How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Physical therapists help patients improve their mobility and their ability to perform daily tasks, as well as helping to reducing pain. Physical therapy is often part of the recovery process after a patient has suffered an illness or injury. A physical therapist will evaluate a patient’s condition and assign exercises, stretches, or the use of equipment to help the patient recover.

Physical therapy assistants they lead patients through exercises, instruct patients on how to use equipment, and track patients’ progress. They also educate patients on how to avoid further injuries and improve quality of life.


Annual salaries for physical therapy assistants will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for physical therapy assistants working in the U.S. was $53,320 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for physical therapy assistants, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as an Physical Therapy Assistant

Texas leads the nation in employment for physical therapy assistants, with 5,300 making an average yearly salary of $68,730. Ohio is second in the United States in employment, where 4,940 physical therapy assistants make an average salary of $56,480.

The metro areas employing the most physical therapy assistants are:

  • Chicago-Joliet (2,020)
  • New York-White Plains (1,610)
  • Pennsylvania (1,410)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of physical therapy assistants are:

  • Gadsden, AL (4.28 per thousand jobs)
  • Jonesboro, AR (2,36 per thousand jobs)

The metro areas employing the best-paid physical therapy assistants are:

  • El Paso, TX (average annual salary $89,950)
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL (average annual salary $80,240)

Employment and Salary Information for Physical Therapy Assistants

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a physical therapy assistant. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.



Employment and Information Data for Physical Therapy Assistant

Why Become A Physical Therapy Assistant?

It’s a skilled job where your role is to help people. Take a look at some of the reasons to become a physical therapy assistant:

  • The field is growing incredibly fast. The number of physical therapy assistant jobs is projected to increase by an astonishing 41% between 2012 and 2022—that’s much, much faster than the average for all U.S. jobs.
  • Decent pay. The average salary was $53,320 per year in 2013.
  • Accessible way to enter the healthcare profession. Physical therapy assistants need as associate’s degree (see the Degree Options page) but not as much training as many other healthcare professionals. So it’s a good job if you want to start making a difference quickly.
  • Use real skills. The job title may say ‘assistant,’ but to your patients you’ll be much more than that. You’ll help them through treatments and exercises, care for them, and listen to them.
  • Help people. You’ll be helping people recover from serious injuries and illnesses and take control of their lives again. That’s pretty significant.

Physical Therapy Assistant: What You Need To Know

A physical therapy assistant needs a strong working knowledge of the practice of physical therapy, particularly exercises and other treatments. As they help patients with activities and exercises, they need excellent people skills. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Knowledge of Therapeutic Exercises
  • Use of Equipment
  • Ability to Carry out Treatment Plans
  • Patient Communication
  • Administrative Skill

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about physical therapy assistant careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Physical Therapy Assistant Careers

Associate’s degree

Usually, you need an associate’s degree in physical therapy assisting. Many physical therapy assistant candidates also do volunteer work in health to make themselves more employable. Nursing facilities and physical therapists’ offices may offer volunteering opportunities.

Today, there are about 160 accredited physical therapy assistant programs. These programs can take anywhere from one to two years of full-time study to complete, and usually feature coursework on topics such as anatomy and physiology, psychology, kinesiology, and some math. You also often learn CPR and first aid.

Currently, every state except Hawaii requires physical therapy assistants to hold a license, which usually involves passing an exam. The license may also require a background check.