Physical Therapist Assistant Degree, AAS
Find an important and in-demand job as a physical therapist assistant (PTA). You'll work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist to provide treatment to patients of all ages. We provide in-person and online/hybrid program options so you can choose the schedule that best meets your needs.
You'll complete two externships and practice in our simulation labs to gain the real-world experience you need. See why the two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Physical Therapist Assistant program at San Juan College is the best preparation for your new career.
Why Complete an Associate Degree to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
Be a part of one of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation! A Physical Therapist Assistant AAS is a great choice whether you're:
- Looking to switch careers
- Finding your first job
- Upgrading your physical therapy skills
As a PTA, you'll play a vital role in a patient's independence and recovery. Your duties include:
- Instructing patients in therapeutic exercise
- Assisting patients with using equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and crutches
- Managing pain through treatments, including massage, ultrasound, electrotherapy, and hot or cold packs
You will have the opportunity to work in multiple settings as a licensed PTA, from hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and outpatient clinics to schools, sports, and fitness facilities.
The associate degree in physical therapist assistant takes about two years to complete. Because of the high demand for PTAs, you'll start your new career quickly. Find a rewarding career as a physical therapist assistant by applying today!
Why Earn a Physical Therapist Assistant AAS at San Juan College?
In-Person and Online Programs
We offer two physical therapist assistant programs to fit your needs as a San Juan College student. You can complete our on-campus Physical Therapist Assistant program in as little as five semesters.
You can also complete the online/hybrid Physical Therapist Assistant program in only five semesters. In this option, most of your coursework will be online. You will be required to travel to the San Juan College campus for approximately 9-18 consecutive days (including weekends and/or holidays) for labs during each semester.
Get the training you need to jumpstart your career at SJC. Practice in our state-of-the-art facilities that simulate patient care in outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals. You'll have access to the following:
- Two procedural labs
- Health Sciences Simulation Center
- Health and Human Performance Center
As part of your courses, you'll also complete two full-time clinical externships. Interact with patients to get real-world experience so you can start your career as a physical therapist assistant.
Our degree program combines excellent teaching with an affordable cost. For in-state residents, the estimated cost of the on-campus program is $6,655. Find out if you can get your degree tuition-free through the NM Opportunity Scholarship.
What You'll Learn in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Physical therapist assistants are healthcare professionals who directly assist the physical therapist in the treatment of people of all ages, from newborns to people at the end of life. Many patients have injuries, disabilities, or other health conditions that need care and treatment. But PTAs also assist people who want to become healthier and prevent future problems.
Through your courses at San Juan College, you will learn about physical therapy fundamentals and procedures, clinical techniques related to therapeutic exercise, and treatment strategies. You'll study:
- Anatomy, pathophysiology, kinesiology, exercise physiology, and more;
- Fundamental procedures related to patient care, including pain assessment, range of motion, bed mobility, and transfers;
- How to assist patients with stretching, strengthening, balance, coordination, agility, and aerobic conditioning;
- The importance and techniques of modalities, massage, airway clearance techniques, and wound care;
- Types of physical therapy, including traction, electrotherapy, aquatics, and hydrotherapy; and
- Treatment strategies for patients with complex diagnoses, such as developmental disorders.
In your courses and clinical rotations, you will develop skills such as:
- Monitoring patients before, during, and after therapy sessions for changes in health status or function;
- Developing and assisting patients with specific exercises as outlined in the plan of care;
- Treating patients using various techniques, such as manual therapy, massage, stretching, strengthening, motor relearning programs, etc.;
- Educating patients and their caregivers with the use of exercises, devices, and equipment;
- Using effective clinical judgment and reasoning skills to ensure patient and clinician safety and ensure the efficacy of treatment;
- Documenting notes of patient progress and health status; and
- Adhering to professional and legal standards as outlined by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
When you complete the program, you will be prepared for an entry-level physical therapist assistant position with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and professional behavior.
Become a confident physical therapist assistant through the San Juan College Health Sciences Simulation Center. This special laboratory will prepare you for your career by providing practice and feedback. Your professors will guide you through simulations as you assist work with live patients and learn how to use healthcare tools. Master the skills you need at SJC's Simulation Center.
Careers and Outcomes
You'll find a fulfilling and in-demand career as a physical therapist assistant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 26% from 2021 to 2031. The median annual wage for PTAs was $61,180 in May 2021. Top earners earn $80,170 or more.
You'll help our aging population recover from mobility-related injuries, heart attacks, and strokes. You'll also help patients who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, and are recovering from trauma.
Our graduates go on to work for:
- Hospitals and outpatient clinics
- Rehab units
- Nursing homes
- Home health agencies
- Sports and fitness facilities
- Travel assignments throughout the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii
- Research and academia
Employers of recent graduates include:
- San Juan Regional Medical Center
- Mercy Regional Medical Center (Durango, CO)
- Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine of Northern New Mexico, Aztec location
- Special K Fitness
- Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque
- Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center, Las Cruces location
- Three Rivers Physical Therapy
- Therapy One
- Movement for Life (CA)
- Reno Orthopedic Clinic (NV)
Some of our graduates have become faculty and directors of physical therapist assistant programs, including at San Juan College!
You may also choose to advance your career and earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Look for DPT Programs or bridge programs that help you transition from a PTA to DPT. Other graduates have used their AAS to pursue other career paths in healthcare, such as physician's assistant, nursing, and more.
"The online program was very manageable, and I would highly recommend it to parents or anyone with a busy lifestyle. I loved that it was part-time and that I could still work and care for my kids.”
"My experience in the program was positive. The instructors were awesome and they were always there and available."
“I absolutely loved the experience at San Juan College. I couldn’t have asked for better instructors, better mentors, better campus.”
"My experience was great overall! Mostly because of the teachers. They definitely helped me out. I enjoyed my classmates and all the good memories that I have from SJC."
We are one of only four physical therapist assistant programs in New Mexico accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Our graduates are eligible to take the National Physical Therapist Assistant Licensing Examination. PTAs are licensed or certified in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
The PTA program offers an AAS degree to students through its on-campus and online/hybrid programs. Each program accepts up to 20 students every year. To learn about the admission requirements, download our Physical Therapist Assistant .
How to Apply
Before you apply to the PTA program, please make sure you meet and complete the minimum eligibility requirements listed above.
- Apply to and be accepted to San Juan College.
- This is not the same as applying to and being accepted to the PTA program.
- When you apply, mark Pre-Physical Therapist Assistant as your program of study.
- Contact the PTA Program for guidance on the prerequisite course sequence and the PTA application process.
The 2024-2025 online application will be available late Fall 2023. View the Physical Therapist Assistant to get started and check back for updates on the online application.
To enter the Associate of Applied Sciences in Physical Therapist Assistant program, you must first apply to San Juan College. Declare your program as a Pre-Physical Therapist Assistant. Be prepared to send all official transcripts.
Set up an appointment with the health science advisor for step-by-step guidance on the prerequisite course sequence and the PTA application process. Call (505) 566-3562 to make an appointment.
The 2024-2025 online application will be available late Fall 2023. View the application instructions to get started and check back for updates on the online application.