Going to physical therapy assistant school mainly prepares you for a job as a physical therapy assistant. Even though the degree you will get is career oriented, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend the rest of your life as a physical therapy assistant if you later decide there is something else you want to do. Sometimes this can be a concern for people who attend a trade school, such as PT assistant school, HVAC school, beauty school, or culinary school. They might think that they can only teach in a very specific profession, while people who go to a traditional four year university and receive a liberal arts degree have more diverse professional opportunities.
In some ways this is true, but when it comes to physical therapist assistant school, you actually have some additional options.
When you study to be a physical therapist assistant, you will take some classes that are very specific to your intended career. These courses, such as those on anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, and physical therapy techniques, won’t have a whole lot of practical application outside of the PT field. Other classes, however, you have to take in order to get an associate’s degree, and often are “general studies” classes in English, Communication, and Math. These skills will be very helpful in a number of future careers. Once you get a job as a PT assistant, you may be asked to handle some administrative duties that are typical of PT aides. These might include dealing with insurance and billing questions, answering phones, and typing information on the computer. If you decide that you prefer the administrative side of things to the clinical, you could shift your career focus and become employed in a physician or PT office working at the front desk. You could even become an office manager, and make, depending on your experience and work environment, over $75,000 annually.
This is a fairly obvious step. You might choose to become a full-fledged physical therapist not if you’re looking for a career change, but actually enjoy your career so much that you are willing to go back to school for a couple more years! You might have to take some additional classes at the associate level first, because associate’s of applied science degrees are not always transferrable to four year institutions. But a semester or so of work and you could find yourself at a major university and then at grad school, studying to be a physical therapist. Once you are finished with your degree, you will likely find that the time you invested was worth it, as physical therapists make around $76,000 a year – a $25,000 increase from the salary of PT assistants.
There are a number of jobs related to healthcare and the helping professions that don’t require specific degrees. As long as you have a high school diploma you will be eligible for these jobs, and the fact that you have an A.A.S. might give you an edge over the competition! These include working in the athletic industry as a coach, in a dentist’s office as a technician, as a personal trainer or aerobics instructor, as a medical assistant or medical secretary, or in the field of occupational therapy. You might also be able to use your degree to land yourself a job that requires some postsecondary education but not a bachelor’s degree. You might also be able to find work in an instructional capacity, teaching others about physical therapy techniques, although this sometimes requires an additional degree, depending on where you teach.