How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in California

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Starting a career as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) in California promises a journey filled with rewarding experiences and professional growth.

This guide offers a look into the steps required to join this wonderful field in the Golden State.

From educational pathways to licensing requirements, discover what it takes to become a part of this healthcare profession.

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Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in California – Step by Step

Educational Requirements

Your journey as a PTA in California begins with a solid educational foundation.

The journey involves key steps, each vital to ensuring you are well-prepared and qualified for this healthcare profession.

  • Accredited PTA Programs: First of all, complete a program. California boasts a wide range of CAPTE-accredited programs, each designed to provide the necessary knowledge and skills.
  • Admission Requirements: PTA programs generally require a high school diploma or GED. Many programs also require courses like biology, chemistry, and basic math. They may ask you to volunteer in a physical therapy setting to demonstrate your commitment and understanding of the field.
  • Other Considerations: Students should consider program cost, location, and schedule flexibility, especially if balancing other commitments. Additionally, it’s good to look into the program’s pass rates for PTAs, as this indicates the program’s effectiveness.

Licensing Requirements

After completing your education, obtaining your license is the next step.

This process ensures that all practicing PTAs meet the state’s professional standards for quality and safety in patient care.

  • National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE): The first requirement for licensure is passing the NPTE for PTAs. This examination, issued by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), assesses your knowledge and skills as a PTA. It’s a comprehensive test covering all aspects of physical therapy.
  • California Law Examination: Besides the NPTE, California requires PTAs to pass a state-specific exam. This exam tests your knowledge of the laws and regulations of the practice of physical therapy in California.
  • Application for Licensure: Once you have passed these exams, you must apply for licensure through the Physical Therapy Board of California. This application process includes submitting proof of your educational qualifications and a fee.

Maintaining your Licensure

  • A Physical Therapist Assistant in California has a requirement and an opportunity for professional development. By staying educated with state requirements, you ensure you can provide your patients with the highest standard of care.
  • Continuing Education Requirements: To maintain licensure, PTAs in California must complete several continuing education hours during each renewal period.
  • Renewal Period: In California, PTA licenses are renewed every two years. You must complete the required CE hours and submit a renewal application and the appropriate fees to the PTCB during this time.
  • Staying Informed: Regulations and requirements for licensure renewal can change. It’s recommended to regularly check the Physical Therapy Board of California’s website or subscribe to relevant professional newsletters to stay informed about any updates or changes in the renewal process.

Getting My First Job as a Physical Therapist Assistant in California

 Here are some key strategies to help you successfully land your first PTA job in the Golden State:

  • Professional Networking: Attend industry conferences, workshops, and local events hosted by professional organizations like the California Physical Therapy Association (CPTA). Networking can open doors to job opportunities that are not advertised publicly.
  • Online Job Boards: Regularly check specialized healthcare job portals, as well as general job search websites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. Many employers post their job openings on these platforms.
  • Apply to Various Healthcare Settings: PTAs in California work in diverse environments, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, and long-term care facilities. Applying to different settings can increase your chances of finding a job that fits your interests and skills.
  • Stay Informed: Even as a new graduate, keeping abreast of the latest trends and developments in physical therapy can make you a more attractive candidate.

Physical Therapist Assistant Schools in California

Concorde Career College (San Diego)Concorde Career College (San Diego)

  • Program Details: Two-year AAS degree, including clinical experiences.
  • Contact the college directly for up-to-date information.

Cerritos CollegeCerritos College

  • Program Details: 2-year program, including internships.
  • Cost: Lower for in-state residents; approximately $46 per unit.

Sacramento City CollegeSacramento City College

  • Program Details: Full-time, two-year program.
  • Cost: Around $46 per unit for California residents.

Top 3 Schools in California

School NameAddress
Concorde Career College (San Diego)4393 Imperial Ave, San Diego, CA 92113, United States
Cerritos College11110 Alondra Blvd, Norwalk, CA 90650, United States
Sacramento City CollegeSacramento, CA 95814, United States


 In California, the salary of a Physical Therapist Assistant was approximately $73,430.

However, this figure can vary based on several factors:

  • Location: Salaries tend to be higher in areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego due to the higher cost of living and greater demand for healthcare services.
  • Experience: Entry-level PTAs may start with a lower salary, which typically increases with years of experience and continued education.
Annual Salary Range:

Average Salary of Physical Therapist Assistants in California

City NameSalary
Los Angeles$40,500
San Diego$39,000
San Jose$45,300
San Francisco$45,100
Long Beach$40,300
Santa Ana$40,300
* Salary information last updated 2024

Regional Salary in California

RegionEmployedAvg. Annual SalaryAvg. Hourly PayTop 10% Annual SalaryBottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA110$72,790$34.99$98,090$32,880
Chico, CA40$71,850$34.54$95,180$49,360
Fresno, CA210$70,660$33.97$85,720$36,400
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA3,040$77,750$37.38$95,930$34,670
Merced, CA40$63,760$30.65$92,920$29,390
Modesto, CA150$68,280$32.83$103,610$32,310
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA250$70,430$33.86$92,490$32,230
Redding, CA70$69,940$33.62$95,320$31,410
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA830$78,090$37.54$96,580$62,440
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA430$80,740$38.82$98,760$61,000
Salinas, CA60$72,910$35.05$98,770$31,520
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA840$80,060$38.49$96,480$60,840
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA960$89,510$43.03$112,860$65,290
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA260$94,860$45.61$120,810$72,600
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA60$69,190$33.26$90,780$30,430
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA70$79,260$38.11$104,690$52,980
Santa Rosa, CA70$79,600$38.27$111,820$33,910
Stockton-Lodi, CA100$72,350$34.78$97,350$37,130
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA50$75,360$36.23$100,690$39,690
Visalia-Porterville, CA80$74,510$35.82$95,250$56,150
Yuba City, CA50$75,890$36.49$93,860$55,970
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Physical Therapist Assistants, OCC Code 31-2021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the cost of living in California impact PTA salaries?

While Physical Therapist Assistants in California typically earn higher salaries than in many other states, it’s essential to consider the state’s higher cost of living, particularly in major urban areas.

Are there any California-specific continuing education requirements for PTAs?

Yes, in California, PTAs must complete a certain number of continuing education hours for license renewal every two years.

The Physical Therapy Board of California sets these requirements and includes courses relevant to physical therapy practice.

What are the prospects for job growth for PTAs in California?

The job outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants in California is very positive, with an expected increase in demand due to factors such as the aging population, an overall increase in focus on health and wellness, and the expansion of healthcare services.

Opportunities are particularly abundant in outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, and elderly care facilities.

Can I practice in California with a PTA license from another state?

You must obtain a California license to practice as a California PTA.

You can apply for licensure by endorsement in California if you are already licensed in another state.

This process involves submitting your current licensure information and educational credentials.

Always check with the Physical Therapy Board of California for the most up-to-date licensure transfer procedures.

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