Physical Therapist Assistant Salary [How to become a PTA in the USA]

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary can be very rewarding. It’s no surprise that you’re thinking about becoming a physical therapist assistant if you love being active and want to help people (PTA). Not only do these healthcare workers have the rewarding chance to help improve the lives of others, but the healthcare system of today needs them very much.

If you’re at all interested in this in-demand job, keep reading to find out why it’s appealing, what it involves, and how to get started.

Why become a physical therapist assistant?

The job of a physical therapist assistant has a lot going for it. According to the job rankings by U.S. News & World Report, it is one of the best healthcare support jobs. This award was given after considering salary, unemployment rate, future growth, and job satisfaction factors like stress and work-life balance.

Physical therapist assistants, on the whole, tend to like what they do. And it’s not hard to see why, since their job is to help patients in a whole-person way by using exercise, movement, and deep knowledge of the human body to reduce pain and increase mobility. But besides the fact that the work helps people, there are two important economic reasons why physical therapist assistant jobs are appealing.

What is the job outlook for physical therapist assistants?

Most people probably don’t think of physical therapist assistants when they think of people who work in health care. But in reality, they are an essential part of the health care system. This is clear from how quickly the field has grown.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that PTAs are one of the top ten jobs that will grow the fastest in the next ten years (BLS). Physical therapist assistant jobs are expected to grow by 12% by 2030, which is three times as fast as the average for all positions, according to the BLS. 1

As the baby boomer generation ages, more are retiring and having health problems that come with aging. This is driving up demand for many healthcare jobs. To lower the cost of physical therapy services, physical therapists are also expected to rely more on PTAs.

How much do physical therapist assistants make?

It makes sense to want to know the average salary of a physical therapist assistant. There’s good news for you. PTAs have a good chance of making a lot of money, especially since they can get these jobs with an Associate’s degree.

Note: *Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor. Estimates from the BLS do not include wages or salaries for people starting.

There are a lot of things that will affect your career and earnings, such as your age, how much experience you have, where you want to work, and what your degree is. Herzing doesn’t promise that its graduates will make the average salaries calculated by the BLS for a particular job, and it also doesn’t promise that graduating from its program will lead to a job, a promotion, a raise in salary, or further career growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the average salary for a physical therapist assistant in 2020 will be $59,440 per year or $28.58 per hour. Salaries can differ depending on where you live, what you studied, and how much experience you have. This average is not a starting salary; recent college graduates will need experience and work their way up to make more money.

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The BLS says that physical therapist assistants made a median annual salary of $61,180.1 in 2021. It’s important to remember that the PTA salary will depend on the employer and the amount of experience. 10 percent of people made less than $37,280, and 10 percent of people earned more than $80,170.1

According to the BLS, the average salary for a physical therapist assistant was highest in nursing homes and home health care. Now that you know how much PTAs can grow and make, let’s take a closer look at what they do and how to become one.

What does a physical therapist assistant do?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapist assistants are part of a team that helps people with injuries or medical conditions that make it hard for them to move around or do everyday tasks and activities (APTA).

PTAs usually watch their patients before, during, and after treatment. They help them do exercises, treat them with massage and stretching, and teach patients and their families how to care for them after treatment.

PTAs often help patients with stretching, ultrasound therapy, therapeutic massage, training for balance and coordination, electrical stimulation, or heat and ice treatments.

How do you become a physical therapist assistant?

Please look at your step-by-step guide on becoming a physical therapist assistant now that you know more about the job and its benefits.

Step 1: Get an associate’s degree as a physical therapist assistant.

The BLS says that all states need PTAs to have an Associate’s degree from an approved program. It may seem complicated to get a degree, but some PTA training can be done in as little as 18 months. 2 This formal education includes classes, lab work, and training in the real world.

Step 2: Pass the test to get the license

PTAs need to have an Associate’s degree and a license in all states except Colorado and Hawaii. Applicants can take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for physical therapist assistants once they have graduated from a PTA program. If you pass this test, you’ll be able to work as a PTA.

Before taking the NPTE, studying as much as possible is essential. Even though you can take the test more than once, you can only do so three times in one year or six times. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy has a website to learn more about the NPTE. Depending on the state, physical therapist assistants may also have to take classes to keep their licenses up to date.

Step 3: Brush up on these skills that PTAs need to have.

After you get your Associate’s degree and pass the NPTE, you’ll be almost ready to start working as a PTA. But before you start looking for a job right away, it’s a good idea to know what employers want so you can be ready to put your best foot forward.

We looked at more than 30,000 physical therapist jobs posted in the last year with the help of software that analyzes jobs in real time. The data helped us figure out what the top skills are that employers want:

  • Treatment planning
  • Rehabilitation
  • Patient care
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Home health
  • Patient and family education
  • Therapy
  • Scheduling

A good physical therapy assistant program will teach you the technical skills you need, but if you can do a little more in these areas, it will help your resume stand out to employers. You could also think about doing things outside of school to improve your skills. Coaching youth sports is a great way to train and motivate people. Volunteering at a nursing home is a great way to show that you want to work with older people. Groups like Toastmasters can help you improve your ability to speak clearly and with confidence.

Step 4: Get your resume and interview skills in shape and start sending out applications.

No matter what job you’re applying for, if you take the time to update and polish your resume, your chances of getting a call back will be higher. During your search, you should also work on your interviewing skills.

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As you look for a job, you should know what you want to do best. Do you want to work with athletes? The older people? People who can’t do things? Even though it might not be possible in all places, narrowing your search and tailoring your resume and interview answers to your preferred physical therapy specialty can help you prioritize and focus while looking.

Start your physical therapist assistant career

Does this description of how to become an assistant to a physical therapist look like the way to the job you’ve been looking for? If so, you’re ready to start looking into training options to find the best one for you.

Frequently asked questions

What do physical therapist assistants do?

Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) help with physical therapy while a licensed physical therapist tells them what to do and keeps an eye on them. PTAs can help people of all ages who need physical therapy or have health problems or conditions that make it hard for them to do daily tasks.

PTAs give care that focuses on a patient’s mobility, strength, and coordination. They may also give patients exercises that help them improve these skills. PTAs can teach patients how to do things like walk with crutches, canes, or walkers. They may also fit or adjust things like leg braces or crutches to help people. PTAs are also taught how to do therapeutic exercises and massages that use ultrasound or electrical stimulation as a form of treatment.

Working with physical therapists, PTAs can help measure changes in how patients do and help with administrative tasks, such as keeping track of progress, filling out forms, and ordering supplies. PTAs work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, schools, and sports facilities.

What is the difference between a PTA and Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA)?

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the supervision of a physical therapist (PT) to help people get back to work, sports, or other activities that require movement. PTAs also give patients tips on how to stay fit and move without getting hurt. They help a PT put plans into action that help people move more, feel less pain, get back to normal function, and avoid disability.

Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work with occupational therapists (OTs) to help people of all ages with a disability, illness, or injury that makes it hard for them to take care of themselves, go to school, or do their jobs. OTs and OTAs work on both the physical and mental parts of care.

Job / CareerPer yearPer hour
Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) –$58,440$28.58
Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) –$63,420$30.49
All salary data courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the source for all salary information (2020).

Where you live, how much education you have, and how much experience you have. This average is not a starting salary; recent college graduates will need experience and work their way up to make more money. By getting a bachelor’s degree in health science, both OTAs and PTAs may be able to make more money. OTAs and PTAs can gain more job opportunities and advance in their careers if they get a bachelor’s degree.

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How can I become a PTA?

To become a PTA, you need to get an associate’s degree from a program that trains people to help with physical therapy. Most of the time, these programs take about 20 months to finish and focus on medical terminology, kinesiology, patient care, and anatomy and physiology. In addition to online classes, you will also participate in clinical and lab work, which will help you gain real-world experience as a physical therapy assistant.

It’s essential to get certified after you finish school. You can take the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy’s National Licensing Examination for Physical Therapy Assistants (FSBPT). You must pass the exam and get your PTA certification to work as a PTA. 


Where you work has one of the biggest effects on how much you get paid as a physical therapy assistant. Wages can vary a lot from state to state and even from city to city. Average wages can also be affected by work experience, the level of certification or education, and the cost of living.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary by region

Some states pay a lot more than others do. According to the BLS (May 2021), these are the states where physical therapy assistants make the most money and how much they make on average:

$73,150 in California
Rhode Island – $70,690
$70,450 in New Jersey
Texas – $69,470
Connecticut – $68,390

Physical therapy assistant salaries can be affected by how many people want to work in the field. Most of the time, places where people want to live, will have higher wages, while places where people don’t want to live, may have lower wages. Here are the states where most physical therapy assistants work and how much they make on average (BLS, May 2021):

Texas has 7,690 jobs, and the average annual salary is $69,470.
Florida – 6,910; $64,940
6,780 in California; $73,150
Ohio – 6,150; $61,450
Pennsylvania – 5,540; $55,410

Even within each state, pay can vary a lot depending on the metropolitan area. In general, physical therapy assistants who work in cities make more money than those who work in the country. Here are the best-paying cities and their average wages as of May 2021 (BLS):

San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California: $41.33 an hour and $85,960 a year
San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward, California: $37.86 an hour and $78,740 a year
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA – $36.73 per hour, $76,390 per year
Midland, TX: $36.32 an hour, $75,550 a year
Salinas, California: $36.13 an hour and $75,150 a year
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: $36.12 an hour, $75,120 a year
Santa Rosa, California: $35.92/hour, $74,720/year
Bakersfield, California: $35.69/hour, $74,240/year
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas: $35.16 per hour, $73,130 per year
Vallejo-Fairfield, California: $34.94 per hour, $72,670 per year.

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