Physical therapist aides are trained on the job,
but physical therapist assistants typically earn an
associate degree from an accredited physical
therapist assistant program.
Not all States require
licensure or registration in order for the physical
therapist assistant to practice. The States that
require licensure stipulate specific educational and
examination criteria. Complete information on
practice acts and regulations can be obtained from
the State licensing boards.
may include certification in cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) and other first aid and a
minimum number of hours of clinical experience.
According to the American Physical Therapy
Association, there were 238 accredited physical
therapist assistant programs in the United States as
of 2004. Accredited physical therapist assistant
programs are designed to last 2 years, or 4
semesters, and culminate in an associate degree.
Programs are divided into academic study and
hands-on clinical experience. Academic course work
includes algebra, anatomy and physiology, biology,
chemistry, and psychology. Many programs require
that students complete a semester of anatomy and
physiology and have certifications in CPR and other
first aid even before they begin their clinical
field experience. Both educators and prospective
employers view clinical experience as integral to
ensuring that students understand the
responsibilities of a physical therapist assistant.
Employers typically require physical therapist
aides to have a high school diploma, strong
interpersonal skills, and a desire to assist people
in need. Most employers provide clinical on-the-job