Physical Therapist Assistant Certification and Certificate Programs

Explore certificate programs for the aspiring physical therapy assistant, and learn about common admission requirements and coursework. Get details on employment prospects and salaries after graduation, and find out the requirements for professional licensure and certification.

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Essential Information

Physical therapist assistants work closely with physical therapists to alleviate patients' pain, improve their mobility and lessen the symptoms of physical disabilities. Physical therapist assistants help patients to perform therapeutic exercises. They also apply hot, cold or electrical stimuli, administer massages and maintain records for the supervising physical therapist.

Since physical therapist assistants must earn at least an associate degree in order to work in their field, certificate programs allow students to obtain foundational training that prepares them for formal 2-year degree programs. Certificate programs usually last one year, and they are sometimes known as pre-physical therapy assistant programs.

Educational Prerequisites

Schools offering certificate programs typically require students to have a high school diploma or GED. Although not specifically required, a high school background in natural science or health science courses may help students to better understand the physical therapist assistant coursework.

Program Coursework

Physical therapist assistant certificate programs prepare students to enter 2-year associate degree programs by fulfilling their general education and basic medical science requirements. Courses within a certificate program often include the following:

  • Medical vocabulary
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English composition
  • General psychology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although some certificate holders may work as physical therapist aides and acquire training on the job, most states require physical therapist assistants to hold an associate degree before they are permitted to work in a professional setting. Physical therapist assistants earned a mean annual salary of $52,320 in May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment opportunities for physical therapist assistants were expected to grow significantly by 46% between 2010 and 2020 as the aging population's demand for physical therapy services expands, reported the BLS (

Continuing Education Information

Nearly all students who complete certificate programs enter associate degree programs to train as physical therapy assistants. Students who earn the certificate are not guaranteed admission into an associate degree program, though many certificate programs are affiliated with 2-year programs that accept the certificate for credit. Nearly all states also require physical therapist assistants to be licensed before they can be employed. Licensing criteria varies from state to state and may include completion of an associate's program and an examination; specific licensure information can be obtained from state licensing boards.

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