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What Is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

Physical therapy is a branch of health care that addresses the problems a person may have with mobility due to an illness or injury when the injury or illness interferes with the person’s normal functioning ability. The physical therapist, with the help of a physical therapist assistant (PTA), assesses the patient’s medical history and movement before creating a treatment plan.

What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

Physical therapist assistants work under the supervision of physical therapists to provide physical therapy treatment to patients. Do not confuse a physical therapist assistant with a physical therapist aide.

Assistants perform direct patient care. Aides may transport patients, but they are not involved with patient care. Their job is to keep the area clean and perform clerical duties.

PTAs help the physical therapist make a treatment plan, and then they work directly with the patient to implement the plan. Assistants also work with people who have not been injured or plagued with a disease, but just want to become healthier. They work with people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job description of a physical therapist assistant involves working under the supervision of a physical therapist to “treat patients through exercise, massage, gait and balance training, and other therapeutic interventions.” The PTA reports the patient’s progress to the physical therapist.

Some specific job responsibilities of the PTA are to:

  • Observe patients before, during, and after therapy and report these observations to the therapist.
  • Help patients perform the exercises according to the treatment plan.
  • Use various therapy techniques like massaging and stretching.
  • Assist patients who are learning how to use devices and equipment such as walkers, canes, and crutches.
  • Utilize therapeutic interventions like massage, stretching, and gait balance training.
  • Educate patients and family members about the treatment plan and how it is expected to help the patient.
  • Record the patient’s progress and report this to the physical therapist.
  • Reassess the patient’s needs if the patient appears not to be making progress.

How Do You Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?

Step 1: Earn your associate degree: All states require PTAs to have an associate degree and be licensed. Make sure the school is qualified and accredited like Casa Loma College.

Step 2: Take the national licensing exam. Whatever school you choose for your physical therapist assistant degree, make sure it is approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. The program should prepare you for the National Physical Therapist Assistant (NPTA) examination. The exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. You must pass this test in order to be licensed or certified.

Step 3: Take your state licensing exam if necessary. In addition to passing the FSBPT test, some states require applicants to also pass their state test concerning the state laws and regulations. They may require a criminal background test, require you to be at least 18 years of age, and to take a certain number of continuing education classes every year in order to renew your license.

Physical Therapist Assistants who earn their associate degree at Casa Loma have a clear understanding of their role that is consistent with all laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which they practice. They are also taught about the American Physical Therapist Association’s Guide for the Conduct of a Physical Therapist Assistant.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?

At Casa Loma College, it takes about five semesters to earn your associate degree as a physical therapist assistant. This is approximately 19 months, a few months less than two years. It is a blended program, requiring you to take some classes on site, but many courses may be taken online.

What Is the Job Outlook for a Physical Therapist Assistant?

According to the BLS, between 2021 and 2031, job growth for physical therapist assistants will grow by 24 percent. This is much faster than the average job growth. There were 140,800 jobs for PTAs in 2021.

It is expected that every year from now until 2031, there will be a need for an average of 25,500 more PTAs every year.

United States source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021-2031 employment projections “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period. “Projected annual job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.

One factor that will increase the demand since as medical care has advanced, baby boomers are living longer and they want to stay active. Even so, they are hitting the prime age for heart attacks, strokes, and other debilitating conditions that will make them ideal candidates for physical therapy to help them restore or maintain their health and mobility.

Employment (2019)Projected Employment (2029)Projected Growth (2019-2029)Projected annual job openings (2019-2029)
United States98,700130,90033% (much faster than average)15,100
United States source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019-2029 employment projections. “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period. “Projected annual job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement. 

How Much Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Make?

The salary of a PTA depends on the degree of education the PTA has, years of experience, the employment setting, the geographical area in which the PTA is employed, and other factors.

The BLS reports that the median salary for PTAs in the U.S. in 2021 was $61,280. This means half earned more than this and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,280. The highest 10 percent earned more than $80,170.

The highest paying jobs for PTAs are with a home healthcare service. The lowest paying jobs are in a private physician’s office.

In California in 2021, the annual mean wage for a PTA working full-time was $73,150.

PTAs have opportunities to work in a variety of environments. The largest employers in 2021 were:

  • Offices of physical therapists and other therapists such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and audiologists.
  • Hospitals, private, local, and state.
  • Home healthcare services.
  • Nursing care facilities.
  • Physicians’ offices.
  • Schools.
  • Rehabilitation hospitals or rehabilitation hospital units.

PTAs work with patients who have suffered all types of injuries. They may work with a patient one or two times who is learning how to adapt to walking with a cast of some sort that will be removed in a few weeks. They may also work with someone who has suffered a catastrophic, life-changing injury and who will need weeks, perhaps months, or years of physical therapy to help them adjust to their new life.

The BLS lists the personal qualities it deems physical therapist assistants need to:

  • Have compassion. PTAs generally work with people who are in pain and are working to do the best they can in their situation.
  • Be detail-oriented. They must keep accurate notes about the progress of the treatment plan so it can be adjusted when necessary.
  • Have dexterity. They use their hands a lot in moving patients, helping them with the movement of their bodies and limbs, and demonstrating therapeutic exercises.
  • Have Interpersonal skills. PTAs spend much of their day interacting with the physical therapist, with patients, with families of patients, and with other healthcare practitioners.

Have physical stamina. PTAs are frequently on their feet as they move and interact with their patients.

Our PTA faculty members are all currently licensed professionals who are up-to-date on all their competencies and requirements. Their focus is on making sure they provide students with the most current education while utilizing the latest teaching tools and techniques.

Our physical therapist assistant courses teach students about the medical and physical treatment of the body’s systems and cover topics like:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • PTA techniques
  • Kinesiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Ethics
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Clinical biomechanics for the upper and lower extremities
  • Cardiopulmonary path and intervention
  • Lifespan development
  • PT for special populations
  • Physical therapy modalities

You will also learn in a clinical setting, where you will work with patients and gain hands-on experience while being supervised.

Definitions per the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE):1Graduation Rate: The percentage of students who are matriculated in the first technical course in the program after the add/drop period and who complete the program.2Licensure Pass Rate: The percentage of students who take and successfully pass the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination (NPTAE). Rates are considered to be stabilized one year after graduation.3Employment Rate: The percentage of graduates who sought employment that were employed (full-time or part time) as a physical therapist assistant within 1 year after graduation.

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Casa Loma College is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085; phone: 703-706-3245; email: ; website: http://www.capteonline.org.

If needing to contact the program/institution directly please call (818) 785-2726 x225 or email

File a Complaint with CAPTE, CAPTE considers complaints about accredited programs and about CAPTE itself. Find out how to File a Complaint with CAPTE.

Public Comment Policy Casa Loma College is committed to responding to all complaints promptly and constructively to ensure high standards and the continuous improvement of College services. Every complaint will be taken seriously and viewed positively as an opportunity to receive constructive feedback so that improvements may be made. The College may receive complaints from members of the public, clinical affiliation sites, colleagues, off-campus locations, externship and internship sites .If the complaint involves a student or clinical site, the complaint will be directed to the specific Program Director. The Campus Director responds to complaints from other sources.

CohortAcceptance
Rate
Graduation RateNational Exam First Time Pass RateNational Exam
Ultimate Pass Rate
Employment Rate
201283%81%67%83%100%
201380%87%69%100%100%
201475%93%60%93%100%
201574%89%94%100%100%
201627%90%84%95%100%
201741%90%94%100%100%
201828%100%81%95%100%
201966%81%81%88%100%
202070%85%47%82%100%
202160%80%65%65%100%
202249.3%66.70%100%100%100%

2022-2023 National Physical Therapist Assistant 2-year Pass Rate is 97%
2022-2023 Employment Rate 2-year Average is 93.1%
2022-2023 Graduation Rate 2-year Average is 84.2%

1Graduation Rate: The percentage of students who are matriculated in the first technical course in the program after the add/drop period and who complete the program.  Does not include students who leave the program for other than academic or administrative dismissal (illness, relocation, etc.

2Pass Rate:  The percentage of graduates who take and successfully pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Rates are considered to be stabilized one year after graduation.

3Employment Rate:  The percentage of graduates who sought employment that were employed (full-time or part-time) as a physical therapist assistant within 1 year following graduation.

For those who are eligible, financial aid is an excellent tool to help reduce the out-of-pocket costs to attend college. Casa Loma College has a committed team of financial aid professionals on call to help students and parents navigate the process.

Casa Loma College participates in many programs to help reduce the cost of college, including:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  • Federal Work Study
  • Federal Direct Loans (Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Parent PLUS)
  • CSAC Cal Grant

To learn more about the financial aid process, and what you may be eligible, please refer to our financial aid page.

In addition, for those who qualify, Casa Loma College is approved by the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education (CSAAVE) to offer academic programs under Title 38, United States Code, to enroll veterans and other eligible persons who qualify for educational benefits.

For a full list of benefits, and to learn more, please visit our Veteran’s Benefits page.

A person or organization desiring to file a complaint must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The compliant must disclose the existence of a grievance against the College.
  2. The complainant must have attempted to resolve the grievance with the College prior to filing the complaint. The complainant must indicate in a written report that a serious effort was made to resolve the grievance before filing the complaint.
  3. The complaint must disclose the existence of a grievance against the College and must further indicate that the College dealt with the situation giving rise to the grievance in a manner that draws into substantial question the College’s integrity and compliance with state agencies and accrediting agency criteria.
  4. The complaint must be properly documented and provide supporting evidence or documentation, if applicable.
  5. The complaint must be submitted in a timely manner (within 30 days of situation).

When a complaint has been received against the College, the Campus Director (from appropriate campus) will acknowledge receipt of the form in writing to the complainant within five (5) business days. The complainant must complete all applicable sections of the Complaint Form for the complaint to be reviewed. The following procedures will take place once a formal complaint has been received.

In order for the Campus Director to investigate the complaint, it is necessary to share the grievance with the appropriate employee/student of the college and obtain the involved employee/student response.

Additional information may be requested by the Campus Director if insufficient documentation is submitted.

Upon conclusion the investigation, both parties will be provided with a written copy of the Campus Director’s decision.

If either party believes that the Campus Director’s investigation was incomplete or that the decision was unreasonable they can seek a review of the decision by the President of the College. The decision of the President is final. If either party believes that the Campus Director’s investigation was incomplete or that the decision was unreasonable they can seek a review of the decision by the President of the College. The decision of the President is final.

Records regarding complaints about the PTA Program are maintained by both the Campus Director and the PTA Program Director, or his or her designee for five (5) years.

File a Complaint with CAPTE
CAPTE considers complaints about accredited programs and about CAPTE itself. Find out how to File a Complaint with CAPTE.

Kathrina Almero-Fabros
Director Physical Therapy Assistant
Casa Loma College
15301 Ventura Blvd, Suite D-100 Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Casa Loma College is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE),
3030 Potomac Ave.,
Suite 100 Alexandria, VA 22305-3085;
phone: 703-706-3245;
email: ;
website: http://www.capteonline.org

The program’s current status is probationary accreditation; for more information see http://www.capteonline.org/WhatWeDo/RecentActions/PublicDisclosureNotices/

CAPTE considers complaints about accredited programs and about CAPTE itself. Find out how to File a Complaint with CAPTE.

If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call (818) 785-2726 x225 or email.

If you’re interested in a career as a Physical Therapist Assistant,
now is a great time to talk to our admissions team here at Casa Loma College.

We can help talk you through the enrollment and admissions process and map out a plan for your career success.