Physical Therapist Assistant Salary Guide

LearnHowToBecome Team
Laura Leavitt
September 30, 2021

Have you considered becoming a physical therapist but been daunted by the years of schooling? What if you could take a two-year associate program and begin working after that?

Becoming a physical therapist assistant involves a much cheaper and shorter educational journey than physical therapists themselves. You'll also receive an average physical therapist assistant salary of $59,440 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A physical therapist will supervise your work, but you'd also be guiding patients through exercises yourself.

How Much Do Physical Therapist Assistants Make in the United States?

Physical therapists work with both assistants and aides. The average salary for aides is just over $30,000, but they do not need an associate degree to work. On the other hand, the physical therapist assistant salary is substantially higher.

One of the benefits of working as an aide is that you can begin earning money to pay for your physical therapist assistant associate degree and gain valuable experience at the same time.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary Changes Throughout the Career Path

As mentioned above, physical therapy aides are the least educated workers in the physical therapy field. Aides complete tasks including cleaning, answering phones, and helping patients through the spaces if they have mobility challenges.

While these don't require any physical therapy specialty to complete, they can be a way to work for pay while also essentially "shadowing" the physical therapy field. The lowest 10% of physical therapist aides make over $20,000, but the highest 10% make double that.

Physical therapist assistants are more educated than aides, and their knowledge of the human body is more extensive after their associate's degrees. As a result, they make on average $30,000 more each year.

They may not diagnose what a patient needs the way a physical therapist would, but they can help the patient practice exercise regimens that the physical therapist suggests. They also observe, document, and educate during physical therapy visits.

If you realize that you'd like to continue advancing after an assistant career, you'd be in a good position to go for your doctorate in physical therapy. You'd first need a bachelor's degree, but the earning potential of physical therapists is also much higher since they make on average $91,680 a year.

Certified Nursing Assistant

A CNA certification can open you up to similar work in a wider variety of healthcare contexts. CNAs clean, move, and serve their patients in hospitals and nursing homes.

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants handle clerical, equipment, and patient tasks that keep a dental practice running smoothly.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy techs assist with customer service, measuring and labeling medicines, and answering phone calls in a pharmacy.

Physical Therapist Assistant Pay Difference By Location


Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Opportunities and Job Growth for Physical Therapist Assistants

Few fields are growing as rapidly as the market for physical therapist assistants and aides. While the average occupation is gaining 4% growth, this field is growing at 29%.

Florida, Texas, and Ohio have the highest employment rate for physical therapist assistants, and cities like New York City, Chicago, and Phoenix have high concentrations of employed physical therapist assistants.

Other Benefits of Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant

If you're working part-time as a physical therapist assistant, there may not be benefits included in the position. However, full-time physical therapist assistants will often have access to healthcare plans and an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

One big benefit that physical therapy assistants enjoy is the ability to be active and moving at work. This is great if you prefer moving rather than working at a desk.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?

While aides are often hired with only a high school diploma, you'll need an associate degree from an accredited college or vocational school to become a physical therapist assistant. You can find these programs through the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

The costs will vary, but the average local two-year school costs $3,770 a year. The national exam costs $485 currently, so plan for this expense as well. Keep in mind that keeping your license in your state may have additional requirements, such as continuing education coursework.

Salaries for Related Jobs

Medical Assistant

  • Average Salary: $36,930
  • Cost to become: One-year post-secondary program, potential on-the-job training.

Dental Assistant

  • Average salary: $42,310
  • Cost to become: One-year certificate program, state licensure exam/costs.

Pharmacy Technician

  • Average salary: $36,450
  • Cost to become: One- to two-year program, either a certificate or an associate degree. Certification exam, recertification costs over time.

Become Team
Laura Leavitt
Contributing Writer

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