If you are wondering how to go from being a physical therapist assistant (PTA) to a physical therapist (PT), this guide will help you make informed decisions more confidently. It is important to note if you have yet to start your career in PT, a PTA is not considered a stepping stone to becoming a licensed physical therapist. That being said, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reports that approximately 10% of PTAs continue their education to become PTs.

Both physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are needed by the profession to administer the invaluable and necessary care that the PT discipline provides. There are many distinctions, however, between the two career paths. To offer a comprehensive resource on going from PTA to PT, we will cover the following topics:

The Differences Between PTAs and PTs

Bridge Programs

Tips for Success

The PT Travel Advantage

The Differences Between PTAs and PTs



A two-year associate’s degree from a CAPTE accredited program is the minimum qualification needed. PTAs must also pass the NPTE PTA Exam and be licensed in the state in which they practice. CEUs are required to renew licensure (requirements vary by state).


As of 2017, a three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is required to become a practicing PT. Usually a bachelor’s degree is required prior to a DPT making the entire education process about 7 years. Some programs, however, do offer a 6-year program that combines both undergraduate and graduate requirements. PTs must also pass the NPTE Exam and be licensed in the state in which they practice. CEUs are required to renew licensure (requirements vary by state).



The median national pay for a PTA is $42,980 per year and $29.37 per hour.


The median national pay for a PT is $84,020 per year, $40.40 per hour, and $2,048 per week.

Patient Involvement


PTAs do get the opportunity to be very involved with patients as they oftentimes perform the PT interventions, but it is a supportive role with consistent supervision.


PTs are responsible for diagnosing patients, creating treatment plans, executing them, supervising PTAs, intake and discharge, and most paperwork.

Career Development 


A number of PTAs gain experience or supplement their schooling to move into management, education, or administrative positions.


Some PTs become directors, others specialize and become certified in a specific area of interest, and a number go on to head their own private practices.

*Resources: Bls.gov,  Indeed, APTA, and All Allied Health Schools  

Bridge Programs

PTA to PT Before the DPT became the standard education level for entry into the PT profession, bridge programs were more common than they are today. According to the APTA, the reason for this is that graduate programs cannot accept undergraduate work as graduate credits.

There are some DPT programs, however, that will accept certain PTA and general education course credits as fulfilling the prerequisites required for a DPT program.  Considering the evolving educational requirements for PT, bridge programs have greatly diminished.

Currently, there are only two programs that are considered by the CAPTE to be accredited programs that bridge from PTA to PT. Belopw you will find the links to the programs.

The University of Findlay

Location: Findlay, Ohio

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Location: Galveston, Texas

The admission procedures, prerequisites, requirements, workload, and schedules differ for both programs. Research and planning will help you figure out which of these two programs suits you best. PRN, part-time, or contract work may help make these programs more financially viable so check out our travel PTA jobs.

If both these bridge programs do not fit your expectations, or if you already have your heart set on a specific DPT program, define what you want and what requirements you must fulfill to get it. You don't ever have to settle!  The APTA offers resources on how to find Bachelor’s completion degrees if you currently have a PTA associate’s degree. Completing your bachelor's degree will increase your options when pursuing the PT career path.

Tips for Success

Physical Therapy Love

Consider Your Options 

PTA? PT? Staring as a PTA and going back to school? If you're not sure what you want, it's OK. Prioritize what will make you happy and go for it!

Do Your Homework 

What you want is important. That makes defining what you want and researching the best way to get there doubly important. Do online research, speak to advisers, visit campuses, and talk to professionals.

Don't Forget Yourself

Take the time to be kind to yourself. Whether you’re about to start a program, you’re in the middle of one, or you just graduated, you will always need some TLC to recharge.

The PT Travel Advantage

Immediately after graduating from your DPT program you will eligible to join our New Grad Program for PTs. We offer excellent pay packages, comprehensive medical coverage from day one, and new grad benefits like free CEUs and $5,000 in tuition reimbursement.

As a New Grad with Advanced Travel Therapy, you’ll get a dedicated recruiter and a PT mentor. Your Advanced Recruiter will make getting the PT job you’ve been dreaming of walk in the park. He or she will line up the opportunity, negotiate on your behalf, get all your benefits squared away, and even help you with more stressful to-dos like licensure, moving, and housing. Your PT mentor, on the other hand, will be there to answer all your clinical and professional questions while on assignment.

Travel Benefits

  1. 100% Paid Medical Coverage

  2. Lucrative Pay

  3. 401k with Company Matching

  4. Customized Travel Packages

  5. Robust Clinical and Lifestyle Mentorship

  6. Large Support Staff

  1. State Licensure Reimbursement

  2. Significant Referral Bonus

  3. Personal Recruiter

  4. Exceptional Customer Service (24 hours/day)

  5. Clinical Director

  1. Corporate Furnished Housing or Generous Lodging Per Diem

  2. Travel Expense Allowance

  3. Meals and Incidentals Stipend

  4. Professional & General Liability Coverage

  5. Advanced Education CEU's

Travel Is Worth Exploring!

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