Overview of an Associate's in Rehabilitation Therapy
To pursue a career as a rehabilitation therapist, a bachelor’s degree is required. However, you can enroll in a 2-year associate’s program to get started as a physical therapy assistant and gain some real-world experience. In addition to the practice and theory of physical therapy and basic medical sciences, you’ll also study general education and gain hands-on experience.
An associate's degree in rehabilitation therapy is typically comprised of both supervised fieldwork and classroom instruction that will provide clinical education. Students learn about healthcare science, medical terminology, human anatomy, mental health, and physical therapist assistant duties in this counseling specialization. Clinical experiences teach students how to perform under a physical therapist's supervision, communicate with patients one-on-one, administer general therapeutic exercises, and what to do in real-world situations that can arise in a hospital setting. If you choose to earn an associate degree in vocational/rehabilitation counseling, the beginning of the program examines science and theory while the second half consists of laboratory and clinical work, which includes four to five semesters and an occupational therapy or physical therapy clinical internship.
- It only takes two years to get an associate's in vocational/rehabilitation counseling, a physical therapy program, or occupational therapy programs.
- You can start working with employment opportunities such as right after graduating such as physical therapist assistant and others.
- With an associate's in physical therapy, occupational therapy, or rehabilitation therapy, you will earn more with a degree than someone with just a high school diploma.
- You can’t earn specific certifications with just an associate degree in rehabilitation therapy, occupational therapy, or a physical therapy program.
- There aren’t many programs that offer this level degree in vocational/rehabilitation counseling, though there are several bachelor's degree programs.
- There aren’t many employment opportunities with this degree, even if you're willing to work as a physical therapy assistant.
Certificate Vs. Associate's
When studying to earn a certificate, you will only learn about a certain field with no general classes required, which is why earning your certificate doesn’t take as long as earning an associate degree in physical therapy or occupational therapy programs, where you will have to also take general classes as well as your courses of interest.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapy assistants must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam to be able to practice as a physical therapist assistant. To qualify to take the exam, students must first earn an associate degree in physical therapy, occupational therapy, or a rehabilitation therapy degree. In addition, there are the licensure requirements to become a physical therapy assistant as well, which vary by state. In order to advance your career and become a full physical therapist, you must earn your bachelor's or master's degree in vocational/rehabilitation counseling, a degree in physical therapy, occupational therapy, rehabilitation therapy, or another related degree in this field.
What Rehabilitation Therapy Associate Degrees are Available?
At the associate level, you can pursue a degree as a physical therapy assistant. A bachelor’s is required to become a full physical therapist. Physical therapy assistants are supervised by a physical therapist while assisting them with patients. Their duties mainly consist of helping patients to overcome pain and gain physical strength following an illness or accident by teaching them exercises and movements that can be done to improve their range of motion. They also help the physical therapist with special techniques, including ultrasound therapy to promote recovery and reduce pain. These assistants may also have administrative duties within the therapist’s office to keep things running smoothly.
An Associate Degree in Physical Therapy program combines courses like physical therapy modalities, kinesiology, and human anatomy with hands-on clinical experience to prepare students for a career in the field as physical therapy assistants (PTAs). Most states require licensure to become a PTA as well as holding an associate degree.
Students entering this associate degree program must have completed introductory college courses in chemistry, biology, and English or have taken advanced classes in high school and have a high school diploma or equivalent GED to qualify. In addition, in order to practice as a rehabilitation therapy assistant, students must take and pass a state exam to obtain licensure according to their state’s requirements.
How long does it take to earn a Rehabilitation Therapy Associates Degree?
The majority of associate degree programs take 2 years to complete for a student attending full-time. However, some schools offer specific programs where you can earn your associate degree in rehabilitation therapy assistance in as little as 15 months. If you are working and have to attend school on a part-time basis, then it can take up to four years to complete. Another option for those who attend part- or full-time, who wish to graduate faster, is attending night, weekend, and/or summer classes where students can earn their associate much sooner.
Potential Careers in Rehabilitation Therapy with an Associates
- Physical Therapy Assistants
A physical therapy assistant helps a licensed physical therapist with patients in a rehabilitation process. Duties may include helping with medical equipment, exercises, instructions, and record-keeping. According to the BLS, this occupation will experience a 41% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average.
The average annual salary, according to Payscale is - $50,600.
- Physical Therapy Aides
Physical therapy aides work under the supervision of a physical therapy assistant or physical therapists and are responsible for the cleanliness of the organization's treatment area as well as preparation. Aides are usually trained on the job and at least a high school diploma or equivalent is required. While an aide can assist with moving patients to treatment areas and back, they are not allowed to perform clinical tasks that are basically performed by a physical therapy assistant. The BLS reports that aides receive on-the-job training and may only need a high school diploma or equivalent. Aides can expect a rapid increase in employment of 39% from 2014 to 2024.
The average annual salary, according to Payscale is – $28,700.
- Respiratory Therapist
A respiratory therapist works with patients who have breathing and/or other cardiopulmonary problems. These therapists work under the supervision of a physician to treat, rehabilitate, and evaluate patients trying to recover or suffering from disorders such as emphysema, asthma, shock, lung disease, stroke, sleep apnea, heart ailments, or smoking addiction. A respiratory therapist may also treat patients who suffer near-drowning or suffocation.
An associate degree obtained from an accredited program is the minimum requirement for an entry-level position as a respiratory therapist, but these programs are limited and a bachelor's degree is typically preferred. The BLS estimates 12% job growth between 2014 through 2024, which is faster than for most careers.
The average annual salary, according to Payscale is – $55,800.
Options to Advance
A rehabilitation therapy assistant has a lot of options to advance in their career. Although they cannot become an actual rehabilitation therapist until they have earned their bachelor's degree, they can advance to teaching or administrative roles through a rehabilitation therapy department.
The first step toward advancing your career is to earn your bachelor’s degree. During this 2-year program, you will take mainly health and science-based classes. While earning your associate in the field, you should focus on the prerequisite coursework needed for the bachelor’s program that includes the following areas:
- Calculus or Pre-calculus
- General Psychology
- Comparative Biology and Anatomy
- General Chemistry
- Cellular Biology
- General Physics
Best Associate of Science in Rehabilitation Therapy Programs
Most of the students who attend Fremont College are there in pursuit of a career change for a better life. Fremont College provides flexible classes, day and night, and ensures you graduate on time without having to register every quarter for classes. Once you have been accepted, you will already be registered for all your courses and know what your schedule is like every quarter, so that you can work around it. You can complete this program in just 15 months.
- Associate in Sports and Rehabilitation Therapy
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
The associate in physical therapy degree program prepares students for a career working as a physical therapy assistant. Students learn how to care for patients with temporary injuries and ongoing illnesses, as well as assisting them in the rehabilitation process. In this career, it’s important for you to enjoy working with patients on a daily basis as well as being sensitive to their needs.
- Associate Degree in Rehabilitation Therapy
Oklahoma State University
Programs in rehabilitation and physical therapy cover diseases, anatomy, physical ailments, patient care, and medical terminology. Students also learn about neurology, kinesiology, equipment operation, legal issues, and mental health. Labs allow students to apply what they learn through lectures and they can also participate in seminars with a special topic. Students also can take advantage of Internships, on-the-job training, and other hands-on practice included in accredited programs.
- Associate Degree in Rehabilitation Therapy
Pima Medical Institute
Those studying to be physical therapy assistants at Pima Medical Institute take specialized technique classes that help to improve a patient’s mobility, limit or prevent permanent physical disabilities, and relieve pain. The program offers knowledgeable instructors with many years of industry experience and hands-on experience. Students will learn to:
- treat patients through balance and gait training, exercise, and other therapeutic programs under the direction of a physical therapist
- utilize equipment that helps to improve a patients function and mobility with daily activities
- monitor and observe patients before, during, and after therapy, and note the patient’s status while reporting to a physical therapist.
- Associate Degree in Physical Therapist Assistance
Bowling Green, KY
The associate degree in occupational therapy program is offered by Ross College in Bowling Green, Kentucky and Quad Cities, Iowa. This degree program can prepare students to help improve an individual’s quality of life by assisting them with performing their own daily activities through rehabilitative activities and exercises. Graduates can work in a wide variety of settings that include nursing homes, hospitals, home healthcare, schools, early intervention, psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient clinics.
- Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant
Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Rehabilitation Therapy
Western New Mexico University (WNMU)
Silver City, NM
The rehabilitation field is dedicated to assisting families and individuals with disabilities to live independent and full lives. Graduates of WNMU’s online rehabilitation services program are prepared to enter a number of entry-level positions in human services and rehabilitation. They are also academically prepared to continue into other rehabilitation graduate studies.
The undergraduate degree focuses on experiential, hands-on learning integrated into all the coursework. All courses emphasize multicultural aspects, focusing on Hispanic, rural, and Native American experiences.
- Associate Degree in rehabilitation therapy
Physical therapy assistants work with physical therapists to help patients learn how to do the things they used to do before an accident or illness. Students learn how to help with rehabilitation programs and procedures for a variety of conditions and injuries in this program.
Through a combination of active lab participation and clinical experience working with real patients, students will learn the techniques and skills needed every day in their career as a physical therapy assistant. Graduates will be prepared to sit for the National Physical Therapy Assistants Examination and begin their career as a physical therapy assistant.
- Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant
Kent State University
The Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assistant Technology program provides students with the behaviors, skills, and knowledge necessary to become a certified or licensed physical therapist assistant. These assistants work with a team to provide therapy services under the supervision and direction of a physical therapist. They also implement certain components of client/patient treatment, to make selected interventions, modifications, and obtain data related to the interventions provided.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Physical Therapist Assistant Technology
The physical therapy assistant is the only one who can properly assist the physical therapist, according to the positions and policies of the American Physical Therapy Association. Interventions include supportive device and brace training, motor learning, balance, massage, assistive device training, myofascial release, therapeutic exercise, coordination, facilitation techniques, range of motion, and applying physical agents such as cold, heat, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and light-based therapies.
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant
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- Associate Degree in Rehabilitation and Therapy
Healthcare Degree & Career Paths