them successful.

Key Duties of a Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants are responsible for the following duties:

  • Working with and observing patients as they carry out their therapy
  • Giving patients hands-on support with their exercises
  • Educating and communicating with patients and families about their treatment plans
  • Using the necessary equipment to aid recovery

Physical therapist assistants provide support to physical therapists. They work under the supervision of the physical therapists and treat patients. They use exercises, massage, balance training and other therapeutic forms of medicine.

They are also responsible for keeping records of progress up-to-date. Recording all the exercises performed, what improvements have been made, and any additional notes relevant to the patient.

A good physical therapist assistant needs to have good communication skills, interpersonal skills, administration skills, a keen eye for detail, and a positive attitude for motivating and bringing out the best in patients.

Important Qualities of a Physical Therapist Assistant:

Physically Strong

Physical therapist assistants are on their feet most of the day and help patients carry out exercises. Being able to support another person’s body weight and help them hold their balance is very important.


There needs to be a genuine desire to help others to be a successful PTA and enjoy what you do. You will be helping people all day, seeing other people recover from injuries and do things they may not have thought possible should bring you joy.

Attention to Detail

When working with patients to achieve small and large goals, having an eye for detail is incredibly important. This also applies to the administration side of the role. Medical records require a high degree of accuracy.

Interpersonal Skills

The role involves spending a lot of time interacting with patients. As well as communicating with their families and other healthcare professionals. Being able to communicate effectively is key part of this role.

Hands-on Practical Skills

Working with patients requires a hands-on practical approach. Physical therapist assistants are comfortable using their hands, and have a high degree of dexterity.

Being a physical therapist’s assistant can be a very rewarding role if you possess some or all of the above qualities. These skills can be worked on and developed, so don’t be disheartened if you feel you need to work on some of these areas.

PTA’s are an important part of a clinical team. Being involved in a person’s recovery from injury, illness or helping them manage a chronic condition is literally a life changing role. It comes with both a great deal of responsibility, but also a great deal of satisfaction.

The average physical assistant salary is $54,410
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Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Step 1: High School Preparation

High School Courses for Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Math classes

As an aspiring healthcare professional you will have to take a lot of science classes while taking official training. As math is the cornerstone of science it is a good idea to build a solid math foundation when in high school.

Science courses

As we mentioned before the majority of the courses you will have when getting your official physical therapist assistant training will be science related so taking as much as science courses like chemistry biology you can when in high school makes a reasonable amount of sense.

Communication classes

Physical therapy is a profession where you will deal with patients that are in pain. Strong communication skills are crucial for success as you will have to explain them the procedures in detail and make them feel comfortable when receiving treatment.

Step 2: Get Professional Physical Therapist Assistant Training

Physical Therapist Assistant Associates in Applied Science Degree Program 2 years

According to APTA the minimum education requirements in order to be eligible to take the national licensure examination is to have an accredited two-year Physical therapist assistant Associates in Applied Science Program Degree.

These are 66 to 75 semester credit hours’ programs that can be completed either online or on campus.

The admission requirements are a High school diploma or a GED, and a Grade Point Average over 2.5.


General Education requirements (16 credits)

  • Introduction to American Government and Political Science
  • Introduction to College Writing
  • Computers in Health Care
  • College Writing and Research
  • College Algebra
  • Mathematics for the Modern World
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Finite Mathematics
  • Calculus for Business, Life Science, and Social Sciences
  • Precalculus
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • Calculus III

Core Courses (48 credits)

  • Anatomy and Physiology for PTAs
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Clinical Practice I
  • Kinesiology for PTA’s
  • Introduction to Physical Therapy
  • Clinical Procedure I
  • Pathophysiology for PTAs
  • Clinical Procedures II
  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychosocial Aspects of Physical Therapy
  • Therapeutic Exercise I
  • Therapeutic Exercise II
  • Clinical Practice II
  • Clinical Practice III
  • Special Studies in Clinical Practice
  • Neurology and Pathology
  • Pharmacology for PTAs
  • Clinical Orientation

The cost of a Physical therapist assistant Associates in Applied Science Degree Program ranges from $12,200 to $20,880.

You should always contact the college of your choice before you enroll and ask them everything you need to know.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Physical therapist assistant Associates in Applied Science Degree Program near you.
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Physical Therapist Assisting, Bachelor of Science Degree Program 4 years

Those who want to get a deeper knowledge and advance their careers can pursue a bachelor’s degree.

These are 120- 130 semester credit hours’ programs that can be completed either online or on campus.

In order to get accepted you will need to have graduated from an accredited physical therapist assistant associates in applied science degree program.


General Education Courses (49 Credits)

  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry I
  • Chemistry II
  • English Literature
  • Statistics
  • Ethics
  • Physics I
  • Physics II
  • Human Growth & Development
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Algebra
  • College Math
  • English I
  • College English
  • General Psychology

Core Courses (72 credits)

  • Pathophysiology
  • Foundations & Perspectives for Bspta
  • Patient Communication, Education & Motivation
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Physical Therapy Across Practice Settings
  • Advanced Orthopedics
  • Advanced Neurological Rehabilitation
  • Specialty Populations
  • Healthcare Policy, Regulation & Management
  • Physical Therapy Research & Evidence Based Practice
  • PTA Capstone with Skills Lab

The cost of a Physical Therapist Assisting, Bachelor of Science Degree Program ranges from $32,500 to $62,360.

You should always contact the college of your choice before you enroll and ask them everything you need to know.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Physical Therapist Assisting, Bachelor of Science Degree Program near you.
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Step 3: Do an Internship or a Clinical Practicum

When you are contacting colleges and ask them for information about their programs make sure to know if they offer an internship or a clinical practicum as a part of their program.

An internship or a clinical practicum will give you the opportunity to gain valuable working experience under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist.

Step 4: Get Licensed

The majority of the states require for physical therapy assistants to become licensed by taking the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

At specific states it is required to also pass local examinations in addition.


  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a graduate of a CAPTE accredited associate’s degree program
  • Take the test within 90 days of your graduation
  • Have taken the test less than4 times in the last 1 year


4-hour written test consisted of 200 questions

Cost: $400

How Long Does it Take to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant and How Much Does it Cost?

Option 1: Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$12,200 - $20,880
Certification 1 month$400
Total 2 years & 1 month $12,600 - $21,280

Option 2: Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$32,500 to $62,360
Certification 1 month $400
Total 4 years & 1 month$32,900 - $62,760
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Physical Therapy Assistant Training Video


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