An Diploma/Certificate in Physical Therapist Assisting will prepare you for a career in the medical field as a Physical Therapist Assistant and Aide. Typically, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, commonly referred to as PTAs work in healthcare facilities such as hospitals and physical therapist offices. Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides spend much of their time on their feet while setting up equipment and providing help for patients.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm (visited March 24, 2022).
An online degree in Physical Therapy Assisting usually includes the same number of credit hours as it's on-campus counterpart. That means it should take you about 2-3 years to finish an online degree. However, if you are taking the degree online because of time constraints or work and family obligations, you may not be able to attend full-time and, therefore, it could take up to 3-4 years to attain your degree.
Before choosing a major there are some important facts you should know about.
In general, you can begin your career as a Physical Therapy Assisting by earning a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Physical Therapy Assisting, but in many cases for the position you are seeking you may need to obtain a master's degree in Physical Therapy Assisting. Furthermore, there are numerous specializations and subfields associated with a major in Physical Therapy Assisting. You will want to research the college or university to determine if they have the major you are considering.
This is a very important question to ask yourself. Your major should play a big part in the schools you are considering. Not every college may offer the major of your choice, so doing your homework is the first step of the selection process.
Before you declare a major in Physical Therapy Assisting, you should have an idea of what kind of timeframe you're looking at. If you are trying to achieve an associate degree, you will only need to finish about 60 credit hours over 2 years. However, if you are going for you bachelor's (B.S. or B.A.) degree in Physical Therapy Assisting, you will need to complete 120 credit hours over four years. And, if you want to attain a master's degree as well, you will have to finish your bachelors first and then spend around 2 years completing 60 more credit hours. Some of the coursework you will find in a typical Physical Therapy Assisting degrees are:
These days fewer and fewer students graduate in two years. In fact, the government now sets the bar at a 3-year term from starting a degree to graduation. Accredited programs in Physical Therapy Assisting, on the other hand, are more likely to graduate in 2-3 years. That is because those programs are more competitive, and studies have shown that students in highly competitive programs have more success with graduating in two years (or less.) Keep it mind there are also other determining factors that play a role in how long it takes to graduate like full time vs part time, funding for college, working at the same time (can potentially decrease how many credit hours you can take) etc. A good goal to shoot for is to graduate within 2 to 3 years.
The college or university itself should be accredited. Look for a regionally accredited school based on that school's location. The six regional accreditation agencies are The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, The North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, The Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, and The Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Online-only schools should have accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, the Distance Education and Training Council, or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges but they should also hold regional accreditation.
Accreditation is an important part of the selection process. It adds value to a Diploma/Certificate in Physical Therapy Assisting degree by offering wider acceptance than degrees from non-accredited schools receive. Accreditation ensures employers and other reviewers of your educational background that you have a quality education in Physical Therapy Assisting. It informs potential employers that the graduate has the expected level of education and knowledge to perform work in today's high-paced, technology-driven environments.
The Department of Education designates regional and national accreditation agencies. It is also through this department that educational loans and grants are provided to college students. The federal policy is to limit student loans to schools and colleges with acceptable accreditation. Which means that, if your school isn't accredited, you will likely not be eligible to receive any financial aid. For many students, accreditation is key to getting funds to pay for the substantial costs of a degree in Physical Therapy Assisting.
Colleges and universities generally charge per credit hour for Physical Therapy Assisting courses. Multiply the cost by the number of credits you're taking for your total semester's financial commitment. Program fees may not be included in the stated tuition rate. If a university charges $331 per credit hour, multiply this by 12 or 15 (the number of credits you're taking per semester). For 12 credit hours, this is $3,972; for 15 credit hours, it's $4,965.
The College Board's Trends in Higher Education Series reported that the average cost of a two-year public Diploma/Certificate in Physical Therapy Assisting program was $4,900 if taken in-state. It was as much as $17,630 if taken at a private university or college. And be aware that, even if you are comfortable with the per credit hour cost of the program you are looking at, there will be other costs for fees, textbooks, and room and board if you live on campus.
If you are going to spend a lot of time and energy to attain an Physical Therapy Assisting degree, you will certainly want some job placement assistance as you near graduation. Discuss this with your admissions counselor when you are considering the right program. In fact, you might want to broaden that discussion by asking about how your school handles internships and if co-op programs are available. Experiential learning can help you not only gain the skills needed to land a job, but you can also cultivate a professional network that will help you build the career you deserve.