How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide – In 5 Easy Steps

America’s hospitals are overflowing with patients and the need for highly skilled allied health professionals is at an all-time high.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that it expects the need for well-trained and certified physical therapy aides is expected to skyrocket with a growth rate anticipated at 20% within the next ten years.

If you’re thinking about becoming a physical therapy aide or want to work as a licensed physical therapist’s assistant – this guide is for you!

Today’s physical therapy aides provide life-changing wellness support as they provide patient-focused services for people who are physically recovering from accidents and other painful injuries.

PTAs work under the careful supervision of licensed physical therapists.

Physical therapy assistants take on more demanding roles requiring up-close patient contact, heavy lifting, and hours of standing.

Become a licensed or certified physical therapy aide by completing a post-secondary certification program or earning an associate’s degree.

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5 Steps to Become a Physical Therapy Aide

Step #1. – Meet Education and Age Requirements

Prospective PTAs who are seeking to enroll in accredited training programs will first need to meet minimum education and age requirements.

Accredited online schools offering physical therapy assistant training will require applicants to submit proof of high school graduation or an equivalent.

Most programs will begin accepting students who have reached the age of 18.

Step #2. – Enroll in an Accredited PTA Training Program

Today’s healthcare and allied health employers are seeking to hire highly skilled physical therapy aides and physical therapy assistants who have consistently demonstrated competency in the field.

Begin your physical therapy aide career by researching accredited PTA programs that offer CAPTE-based certification training.

Step #3. – Apply for a Physical Therapy License or Certification

Trainees who have completed physical therapist aide training can move on to the next step of applying for state licensure or certification.

Whether you need to apply for a license or nationally recognized certification credential will depend on the needs and preferences of your potential employer.

Step #4. – Seek Employment with Local Healthcare Agencies

License or certification holders who have completed all of their education and training requirements become eligible to work as physical therapist assistants or aides.

PTAs find employment working in hospitals, medical facilities, clinics, and private practices across America’s healthcare systems.

Step #5. – Maintain PTA Licensure and Certification

Each US state has its requirements for working PTAs to maintain their occupational licenses or national certification.

PTA license and certification holders must complete the required continuing education units to maintain their credentials.

Licensing Requirements to Become a Physical Therapy Aide

Licensing and certification requirements for most incoming physical therapy aides and assistants will require proof of completing a CAPTE-accredited program.

PTA trainees will also need to complete the National Physical Therapy Exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

FSBT uses the NPTE as a diagnostic tool to assess competency and skills for working PTAs across the US.

Aspiring PTAs seeking long-term careers and state licensure as Physical Therapist Assistants should follow the educational track laid out by CAPTE,  which is the nationally recognized certification authority.

CAPTE-accredited programs have been approved by the United States Department of Education to issue training standards for entry-level Physical Therapist Assistants.

This PTA accrediting body currently oversees 333 accredited programs in the US.

Online Physical Therapy Aide Training Programs

Physical therapy aides are integral parts of medical teams that provide direct support for clinicians and patients.

While most states don’t require Physical Therapy Aides to carry an occupational license, working PTAs who intend to further their careers will need to apply for licensure after completing a CAPTE-accredited program to work as Physical Therapy Assistants.

Physical therapy trainees seeking to begin their careers online can take comprehensive coursework online.

Many US colleges, universities, workforce development agencies, and vocational schools offer web-based training options for new PTAs.

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education is the national agency recognized by the US Department of Education for certifying US-based physical therapy aides.

Aspiring PTAs must carry an occupational license or approved certification to work in clinical environments across the country.

The following schools offer web-based training for physical therapy assistants which includes clinical experience components that satisfy on-the-job training requirements.

Applicants may be required to provide proof of age, and high school graduation and to successfully pass a criminal background check or drug screen before admission.

Catherine University

St. Catherine University offers a hybrid PTA program where students take physical therapy classes online and participate in labs and hands-on clinical experience components.

This 19-month program trains students on practical skills and theory in physical therapy foundations, the musculoskeletal system, anatomy and physiology, and hands-on clinical experience in local clinical facilities.

This CAPTE-accredited program awards students an Associate of Applied Sciences degree upon completion, which readies them for state licensure and national certification.

Courses Offered

  • Musculoskeletal Systems and Techniques
  • Movement System Integration
  • Biomedical Ethics
  • Clinical Integration
  • Physical Therapy Interventions
  • Neuromuscular Systems and Techniques

Contact Information

  • Address: 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota – 55105
  • Website: Link
  • Phone: 651-690-6000

Estimated Program Costs: $750.00 per credit hour plus books, supplies, and fees.

Whatcom Community College

The hybrid physical therapy assistant program offered by Whatcom Community College offers 90 credit hours of instruction for an Associate of Applied Sciences degree.

Online students take core physical therapy classes online and in-person clinical experience in local medical facilities or clinics in partnership with WCC.

Local students have the option to participate in this CAPTE-themed program on campus.

Distance-based students can complete the bulk of their training online.

This program has 27 prerequisites and 84 core credits that include an introduction to general studies, applied anatomy and clinical kinesiology, and PTA procedures.

Courses Offered

  • Introduction to Physical Therapy
  • Anatomy and Pathophysiology
  • PTA Procedures
  • Tests and Measures
  • Special Topics in Physical Therapy
  • Manual Therapy for PTAs

Contact Information

  • Address: 237 West Kellog Road, Bellingham, Washington – 98226
  • Website: Link
  • Phone: 360-383-3000

Estimated Program Costs: $11,333.80 – $22,068.00

Midlands Technical College

Midlands Technical College uses web conferencing software to deliver its online physical therapy aide training program.

This comprehensive program offers hybrid and online instruction for aspiring PTAs seeking an accredited web-based program.

MTC has a stringent application and admissions process and program acceptance is competitive.

Students are required to attend a mandatory Physical Therapy Assistant Information Session before taking classes.

The hybrid MTC physical therapy aide program accepts applicants once per year for the fall.

Interested applicants must apply before the deadline.

Courses Offered

  • Medical Terminology
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Pathology
  • Physical Therapy Practicum
  • Electrotherapy
  • Clinical Practice

Contact Information

  • Address: Columbia, South Carolina – 29202
  • Website: Link
  • Phone: 803-738-8324

Estimated Program Costs: $13,160.00 plus supplies and fees.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that America’s physical therapy aides working in the United States make lucrative salaries that can climb as high as $63,000.00 per year.

US PTAs make an average annual salary of around $31,410.00.

Lower-earning PTAs with fewer years of on-the-job experience and those working in small facilities or rural areas see salaries that range in the mid-twenties.

Higher-earning techs with more years of allied health experience and those with specialized skills, including nationally recognized certifications and state licensure, can command salaries well above the national average.


Bureau of Labor Statistics – Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education

CAPTE – Accredited PTA Programs

Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy

Additional Resources