Physical Therapy Assistant Programs Online

Learn about online physical therapy assistant programs and discover the top accredited schools for 2021. Start your online PTA program journey today.

Search hundreds of schools
for the degree you want ......

I want my
In

Written By
EduMed Staff

last updated

Last Updated: 09/21/2021
——

With more health professionals recognizing the importance of physical therapy, many practices and clinics rely on the skills of trained physical therapy assistants. Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) work under the supervision of a physical therapist and assist patients with their daily activities and exercises. They help monitor patient progress, communicate important information to patient’s families, and use techniques like therapeutic massage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapy assistants earn a median salary of $59,770. The highest 10% of PTAs earn a reported $82,470. The BLS also projects that PTAs will encounter a growth rate of 29% between 2019 and 2029, which is considered much faster than average.

Online physical therapy assistant programs make it easy to get your foot in the door. In just two years, you can gain the skills you need to start work in a physical therapy office. And while you can take a lot of your coursework online, you should expect to participate in a certain number of in-person clinical hours.

Discover which schools made our list for 2021 and find the online PTA program that’s right for you.

Best Physical Therapy Assistant Programs Online: 2021

The right online PTA program for any student is the one that best aligns with his or her particular needs, such as work and family obligations, as well as things like ultimate career goals and study preferences. To help begin your school search, we’ve compiled a list of what we believe to be the best physical therapy assistant programs online, based on a number of factors that any program should meet, including comprehensiveness of curriculum, affordability, convenience and flexibility, and more. Review and compare these standout online PTA programs for 2021.

or
About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Miami Dade CollegeMiami, FL Public $ 1

MDC is a public college in Florida with more than 80,000 for-credit students enrolled. Founded in 1959, MDC today offers a physical therapist Associate of Science degree for online and on-campus learners. Students choose their course delivery method, including a blended option for a hybrid learning experience. In most cases, full-time learners complete this associate degree in 2-3 years.

Students complete 74 credits of work to prepare for careers as assistants in private practices, nursing homes, hospitals, and more. Required synchronous and asynchronous classes include a human anatomy and physiology lab, medical terminology, and disabilities and therapeutic procedures. Prospective students should be 18 years old or older with a GED or high school diploma. MDC also requires incoming students to have at least 25 observation hours in a physical therapy setting.

Program Highlights:

Physical Therapist Associate of Science

  • Credits: 74
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Cost: $83/credit (resident); $331/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Fully online or Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
33%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
2 College of Central FloridaOcala, FL Public $ 1

College of Central Florida offers one of the top physical therapist assistant associate programs. Designed for working students, CF offers many of its required courses in a flexible hybrid format. This 74-credit associate degree requires students to complete synchronous classes such as disabilities and therapeutic procedures, survey of pathological deficits, and a therapeutic modalities lab. Associate degree students spend seven semesters in school, including summers. During the last fall semester, learners complete two, seven-week, full-time clinical appointments at an approved facility.

Prospective CF associate degree-seekers should have a 2.75 or higher GPA. The school also expects applications to have at least 16 hours of observation in a physical therapy setting.

Program Highlights:

Physical Therapist Assistant Associate Degree

  • Credits: 74
  • Length: 7 semesters
  • Cost: $2,832/year (resident); $10,632/year (nonresident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
27%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
3 Seminole State College of FloridaSanford, FL Public $ 1

Seminole State is a public institution in Sanford. Learners in its physical therapist assistant associate degree program choose from in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning formats. Learners enjoy Seminole State's small class sizes of no more than 30 students and take advantage of working closely with PT professors remotely and on-campus. Students in the PTA program complete synchronous classes over five terms. In addition to an in-person clinical experience, required online classes include pathophysiology, orthopedic conditions and treatment, trends in physical therapy, and neurological conditions.

Incoming students should have at least 20 hours of observation in a physical therapy setting or relevant volunteer experience. Seminole State also expects applicants to have a 2.5 or higher GPA and a 59% or higher on the TEAS exam.

Program Highlights:

Physical Therapist Assistant Associate in Science

  • Credits: 75
  • Length: 5 semesters
  • Cost: $3,131/total
  • Mode: Fully online or Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
16%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
4 State College of Florida-Manatee-SarasotaBradenton, FL Public $ 1

Located in Bradenton, SCF is a public institution with one of the top physical therapist assistant programs. The school offers a mostly online associate degree for PTA learners. Most didactic courses, including general education classes, are available remotely. Students also complete three in-person clinical experiences in a physical therapy setting for graduation. Required PTA classes at SCF include human development in the lifespan, trends in physical therapy, anatomy and physiology, and applied anatomy and kinesiology.

Prospective SCF students should have a 2.75 or higher GPA. Incoming associate degree-seekers should also have prerequisite courses, including written communications and general psychology, completed by the time they apply.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant

  • Credits: 74
  • Length: 5 semesters
  • Cost: $102/credit (resident); $386/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
18%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
5 University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorage, AK Public $$ 1

UAA is a public university established in 1954 that now serves approximately 15,200 students and offers one of the best physical therapy assistant associate degrees. UAA offers most PTA associate classes on-campus. Learners have the option to take some courses remotely, including the physical therapy in healthcare course and the PTA seminar. Additionally, the 15-week clinical rotation takes place off-campus in an approved physical therapy setting.

Prospective PTA students should have at least 30 hours of observation experience, including at least 15 hours at two different sites. Experiences in outpatient, inpatient, home health, long-term care, and rehab centers do qualify. Competitive applicants possess a 2.5 or higher GPA and have completed all prerequisite coursework before they apply.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Applied Science, Physical Therapist Assistant

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: 5 semesters
  • Cost: $234/credit (resident); $800/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
30%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
6 University of Cincinnati-Clermont CollegeBatavia, OH Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
34%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
7 SUNY College of Technology at CantonCanton, NY Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
87%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
8 Albany State UniversityAlbany, GA Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
7%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
9 Kent State University at AshtabulaAshtabula, OH Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
47%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
or
About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Ivy Tech Community CollegeIndianapolis, IN Public $ 1

Ivy Tech is a public institution founded in 1963. Based in Indiana, the school offers an associate degree for physical therapy assistants with many remote learning options. PTA students are typically offered a variety of blended or fully online classes each semester. On-campus classes for this degree take place at the Lake County, Muncie, and Sellersburg locations.

Ivy Tech’s 69.5-credit associate degree takes five semesters to finish. Faculty deliver courses in eight-week terms. This includes required coursework such as student success in healthcare; kinesiology; psychology; and diseases, trauma, and terminology.

Applicants for degree programs at Ivy Tech can apply online using the free application form. Learners typically need a high school GPA of 2.6 or higher for consideration. Students may also submit ACT, SAT, or PSAT scores to bolster their application.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Science, Physical Therapy Assistant

  • Credits: 69.5
  • Length: 5 semesters
  • Cost: $2,243/12 or more credits a semester (resident); $4,389/12 or more credits a semester (non-resident); $150/credit for part-time learners
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
11%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2 Lone Star College SystemThe Woodlands, TX Public $ 1

Lone Star College (LSC) is a public school based in Houston. The school offers a hybrid associate of applied science in physical therapy assistant studies. Learners complete requirements in person and online, with the entirety of general education classes available remotely.

LSC physical therapy assistant students complete required classes such as lifespan growth and development, introduction to ethics, professional issues, and pathophysiology. The associate program requires 66 credits for graduation and usually takes full-time learners about five semesters, or two years, to finish.

Applicants must be 18 years old for consideration with a GED or high school diploma. Prospective PTA students should have at least 40 hours of observation experience and a 2.0 or higher GPA.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Applied Science, Physical Therapy Assistant

  • Credits: 66
  • Length: 5 semesters
  • Cost: $202/credit (resident); $257/credit (non-resident)
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
7%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
3 Ohlone CollegeFremont, CA Public $ 1

Ohlone College (OC) is a public community college established in 1965 in Fremont, California. The school today offers a hybrid physical therapist assistant associate degree. Upon completing the degree, students will be prepared to sit for the national licensing exam. While most physical therapy classes are in person, some general education and prerequisite classes are available remotely.

This 60-credit associate degree program takes about two years to complete. Required classes include orthopedics, advanced modalities, human anatomy and physiology, and neurological disorders. Learners at OC must also complete two clinical practicums and a clinical internship.

Admissions is competitive, as OC only admits 24 students per academic year. Applicants need at least a 2.7 GPA, along with a history of coursework in anatomy and physiology and an introductory course in physical therapy. Students must also take a placement test before entering the program.

Program Highlights:

Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Degree

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $294/credit
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: ACCJC (school); CAPTE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
3%
AccreditationWestern Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

Sponsored

Why Enroll in an Online PTA Program?

Online physical therapy assistant programs have a number of important advantages over the traditional on-campus format. Three of the biggest are:

  • Decreased Cost
    Tuition costs and program fees for physical therapy assistant programs online are oftentimes less than for their on-campus counterparts, although in a few cases they may be more. Regardless, students are likely to enjoy decreased costs overall when studying online, saving money on travel to and from campus (gas, parking fees, etc.) and other items, like paying for a babysitter.
  • Personal Pace
    Most programs allow students to access their online classes at times of their own convenience and complete coursework at their own pace.
  • No Commute
    Along with the cost savings in gas and wear on your vehicle, studying online means no commuting to campus, freeing up time better spent on more important things – like your family and friends.

What to Look for in an Online Physical Therapy Assistant Program

In addition to the elements discussed above, any online PTA program you consider should meet the following foundational qualifications:

  • Accreditation
    Of foremost importance for online PTA programs is accreditation. Proper accreditation assures students that their program meets or exceeds foundational standards of quality. It’s also something that employers weigh heavily when assessing the qualifications of potential hires. In the U.S., entry-level PTA programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
  • NPTE Pass Rates:
    Working as a physical therapist assistant in the U.S. requires state licensure, and licensure in all 50 states requires passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). Therefore, potential PTA students may want to consider first those programs with higher NPTE pass rates for their graduates. Information on PTA program pass rates can often be found on program websites. If not, you can access them from this Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) webpage.
  • Quality In-Person Training:
    All physical therapy assistant programs online include some form of clinical practicum/internship component that must be completed in-person. If possible, consider those programs that provide access to quality clinical facilities near your home, and at times that best fit your schedule. Clinical practicum/internship components normally require full-time participation, but some programs may offer the flexibility of part-time attendance.

The Ins-and-Outs of Online PTA Programs

Online college degree programs are nothing new. They’ve been around now for more than two decades. Nevertheless, earning a degree through distance learning is still a brand new experience to anyone who hasn’t done if before. If that’s you, then it’s crucial to your academic success that you gain a solid understanding of the online education process – as well as the specific requirements of any online PTA program you’re considering – before you sign up. Here are some of the details:

Hands-on Training

The first important thing to know is that, like most online education programs in the medical field, you will be able to complete most of your basic coursework (lectures, reading, written assignments, etc.) online. However, all online PTA programs also include substantial in-person participation in the form of on-campus lab sessions and clinical experiences, and clinical practicums or internships at off-campus physical therapy facilities. This is to be expected since, by its very nature, physical therapy training requires hands-on practice.

The PTA Associate Degree

The career path of any physical therapist assistant career in the U.S. begins with earning a PTA associate degree. Generally speaking, most associate degrees are earned with two years of full-time study through an online or traditional campus-based community or technical college program. Two years is also the length of many traditional on-campus PTA degree programs. Online PTA degree programs, however, typically take a bit more time. This is particularly true of part-time programs that call for up to three years or more to complete all general education and PTA coursework, as well as all hands-on practicum requirements.

Course Structure for Physical Therapy Assistant Programs Online

All online PTA degree programs are hybrid programs, that is, they consist of a combination of online and in-person study components. However, it’s not uncommon for PTA programs to offer some specific courses in a fully-online format, and others in a format that combines online lectures, and reading and writing assignments, with on-campus labs and clinical experiences.

The bulk of online coursework is presented asynchronously, meaning that students can access course materials at anytime, and complete assignments at their own pace. It’s this flexibility in study that makes distance learning such a great choice for students with busy work schedules or significant family obligations. There may be times, however, when students are required to log in and attend a live streamed lecture or related event at a specific time.

Paying for an Online Physical Therapy Assistant Program

Going after a college degree, even an associate degree, can be expensive. In fact, cost is often the biggest barrier faced by prospective students. Fortunately, PTA students have access to the same financial aid options as anyone else:

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants have the great advantage of not having to be paid back. The problem is that many students never bother to consider scholarships or grants because they assume there’s no chance of qualifying for them. The truth is, though, that there are organizations out there that sponsor scholarships and grants specifically for PTA students, and many awards are earmarked for students with particular backgrounds (low income, members of a minority group, etc.). For example, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) sponsors a number of scholarships specifically for PTA students, three of which are awarded to minority group members. Additionally, there are dozens of scholarships and grants that are non-PTA specific, but nonetheless open to PTA students.

Learn about more scholarships you may be eligible for by visiting EduMed’s dedicated scholarships guide for PTA students.

Student Loans

Student loans are the most common form of financial aid for college. Student loan sources include state governments and private funds, but the bulk of loans are made through the federal government. Access to all federal student loans, as well as many scholarships, grants, and work-study jobs, requires filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Visit EduMed’s Pay Less for Education: How to Take Charge of Your Financial Aid for more on student financial aid opportunities.

Getting Licensed After Your Online PTA Program

As mentioned earlier, you can’t practice as a physical therapist assistant in the U.S. without a license. Licensure of PTAs is handled by regulatory agencies in each individual state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Specific licensure requirements and procedures vary by jurisdiction, but all mandate that applicants pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) to be licensed. Other requirements may include such items as a criminal background check, CPR certification, and payment of a license application processing fee. Some states additionally require applicants to be at least 18 years of age. Also, licensure is good only within the jurisdiction that issues it, so PTAs who work in more than one state, or are planning to move to a new state, must obtain the proper license for that jurisdiction before starting practice. PTA students are advised to become familiar with the licensure process in their jurisdiction as early as possible.

About the NPTE

The NPTE for PTAs is a computer-administered exam that consists of 200 multiple choice questions. The exam is given four times a year on specific dates and must be taken at one of the many Prometric test centers located throughout the United States. The test need not be taken in the test taker’s chosen practice jurisdiction. Test takers have up to five hours to complete the exam. Test scores range from 200 to 800, with 600 as the minimum passing score. The exam may be repeated consecutively up to three times, and up to six times in total. The current cost for taking the exam is $485.00. The administration of the NPTE is supervised by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSTBP). Detailed exam information is available on this APTA webpage, and full exam eligibility requirements can be found here.

There’s a wealth of exam preparation materials available, a few of which can be gotten for a nominal price or even free-of-charge. Contact your school’s library or bookstore for prep material availability, or check out this FSTBP resource list.

What You’ll Learn in Physical Therapy Assistant Programs Online

Working as a PTA requires a surprisingly broad foundation of knowledge and hands-on skills, all of which will be covered in any quality PTA degree program. Didactic PTA core coursework – typically presented online – will include study in a number of relevant subjects, such as anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, clinical pathology, communication, ethics, neuroscience, and more. Hands-on skills are those that PTA students develop during the in-person components of their degree program (labs, clinicals, practicums, internships) while working directly with patients under the direction of instructors, doctors, and practicing physical therapists.

Below is look at some of the most important qualities and skills students develop in their PTA degree programs. Keep in mind that these skills are meant to ensure competence in professional practice, but more immediately, they prepare the student for passing the NPTE.

Knowledge Gained through Online Coursework

Anatomy and Kinesiology:
A strong, foundational understanding of the human anatomy – particularly the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, nervous, integumentary, and endocrine systems – is crucial to physical therapy practice. Closely related to anatomy, kinesiology concerns human body movement, focusing specifically on the biomechanical, physiological, and psychological principles and mechanisms of movement. PTA students should expect comprehensive coverage of both topics in their coursework.

Exercise Physiology:
Covering some of the same basic ground as anatomy and kinesiology, but related specifically to the physiology of the human body during exercise. Emphasis is placed on the neuromuscular and cardiopulmonary systems, as well as the metabolic processes involved in the production and storage of energy as it applies to acute and chronic exercise. Pathological conditions relevant to exercise and physical therapy practice are included.

Communication:
PTAs spend the majority of their workday interacting with clients, physical therapists, doctors, medical staff, and others. PTAs must be able to receive information from all of these sources and competently record that information in written form for later use by themselves and others. Superior communications skills are, therefore, a must. Communication topics covered in coursework include oral comprehension and expression, speech clarity, written comprehension, and writing competency.

Skills Learned During Hands-on Training

Patient Treatment:
This is the real “hands-on” part of the physical therapist assistant’s job. PTAs not only teach their patients specific stretches and exercises as part of their plans of care, they also help patients perform those stretches and exercises during treatment sessions. PTAs additionally perform a variety of massage techniques on patients as part of treatment. PTAs also instruct patients in the use of various types of rehabilitation and exercise equipment, as well as assistive devices like walkers and crutches.

Patient Diagnosis and Evaluation:
Through observation and testing, and under the direct supervision of physical therapists, PTAs help diagnose the movements and functions of their patients, and assist in the development of plans of care. PTAs are also responsible for observing their patients before, during, and after treatment in order to evaluate and report on patient status and progress to the supervising physical therapist.

Compassion:
As much a personal quality as a skill. Compassion can be defined as the consciousness of the pain of others, and the desire to help alleviate that pain. Compassion for the suffering of one’s patients, along with the equally-important quality of patience, must be at the very core of every PTA’s professional practice.

Career Growth, Salary & Outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants

You’ve taken a look at what physical therapist assistants do and it sounds like something you might be interested in. You’ve got a pretty clear idea of what you need to do in terms of education, training, and licensure to get a PTA career going. But what can you expect from your PTA career once you’re in it? A great source of career information for PTAs – or any other career, for that matter – is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And according to the BLS, the job market and expected career growth for PTAs moving forward is quite encouraging, with an estimated increase in PTA employment of 29% between 2019 and 2029. That’s excellent, especially when compared to the expected job growth for healthcare occupations overall (15%).

How Much Do Physical Therapist Assistants Make?

How much any individual earns as a PTA will depend on a number of factors, including geographic location, the type of facility in which they’re employed, and length of time in practice. The tables below offer an earnings snapshot for PTAs in the U.S. using the most recent (May 2020) BLS statistics.

National Wage Estimates: Mean PTA hourly and annual wage estimates by percentile:

Percentile 10% 25% 50% (Median) 75% 90%
Hourly $16.24 $22.50 $27.91 $33.03 $38.37
Annual $33,840 $48,260 $59,770 $70,800 $82,470

Estimated Wages by Industry: Mean PTA hourly and annual wage estimates in the industries with the five highest levels of PTA employment (ranked by employment level):

Industry Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $27.02 $56,210
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $26.50 $55,120
Nursing Care Facilities $31.40 $65,320
Home Health Care Services $31.06 $64,600
Physicians’ Offices $25.38 $52,800

Estimated Wages by State: Mean PTA hourly and annual wage estimates for the five states with the highest PTA employment (ranked by employment level):

State Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Texas $33.60 $69,890
Florida $29.64 $61,650
Ohio $28.24 $58,740
Pennsylvania $26.01 $54,100
California $30.87 $64,210

What Are the Career Advancement Opportunities for PTAs?

According to the APTA, the vast majority of working physical therapist assistants remain with that career choice within the field of physical therapy, moving up in the profession (and earning more money) by pursuing advanced knowledge and skills in a variety of specialized interests, such as administration and management, education, clinical work, and others. Some choose to obtain the APTA’s PTS Advanced Proficiency Pathways (APP) credential to evidence their advanced professional knowledge and skills. Earning the APP credential requires completion of a series of APTA courses, area-specific proficiency knowledge and skills checks, and mentored clinical experiences with skills checks.

A small percentage (approximately 10%) of PTAs will return to school to obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and become physical therapists. PTs review patients’ medical histories, diagnose patients’ physical movements and functions, and evaluate patient progress. They further provide many of the same hands-on therapies as PTAs and supervise PTA treatment of patients. PTs typically earn substantially more than PTAs, with the BLS estimating a mean annual wage of $91,010 for physical therapists nationally.

Learn more about advancing your PTA career with an online Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Career advancement as a PTA may also mean a change in practice setting, geographic location, or practice focus:

  • Practice Setting:
    Along with the different industries listed above in the estimated wages table, PTAs can find jobs in places such as rehabilitation centers, sports training facilities and fitness centers, schools, and more. And with our ever-aging population, PTAs are likely to find increasing job opportunities in treatment settings for the elderly, like skilled-nursing homes and outpatient orthopedic facilities, as well as in the home health field.
  • Geographic Location:
    Employment prospects should be particularly good in rural areas of the country, given the higher concentration of PTAs in urban and suburban communities.
  • Practice Focus:
    PTAs seeking to move out of clinical practice may want to consider occupation-related non-clinical positions in areas like teaching, utilization review, job recruiting, sales, and marketing.