Associate of Physical Therapy: Assistant Degree Overview
Individuals who want to work in rehabilitative roles caring for patients may choose to complete an associate degree program for physical therapist assistants. Completion of these degree programs qualifies graduates to sit for national certification examinations and work under the supervision of physical therapists.
Associate Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant
A physical therapist assistant provides services to injured and ill patients to help improve their mobility, relieve pain associated with illness and injury, and prevent further injuries. A physical therapist assistant may work with individuals suffering from head injuries, back pain, heart disease, fractures, arthritis and cerebral palsy.
Students typically complete both a didactic component and a clinical component, which may take place at college or university-affiliated institutions. The physical therapist assistant degree program may result in an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree and provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to become integral members of health care teams.
In general, a student seeking admission into a physical therapist assistant associate degree program has earned a high school diploma or its GED equivalent. Additionally, some academic institutions require students to complete prerequisite courses in mathematics, biology and English.
In addition to the clinical component to this type of degree program, traditional classroom instruction prepares students to perform their duties according to industry standards. Courses can cover topics such as:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Rehabilitation methods
- Patient care
- Exercise therapies
- Medical terminology
- Health care ethics
- Health care statistics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 33% from 2008-2018, and job opportunities are expected to be very good for these professionals (www.bls.gov). In May 2010, physical therapist assistants earned an average annual salary of $49,810, the BLS stated.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Upon successful completion of a physical therapist assistant associate degree program, graduates are prepared to take the National Physical Therapy Exam, which is required for practice in most states. Other states may require the completion of additional stipulations, such as state examinations. Physical therapy assistants may be required to become licensed, registered or certified, depending on the state in which they work. Additionally, graduates can go on to earn bachelor's degrees in closely related fields, such as health science or health administration.
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