Physical Therapy Programs

therapist helps client in the gym

Those seeking an in-demand, high-paying position which lets them help others should look no further than physical therapy.

The role played by physical therapists, also called physiotherapists, is important to many people, including clients and physicians.

Education & Training

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Employees in this field attend physical therapy trade schools and learn to aid motion, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. They focus on practical exercise.

Physical therapy schools allow students to specialize in the degree and choose courses according to their own interests and goals.

Potential categories are:

  • Pediatric: Therapy for children and teenagers.
  • Geriatric: Concentrates on older, aging adults and conditions in this population.
  • Neurological: Aids those who suffered from a head or nerve condition such as stroke, brain injury, cerebral palsy, and more.
  • Integumentary: Assists people with skin or related issues, most commonly wounds or burns.
  • Orthopedic: Assist persons who have musculoskeletal problems, like sprains or fractures of bones or muscle strains.
  • Sports: Physical therapists who support athletes hurt when participating in sporting activities.

Overview of Program Options

There is no legal requirement to complete any specific educational course for a career as a physical therapy aide.


However, most employers require that physical therapy aides complete a physical therapy aid diploma program.

Luckily, these programs can be found at schools across the country and are offered by many vocational schools.

Certificate Programs

Most certificate programs generally require students to have high school graduation or its equivalent.

Once you have chosen which type of program is right for you, make sure that it has been approved by your state board of physical therapy and other organizations such as The American Physical Therapy Association.


An apprenticeship is a great option for those who want to be a Physical Therapy Aide.

In some states, you can become certified by completing an apprenticeship instead of taking a class or getting an associate degree or certificate. This is a great way to learn the job and get paid simultaneously.

Length of Time

Apprenticeships typically last 1-2 years and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

However, you must apply to a physical therapy aide training program before starting work to be matched with an employer who has agreed to hire only registered apprentices in their facility.

How Much Doest It Cost?

Physical therapy aide training costs vary widely depending on where you live and the school you choose. You can expect to pay anywhere from $600-$1200 for tuition, books, and materials if you’re attending a public institution. Private schools may cost more but also offer more perks, like job placement assistance after graduation.

It’s also a good idea to look into scholarships and financial aid to reduce costs.

What Do You Study?

The coursework for a Physical Therapy Aide program will vary depending on the school, but it is generally divided into three main categories: core classes, electives, and clinical training.

Here are some of the courses that you may find:

  • The core classes will cover topics like anatomy and physiology, ethics, human growth and development, medical terminology, and physical therapy theory.
  • Electives are taken from a list of subjects that may include nutrition, psychology, or social work.
  • The final category is clinical training, which takes place over the last two semesters of your coursework. You will work directly with physical therapists in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, and schools, during this time.

Some programs offer online courses and degrees, but most require that students attend campus classes for at least part of the program.

The lessons you will take will prepare you for both the classroom and clinical environments, which will help you excel in your new role as a physical therapy aide.

Licensing & Certification

There are currently no state-by-state regulations for the profession, but you must become certified. Some employers may require that you are authorized to work with their patients.

So, to become a certified physical therapy aide, you must first complete an accredited training program, then pass the national certification exam. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers a national certification exam that all physical therapy aides must pass to practice in any state.

You can also take the PTTC exam offered by the AMCA to become certified. This test comprises 100 words which should be completed in 2 hours.


Below are some average salaries and hourly wages for each state.

State Hourly Annual
Alabama $28.60 $59,480.00
Alaska $32.39 $67,360.00
Arizona $29.19 $60,700.00
Arkansas $30.11 $62,620.00
California $37.36 $77,700.00
Colorado $31.48 $65,470.00
Connecticut $31.44 $65,400.00
Delaware $31.88 $66,310.00
District of Columbia $31.62 $65,780.00
Florida $32.45 $67,500.00
Georgia $34.53 $71,830.00
Hawaii $29.07 $60,470.00
Idaho $29.33 $61,000.00
Illinois $32.29 $67,170.00
Indiana $30.40 $63,240.00
Iowa $27.88 $57,990.00
Kansas $29.67 $61,720.00
Kentucky $28.36 $58,990.00
Louisiana $27.59 $57,400.00
Maine $29.44 $61,240.00
Maryland $33.11 $68,870.00
Massachusetts $34.29 $71,320.00
Michigan $28.34 $58,940.00
Minnesota $29.99 $62,380.00
Mississippi $29.87 $62,130.00
Missouri $30.17 $62,750.00
Montana $28.96 $60,240.00
Nebraska $27.36 $56,920.00
Nevada $38.64 $80,360.00
New Hampshire $31.83 $66,200.00
New Jersey $31.69 $65,920.00
New Mexico $27.96 $58,150.00
New York $28.61 $59,510.00
North Carolina $31.62 $65,770.00
North Dakota $24.75 $51,470.00
Ohio $30.90 $64,280.00
Oklahoma $29.88 $62,150.00
Oregon $32.00 $66,560.00
Pennsylvania $28.67 $59,640.00
Puerto Rico $12.57 $26,150.00
Rhode Island $31.27 $65,050.00
South Carolina $32.32 $67,230.00
South Dakota $25.07 $52,140.00
Tennessee $30.40 $63,220.00
Texas $34.64 $72,060.00
Utah $28.86 $60,030.00
Vermont $32.08 $66,720.00
Virginia $31.72 $65,970.00
Washington $32.51 $67,610.00
West Virginia $29.68 $61,740.00
Wisconsin $30.54 $63,530.00
Wyoming $29.18 $60,690.00

Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistants (SOC Code312021)

The average annual wages for physical therapist aides also depend on your work environment. Those in outpatient care centers earned more than those who worked in nursing homes and hospitals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Overview

What Do They Do?

Physical therapy is a job designed to improve quality of life through movement. As health professionals, physical therapists aid persons of all ages who have problems limiting function.

Physical therapy involves examining, diagnosing, and putting action plans in place. Specialists must review charts to customize treatment to the individual and assess how the strategy works.

Physical therapy careers are rewarding and high-paying. The profession takes time and requires hands-on labor.

Job hopefuls should prepare to apply a wide range of knowledge to every case and write a schedule that prioritizes care.

Job Duties

The core responsibility is to provide care. Physical therapists tailor treatment to each individual. The goal is to help them regain vital functions. Some methods used are:

  • Therapeutic massage.
  • Exercise.
  • Aiding patients on how to move from one location to another such as a wheelchair to a bed.
  • Training clients to learn how to walk again.
  • Using water, heat, and electricity to relieve pain.
  • Wound dressing.
  • Creating custom approaches
  • Setting short-term and long-term goals
  • Training current patients
  • Completing forms and files
  • Changing tactics as needed

The responsibilities change daily according to what needs completed. Physical therapy schools teach ways to finish assigned tasks.

What Is Unique About Physical Therapy?

Though it is a medical position, the occupation is different and carries its own system. Typically, doctors and nurses spend less time with people than physical therapists do.

Physiotherapists train to evaluate clients and write care plans for each person.

Specializing gives graduates the freedom to decide on a direction. For example, sports physical therapists can join the staff of semi- or professional athletic organizations.

Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey teams hire them to keep athletes in prime shape.

What Types of Traits Should Physical Therapists Possess?

Professors in the physical therapy education field appraise prospects on 16 total categories. In entry-level positions, these are the basic abilities new staff members would know.

Physical therapy classes show how to screen people and current conditions, examine medical histories and tests, assess data, diagnose, determine the prognosis, and form a plan.

The main training focuses on creating colleagues who can perform the job. These lessons are important on any physical therapy resume submitted to a potential company.

Recruits must be evidence-based, communicate clearly, be culturally competent, and promote a lifestyle of health, wellness, and prevention.

Other requirements of physical therapy understanding include:

  • Intervention: Understanding safety, emergency treatment, CPR, following standard precautions.
  • Outcomes Assessment: Reviewing charts, keeping documentation, and evaluating data.
  • Education: The ability to inform how to perform the exercises and uphold progress.
  • Practice Management: Knowledge of billing, insurance information, and HIPAA laws.
  • Professionalism: Core values are accountability, compassion, integrity, duty, and social responsibility.

What Are Useful Skills for People in This Field?

  • Friendly, outgoing personality
  • Decision making
  • Desire to learn
  • Active listening
  • Patience
  • Successful time management
  • Knowledge of medical terminology
  • Excellent customer service
  • Supportive and compassionate

Good Communication Skills

Effective communication is a key physical therapy skill because associates speak to clients of diverse backgrounds. Instruction is vital to helping patients receiving therapy continue outside of therapy.

Work Environment

Workplaces vary on the specialization of the applicant. Many pick office settings, though others choose hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, or schools.

Tools of the Trade

Common physical therapy tools are:

  • Stethoscope
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Treatment tables
  • First aid supplies like bandages and wraps
  • A.E.D. (automated external defibrillator)
  • Fitness gear, such as dumbbells, parallel bars, balance boards, and treadmills
  • Diagnostic devices
  • Teaching materials

Physical therapy equipment is subject to change based on the facility and the exercises done. Most staff members bring the necessary items during travel, but those in private practice keep everything they use in the office.


Physical therapy requirements can take a toll on associates. Emotional stress is normal as they aim to help the healing process.

The work can be tiring and cause damage to the therapist due to frequent bodily support for the patient.


Potentials should assume they’ll have odd hours and continue taking classes. As tiring and intense as physical therapy is, many feel it is satisfying.

Where Can They Work?

Physical therapy aides can work in any setting with a physical therapist. This includes hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, private practices, and more.

The role of the aide will vary depending on their location and the type of facility.

  • Aides who work in private practices typically assist with patient care and routine tasks. They may also be responsible for filing paperwork or answering phones.
  • Aides who work in hospitals may be asked to help transfer patients from their beds to wheelchairs or stretchers. They may also be asked to monitor patients during procedures such as IV insertion or blood draws.
  • Aides who work in nursing homes may help residents with daily activities like dressing, bathing, or using the bathroom. They may also clean rooms, sweep floors or prepare meals for residents, depending on their level of experience.

What Are Other Careers Options for Physical Therapists?

Physical therapy is broad and allows job seekers with a wide variety of choices. Shifting within the field is easier than moving to occupations.

Clinical Review

An optional path is work as a clinical reviewer. Employees are full-time or part-time and look over cases to make decisions on claims.

Insurance firms mandate experience in specific settings, like a former pediatric physical therapist in a role as a pediatric clinical reviewer.

Medical Sales

Another possibility is medical sales. People who choose this direction must know the product. Physical therapists already understand how prosthetics and equipment help. Representatives do travel.

Clinical reviewers may make less money per year. Healthcare, retirement and paid time off will vary between corporations.

Sales are commission-based, so members earn their salary on how much they sell. Benefits are standard.


License-holders could educate a new generation of students. Select universities require an advanced qualification, such as a Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy, to teach.

Options involve additional instruction. Common changes include pursuing a degree in nutrition or learning a specialty.

Career Outlook

The outlook is positive. The demand for physical therapy assistants is expected to grow significantly over the next decade due to an aging population that requires more assistance as they recover from injuries or illnesses.

Recruits are joining because of an interest in a therapeutic approach to medical problems. Humans need physical therapy due to obtaining injuries.

Due to an aging population, the demand will always be present. The faster growth indicates multiple factors play a role in for individuals seeking a physical therapy certificate.

Aside from the great salary offered, physical therapy benefits consist of increased job opportunities, location choices, and insurance. Companies can offer disability, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, and life insurance.

Related Resources

Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in California