Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) can seek a rewarding career by helping others to recuperate from their injuries or to learn to better manage their ongoing pain. They work under the direction of a physical therapist (PT) who typically has doctorate-level education. They may be able to specialize in specific fields that range from aquatic therapy to sports medicine.
Physical Therapist Assistant Schools
Becoming a PTA typically takes an investment of two years of associate degree education and passing an exam to become certified or licensed in a state. The following five schools offer associate degrees in physical therapy assistance, and are accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association.
- Amarillo College: This college in Texas trains students in the key skills necessary to enter the field of physical therapy assistance.
- Broward College: This college in Florida provides the framework for students to learn how to work with patients who have lost function due to illness, surgery, or other conditions.
- Clark State Community College: This community college located in Springfield, Ohio combines didactic and clinical learning experiences for future physical therapy assistants.
- Mercyhurst University: Located in North East, Pennsylvania, this university's physical therapy assistant training program prepares students to become important members of a health care team.
- San Diego Mesa College: This college offers an associate degree which trains physical therapy assistants to work safely and ethically with a wide variety of patients.
Physical Therapist Assistant Education Requirements
An associate degree is usually needed to become a physical therapist assistant. Students enrolled in a degree program gain hands-on clinical skills and may learn about:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Human Physiology
- Sports injuries
Associate degree programs in physical therapy assisting typically last about two years, and they must be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Physical Therapist Assistant Certification and Licensing
In addition to completing classroom education, it is necessary for physical therapy assistants to get clinical training and experience. The American Physical Therapy Association reports that physical therapy assistant students spend an average of sixteen weeks in full-time clinical education, which is typically a total of about 25 percent of a physical therapy assistant program.
Certification may be needed in some states where licensing is not required. In fact, all states, except for Hawaii require either certification or licensing, according to the BLS. Passing a national exam is a requirement and graduation from an accredited program is imperative. There also are advanced credentials that PTAs may wish to pursue after certification or licensing, such as the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency offered by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
In many states, licensing may be the more common terminology than certification. To become licensed, students need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination, which is offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The FSBPT offers a list of licensing agencies for each state and also provides details about state-specific requirements, such as whether a criminal background check or fingerprinting is required.
Physical Therapist Assistant Resources
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association
- Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy
- Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm
- Amarillo College, https://www.actx.edu/phys_therapist/
- Broward College, http://www.broward.edu/academics/programs/pta/Pages/default.aspx
- Clark State Community College, https://www.clarkstate.edu/academics/majors-programs/physical-therapist-assistant
- Mercyhurst University, http://northeast.mercyhurst.edu/academics/physical-therapist-assistant
- San Diego Mesa College, http://www.sdmesa.edu/academics/schools-departments/physical-therapist-assistant/