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PTA Program Natural Step for Exercise Science Majors

Posted by Angie DiSalvo on Thursday, Jun. 22, 2017

A physical therapist assistant program can be a natural step for exercise science majors.

Exercise science can be a popular major for college students at liberal arts schools with a passion for sports and wellness. But what if your exercise science major isn’t working out?

Maybe you were planning to go to physical therapy school and you find it’s so insanely competitive to get in that you need a Plan B. Or, maybe you’re realizing that the job outlook isn’t what you thought with just a bachelor’s degree. What do you do now?

A physical therapist assistant (PTA) program can be a natural step for you. But what’s the difference between exercise science and PTA? Let’s take a look:


Exercise Science

A bachelor’s degree in exercise science typically takes four years. But it also can be a great stepping-stone to becoming a physical therapist, occupational therapist and many other advanced-degree fields. Those jobs just require applying for graduate or post-graduate school and earning a master’s or doctoral degree.


For PTA, you’re looking at about two years of school to attain your associate’s degree, the preferred entry requirement for the profession. Graduates then sit for the national certification examination through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. PTAs also are required to pass a jurisprudence exam in most states.

Career Paths

Exercise Science

Unless an exercise science graduate decides to pursue PT or OT school, most end up working as personal trainers at a gym. Sometimes those jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree, or, in most states, even a certification. Therefore, there is often not an advantage for trainers with a bachelor’s degree. However, you wouldn’t necessarily have to wait until you graduate to begin working either.

In addition, trainers are usually expected to do a lot of sales and marketing on top of developing fitness plans for their clients. Some trainers love the variety. Others may wish to spend more time with clients.


PTA positions aren’t as well-known as their physical therapist (PT) counterparts, but they’re the ones who interact regularly with patients. PTAs follow a PT’s plan of care to create and advance a patient’s exercises, and they have considerably less paperwork and administrative duties.

PTAs can also work in fitness facilities along with hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, schools, private practices and home healthcare.

Salary & Outlook

Exercise Science

The median salary for personal trainers was $38,160 per year in May 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with the projected job growth of 8 percent from 2014 to 2024.


According to the BLS, the median salary for PTAs was $56,610 per year with a much faster than average projected job growth of 41 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Natural Step

As a PTA you would likely enjoy a higher salary, better job outlook and less time in school while still getting to make a difference and help people in a field you love.

But maybe you’re in the middle of your program and are worried about transferring before finishing your bachelor degree. Not a problem. In fact, many of your exercise science course credits transfer to a PTA program. Our admission counselors would be happy to review your transcripts to give you an idea of what courses will transfer into our PTA program.

Check it out. Get started today by contacting our admission counselors and downloading our PTA degree guide or healthcare career guide!

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Topics: physical therapist assistant, allied health career, health professions, fitness

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