Best Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

Discover the benefits of earning an online PTA associate degree, including job growth opportunities, salary, and program requirements.
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Updated on June 14, 2024
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Best Online Physical Therapy Assistant Associate Programs

The job market for physical therapy assistants is projected to explode over the next decade. So, how can you pursue a career as a physical therapy assistant (PTA)?

An online associate program is an efficient and often less costly way to become a physical therapy assistant. Earning your associate degree and required certification will allow you to work with patients on the road to recovery or help clients manage chronic issues. You’ll work with physical therapists to help provide positive outcomes for patients of all ages.

All PTAs must earn an associate degree to practice physical therapy professionally. Read on to learn more about the best associate degrees to become a physical therapy assistant and what to expect from a program.

Featured Online PTA Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Top Physical Therapy Assistant Programs Online

We use trusted sources like Peterson's Data and the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such.

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#1 Best Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

Santa Fe College

  • Gainesville, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $107

Out-of-State | $383

Credits to Graduate: 74

The physical therapy assistant degree from Santa Fe College is a hands-on program that prepares you to meet the Florida state requirements for PTAs. In fact, 100% of graduates who took the 2023 licensure exam passed on their first attempt. 

The degree is a four-semester commitment. The program follows a hybrid format that includes online and in-person components. You will take a combination of coursework and labs. Example courses include therapeutic exercise, musculoskeletal disorders with a lab, and principles of diseases. 

Participants take technical courses sequentially as part of a cohort. Along with the academic components, you'll need to complete clinical internships at different hospitals.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,872
Out-of-state
$7,418
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
12,830
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Best Online Associate in Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

San Juan College

  • Farmington, NM
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $61-$195

Out-of-State | $195

Credits to Graduate: 60-64

If you pursue a physical therapist assistant degree at San Juan College you gain access to the health sciences simulation center, procedural labs, and the health and human performance center. This competitive program accepts up to 20 applicants each year. 

This hybrid PTA program requires you to travel to New Mexico for 9-18 days a semester for in-person experiences and can be completed in five semesters. Coursework covers topics like functional anatomy, therapeutic exercise, and functional neuroanatomy.

Along with the academic classes, you'll complete two hands-on, full-time clinical internships with licensed physical therapists. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,344
Out-of-state
$4,272
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
69%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
5,307
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

How We Rank Schools

To create this ranking, BestColleges sourced the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. We then ranked each school according to the top variables college students selected in our College Choice and Admissions Survey. To learn more, check out our full rankings methodology or read the summary below.

To qualify for our rankings lists, each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution. Each eligible school was then ranked based on a formula measuring:

  • Affordability (30%)
  • Student outcomes (30%)
  • Reputation (20%)
  • Diversity and social mobility (20%)

In addition, we only included colleges with graduation rates in the top third of all online colleges.

Physical Therapy Assistant Job Description

Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) carry out treatment plans with patients looking to recover from an injury, manage a disability, or improve movement, among other goals.

PTAs work alongside physical therapists. The physical therapist initially meets with the patient to come up with a treatment plan, and the physical therapy assistant helps the physical therapist implement that plan. PTAs will meet with the primary therapist periodically to update them on patient progress.

Physical therapy assistants work with people of all ages, including newborns and the elderly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 26% job growth for physical therapy assistants over the next eight years. That’s much higher than the projected growth of all occupations (3%).

Physical Therapy Assistant Salary

The median physical therapy assistant salary is $64,080 as of May 2023, according to BLS data.

Individual wages can be dependent on things like what kind of employer you have and what state you are working in. For example, physical therapy assistants working at nursing and residential care facilities have a median annual salary of $76,110, according to the BLS, while those working at an ambulatory health care provider boast a median salary of $62,180.

PTAs make a modest amount compared to other types of physical therapy jobs.

Physical Therapist Assistant & Related Fields Median Annual Salaries, May 2023

Physical Therapist Assistants
$64,080

Physical
Therapists

$99,710

Physical Therapist
Aides

$33,520

Source: BLS

A PTA looking to improve their salaries may consider becoming a physical therapist. However, you will need to earn a doctoral degree in physical therapy to become a physical therapist. A PTA associate degree can be a good first step in that direction.

What Is an Online PTA Program?

An online physical therapy assistant program will equip you with the skills and education needed to become a physical therapy assistant. All PTAs must earn a minimum of an associate degree to enter into the field.

It typically takes two years, or five semesters, to earn an online associate degree.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, approximately 75% of the PTA curriculum is classroom and lab time, while the remaining 25% is dedicated to full-time clinical experiences. Online programs will vary in how they require you to complete your practicum requirement if you are a remote student.

PTA courses will likely touch on:

  • Physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Behavioral science
  • Neuroscience
  • Biomechanics
  • Anatomy

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

How long is a physical therapy assistant program?

It will likely take you about two years to earn your associate degree to become a physical therapy assistant. That timeline includes classroom time, and clinical experience is required.

Many people find an online physical therapy assistant associate program to be worth it. As a PTA, you may find the work emotionally and financially rewarding.

In determining whether the associate degree is worthwhile, it's important to remember that you need an associate degree to become a PTA. Physical therapy assistants have a median salary of $64,080, which is enough to live comfortably in most states. Earning a degree online may help save money, which means you'll likely incur less debt.

Any physical therapist assistant education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is credible. By enrolling in a CAPTE-accredited program, you'll also be eligible to earn federal financial aid like grants, scholarships, and student loans.

The median salary for a PTA is $64,080, according to the BLS.

Salaries can vary, however. Professionals in the bottom 10% of earners make a median salary of $42,110 annually, while professionals in the top 10% of earners take in a median salary of $88,830.

California boasts the highest median salary for physical therapy assistants in the U.S., according to BLS data, at $79,630. That's 24.3% higher than the national median for PTAs. However, California is also known for its very high cost of living.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed May 8, 2024.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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