Physical Therapist Assistants

Last updated January 01, 2015

If you’re interested in physical therapy but aren’t ready for grad school, a career as a physical therapist assistant may be just the ticket. But don’t get the idea that it’s an easy ride: though an associate’s degree is generally all you’ll need, the course work is heavy on the sciences.

As a physical therapist assistant, you’ll work under the supervision of a physical therapist (PT) to help patients whose ability to move is impaired, from injured athletes to disabled children. You’ll provide the kind of practical, hands-on help that can be truly life-changing.

Physical therapist assistants work with physical therapists to help patients with exercises and other therapeutic treatments, such as bathing, applying hot and cold packs, and massaging.

Did You Know?

Working as a physical therapist assistant is not a stepping-stone on the way to becoming a physical therapist. To become a PT, you’ll need at least a master’s degree.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Take directions from physical therapists
  • Help patients with exercises
  • Provide massages, baths, and other treatments
  • Apply hot and cold packs
  • Record patient progress
  • Report findings to physical therapists

It Helps To Be...

Strong, patient, and a clear communicator. Working as a physical therapy assistant can be physically and emotionally demanding, and you’ll often be required to give instructions to the patient.

Make High School Count

  • Study hard in science classes, including biology and chemistry. Good grades may help you to get into the school of your choice.
  • Take algebra and take it seriously. Physical therapist assistant programs look for applicants who have earned at least a C.
  • Work hard in gym. You’ll need to be in good shape for this work, which requires long hours on your feet -- and can also involve lifting patients.
  • Volunteer at a hospital or another health care facility to find out if this is the path for you.

Did You Know?

Evening and weekend hours are often required in this line of work.