Associates Degree In Physical Therapy: Program Overviews

Physical therapist assistants, massage therapists, and kinesiologists are among the most rapidly growing professions in the United States. Nearly every state offers licensure for these occupations.

As a PT-A or MT-A, you must complete an associate degree program at an accredited educational institution to become licensed by the state. There are also plenty of online programs available that can help prepare you for this career path.

This blog post will enlighten you on the Associate’s degree in Physical therapy with program overviews. Stay tuned. 

Associates Degree In Physical Therapy With Program Overviews

In case you are among people that are confused about which Associates degree to choose in Physical therapy, here are some of the best options:

1. Associate Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant

The Associate Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant program is offered through the Illinois College of Podiatric Physicians and Surgeons.

The program lasts for two years. Students can complete their degree online or on campus at any one of Chicago, Springfield, and Rockford. Students are required to take coursework each semester that includes:

  • Anatomy, 
  • Physiology and kinesiology; 
  • Clinical skills; 
  • Patient assessment equipment evaluation; 
  • Biomechanics; 
  • Occupational therapy principles; 
  • Nutrition and dietetics. 

Students also must complete an internship of 100 hours within three years after graduation, or they will be required to pay extra fees when applying for licensure as a physical therapist assistant. 

Program costs range from $3,000 to $5,000 depending on whether it’s completed entirely through classes taken at one location or if some are taken off-site via distance learning technology, such as video conferencing classes.

2. Associate Degree in Physical Therapy Technician

If you want to become a physical therapist assistant, it may be time to consider earning an associate degree. An associate degree will provide the skills necessary for entry-level work within the field of physical therapy, but it won’t qualify you for licensure in many states.

The Associate Degree in Physical Therapy Technician program is offered at several universities across the country and lasts two years (four semesters). Students typically take courses such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology, 
  • Musculoskeletal system function with emphasis on injury prevention; 
  • Motor control development through movement analysis;
  • Clinical reasoning/debate skills; medical terminology; 
  • Ethical/legal considerations related to patient care delivery; 
  • Advanced technology use within clinical practice settings, including computer-assisted design software applications or simulation programs. It is used with clinical activities such as manual therapies (massage) or exercise therapy sessions. It focuses on muscle-strengthening exercises performed by therapists working together cooperatively towards achieving goals set forth by patients’ condition(s) being treated at each session.

3. Associate Of Science In Massage Therapy

If anyone is interested in becoming a massage therapist, an associate of science degree is the best way to get started.

You’ll need an accredited institution’s bachelor’s degree certificate or higher to enter this program. The length of this program varies but typically takes two years to complete. Some schools offer accelerated programs for those who want more time to focus on their studies or work full-time while completing school classes.

Students can choose from several options when it comes time for graduation: 

  • Entering into the workforce immediately upon completion; 
  • Continuing education at night classes; 
  • Returning for additional years later, once they’ve established themselves within their chosen field. For example, getting certified by another board; 
  • Pursuing both degrees simultaneously so that they can earn both certifications simultaneously. 
Read More: What Is A Child Care Specialist?

4. A.A.S. – Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a fantastic career for those who want to work in various settings, including healthcare facilities, sports teams, and fitness centers. Massage therapy can be vital to health care because it helps people maintain their overall health and well-being. In fact, there are various types of massage therapy that, include:

  • Swedish massage (hands-on) – This type of massage involves applying pressure on various body parts to relieve pain or tension. Athletes often use it as they recover from injuries or rehab their bodies after workouts;
  • Shiatsu (passive) – Shiatsu involves applying pressure with one hand while using another hand to provide a soothing touch (passive). This type of treatment is often used on pregnant women because it helps relieve aches and pains;
  • Acupressure – It involves applying light taps with fingers against specific points on someone’s body. This occurs at certain intervals throughout their session so that they may relax more deeply than usual during treatment sessions, making them feel better overall. You can try this out, too, if you’re interested. 

5. A.A.S. – Exercise Science and Physical Fitness Trainer

The A.A.S. degree program in Exercise Science and Physical Fitness Trainer is designed for students seeking a career as a fitness trainer or personal trainer. This program is offered through an institute called the College of Health and Human Services located at Clark State Community College’s campus in Paducah, Kentucky, as well as online via distance learning (DL).

The curriculum includes courses such as:

  • Hydrodynamics; 
  • Kinesiology; 
  • Anatomy, 
  • Physiology; 
  • Human movement science; 
  • Exercise statistics and research methods; 
  • Wellness lifestyle management principles exercise prescription development and evaluation techniques, including strength-endurance training protocols for the general public (ages 18+), 
  • Military personnel & veterans rehabilitation cases that are specific for injured military personnel/veterans who may have limited mobility due to physical injuries sustained during active duty service, including traumatic brain injuries (T.B.I.s) or spinal cord injuries (S.C.I.s).

6. A.A.S. In Sports Rehabilitation And Performance Enhancement

The Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Enhancement program is an Associate of Applied Science degree that can be completed in two years or less, depending on your schedule and course load. You will learn how to treat injuries using a variety of techniques, including exercise therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, massage therapy, and ice baths or cold water immersion (immersion).

The sports rehabilitation field has been growing rapidly as more people participate in recreational activities like running or playing basketball at school or work during the week while they’re not at home doing chores.

7. Associate Of Applied Science In Physical Therapist Assistant

The Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant program is offered in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of Missouri. The program enables students to be prepared for entry-level positions as physical therapist assistants with an emphasis on clinical practice.

The curriculum includes:

  • Courses in anatomy, physiology, human growth and development, motor skills analysis, professional ethics, and laws governing physical therapy practice.
  • Patient care procedures related to musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Geriatric assessment/management.
  • First aid/CPR/AED certification training.
  • Skills development through case studies or hands-on clinical experience under supervision.

Students must complete coursework within four years after admission into the program to obtain their A.A.S. degree.

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8. Associate Of Applied Science In Massage Therapy

An Associate of Applied Science in Massage Therapy is a two-year program that prepares students for the national exam. The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours, and students must complete the required courses in their first year before beginning the second year.

Students who enroll in this program will learn the following:

  • How to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal injuries, as well as common orthopedic conditions such as strains, sprains, and dislocations; 
  • How to treat soft-tissue injuries such as tendonitis or bursitis, neurologic disorders, vascular disorders including varicose veins; 
  • Pain management techniques using massage therapy or other similar modalities; 
  • Patient education about anatomy and physiology related to massage therapy practice; 
  • Business skills needed for employment opportunities after graduation.

9. A.A.S. – Exercise Physiology Technology

Exercise physiology studies how muscles and organs work together to maintain homeostasis or balance. It’s used in both the fitness industry and the medical field. The A.A.S. degree in exercise physiology prepares students for careers as athletic trainers or physical therapists who specialize in rehabilitation after injury or illness. 

One career path available to graduates with an Associate’s degree is an Athletic trainer. This role involves assessing athletes’ needs, developing goals with them, working on specific exercises prescribed by physicians or trainers, providing instruction as needed, and recording data about performance so that adjustments can be made.

Athletic trainers may also provide recommendations for dietary changes based on their assessment of an athlete’s health status at each stage during recovery from an injury sustained while playing sports such as football (American football), soccer (association), or baseball (softball).

They also educate players about proper techniques for warming up before games/practices using various equipment such as medicine balls. 

10. A.A.S. – Kinesiology & Exercise Science

Kinesiology involves the study of human movement and biological functions. It’s a field of study that focuses on the function of the human body, not just joints or muscles.

Kinesiology is a field of study that focuses on the structure and function of the human body by examining how muscles work together to provide strength or power for movement. In addition to studying anatomy, kinesiologists may also research how different body parts interact during athletic activities such as running or jumping rope.

This helps them understand how those movements can be improved through exercise programs specific to each client’s needs or lack thereof. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is The Lowest Degree For Physical Therapy?

Doctor of physical therapy degree.

2. How Many Years Will It Take To Become A Physical Therapist?

Four years.

3. Is Becoming A Physical Therapist Hard?

California is often considered one of the most difficult states to get your physical therapy license. 

4. What Degree Do I Need To Be A Physical Therapist Assistant?

All states require P.T.A.s to get an Associate’s degree from an accredited program, according to the B.L.S. 

5. Is It Better To Become A P.T.A. Before A P.T.?

Being a physical therapist assistant is not a stepping stone to becoming a physical therapist; however, approximately 10% of P.T.A.s pursue careers at P.T.s. Traditionally, P.T.A.s remain with their first career choice within physical therapy.

6. Is Becoming A P.T.A. Worth It?

The expected job growth and rewarding pay make a P.T.A. career so attractive. The median salary for a P.T.A. is currently $58,000. And you only need a two-year degree to become a P.T.A.

7. Is Becoming A Physical Therapist A Good Idea?

You will be in demand. 

Faster than average job growth is among the top reasons for being a physical therapist, meaning that you will not look for a job.

8. Is Physical Therapy Still A Good Career?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20.5 percent employment growth for physical therapists between 2020 and 2030.

9. Is Physical Therapy An Enjoyable Career?

Working as a Physical Therapist gives you endless career satisfaction. 

10. Is Physical Therapy Harder Than Nursing?

Physical therapy is typically regarded as the more challenging option for the education level required to begin a career in these two fields.


Various programs are available for students who want to pursue physical therapy careers. This article aims to provide some details about each program and what makes them unique. If you’re looking for more information about these programs or other degree options, look up the school on our website. 

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