If you are asking the question, how do you become a physical therapist assistant? Then the good news is that you have found the most comprehensive guide to becoming a PTA with a plan to help you get started and connect you with local and online schools offering the required education to start your career.
Have you considered the question, “Why become a physical therapist assistant?”
Becoming a PTA may not be considered easy, but it is most definitely considered rewarding by all. A career in Physical Therapy is consistently rated as being highly rewarding and satisfying.
You can become a physical therapist assistant in as little as 2 years, after completing 5 semesters of an accredited associate degree program, and then you can be earning an average salary of $58,790.
So, you are asking “How to become a physical therapist assistant?” and earn $58,790 annually?
Well, we put together this guide to becoming a PTA to explain the exact steps that you need to take to get started on your way to becoming a licensed physical therapy assistant.
How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant in 7 steps
Follow these 7 steps to becoming a physical therapist assistant.
1.) Obtain a high school diploma or GED
You are required to have this part of your education completed before you can move forward with the other steps. Having an interest in science and anatomy classes is a good indication that you may be a good fit to become a PTA. Also, working a summer internship or job in a health or science-focused role would help you tremendously as you proceed in your education and career as a PTA.
2.) Apply to a CAPTE accredited PTA program
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is responsible for accrediting PTA programs. Before applying, learn what to look for in a PTA program and then do your research before choosing a PTA school. Search PTA Programs in your state or find PTA Programs Online.
3.) Complete your PTA degree
Accredited PTA schools offer 5 semester (2 year) associate degree programs consisting of 75% coursework and 25% clinical work. Classes include anatomy, kinesiology, medical terminology, pathology, therapy exercises and assistance techniques.
4.) Complete 16 weeks of clinical practicum training
You may be wondering what kind of training is required to become a physical therapist assistant. The answer is clinical training which must be performed under a licensed physical therapist. Your school will help you arrange the required 16 weeks of clinical education.
5.) Get your state PTA license
Colorado and Hawaii are the only states that do not require a license in order to perform PTA work. For all other states, you must either choose to take a state-specific exam or the national physical therapy exam if you want to work in multiple states. Find your State’s PTA License requirements and application form.
6.) Apply for PTA Jobs
Once you are a licensed physical therapist assistant, you are eligible to work. Now it is time to apply for physical therapist assistant jobs. Searching for a PTA job online is a good start, but you should also consider contacting hospitals, physical therapy clinics, and elderly care facilities for open PTA positions. Find a PTA Job in your state.
7.) Maintain your license by continuing your education
Continuing education credits are required to maintain your state certification. Your employer can help you find local classes and physical therapy conferences that will offer these credits.
This page has a lot of information to help you become a physical therapy assistant, you can jump to specific questions using the table of contents below.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
5 Semesters or 2 to 2.5 years is how long it takes most people to become a physical therapist assistant.
For your education, you can choose between an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Most PTAs opt to go for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Physical Therapist Assistant Studies.
The primary steps required to become a PTA are:
- completing the coursework for your physical therapist assistant associate’s degree
- completing the required clinical experience at your accredited program
- passing the national license or certification exam
- applying for state licensure
- finding your PTA job
How to Become a Physical Therapy Aide
Now that you know the steps to become a physical therapist assistant, I want to make a distinction between PT Assistants and PT Aides (Physical Therapist Aides).
Sometimes Aides are not required to have more than a high school diploma with some prerequisite courses and are trained on the job over a 3 month to 1 year period without a licensure exam. Other times Aides may complete a 9-12 month certification program before they start working. Physical therapist aides work under the supervision of physical therapists and physical therapy assistants performing similar tasks with a slightly reduced role.
They must be strong and fit to help assist patients with their therapy exercises, while also possessing strong communication and organizational skills to record, monitor, and express patient progress to colleagues, patients, and patient family members.
What is a Physical Therapist Assistant Job Description?
If you are considering becoming a PTA the you probably want to know the job description of a Physical Therapist Assistant.
What does a physical therapist assistant do? (Click for more info)
Physical therapist assistants are valuable members of the healthcare team and can help physically disabled individuals rehabilitate, recover, and improve strength and movement. They work under the supervision of a licensed Physical Therapist and help assist patients with rehabilitation through implementing their therapy programs.
Physical therapist assistants record information about a patient’s history, current condition, and treatment goals. They can also help organize the patient’s care plan, provided by the supervising PT. Their goal is to help the patient achieve the best possible outcome, provide them with exercises, therapies or other physical therapy interventions, and may even help them with their rehabilitation at home. Physical therapist assistants work to increase a patient’s mobility and independence by helping them learn how to perform activities of daily living.
Aspiring physical therapist assistants will find that the duties they will be responsible for include the following:
- Making sure that the physical therapists and patients have everything they need.
- Helping the physical therapist and patient prepare for the physical therapy session by getting them ready for movement.
- Following the physical therapist’s instructions in order to properly assist the patient.
- Keeping patient records and updating them on a regular basis. Providing support and assistance to the physical therapist.
- Assisting the physical therapist in planning the patient’s physical therapy treatment.
Where do physical therapist assistants work? (Click for more info)
They are able to work in many environments providing patient care, such as a skilled nursing facility, outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers, where they can help patients achieve their goals for recovery. There are physical therapist assistants in all branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coastguard). Additionally, you can find PTAs working with athletes and professional sports teams, at physical therapy practices, and a variety of health and clinical practices both private and public.
Should I Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
There are many great reasons to become a physical therapy assistant. The career basics are all covered such as competitive pay, minimal time/financial investment in education, high demand for jobs, and a variety of clinical settings to work in.
Becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) can also be a great first step to becoming a physical therapist one day (DPT – Doctor of Physical Therapy or Licensed Physical Therapist). There are PTA to PT bridge programs that PTAs can attend to become a Physical Therapist.
PTA’s are in high demand and earn a median wage of $58,790 and a variety of job opportunities in different types of settings. The job outlook is excellent because there are not enough physical therapist assistants to fill existing jobs.
If you still aren’t sure if you should become a PTA then check out our in-depth article: Should I become a physical therapist assistant?
Why Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
If you are considering a career in healthcare, then there are many great reasons to work in the field of Physical Therapy specifically as an aide or assistant.
What are the benefits of being a physical therapist assistant?
Here are several reasons why you should become a physical therapist assistant.
- Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is an excellent way to get into the healthcare industry in a reasonable amount of time (2 years). While you won’t have the same level of responsibility as a physical therapist, the career will still provide you with a lot of variety, flexibility and competitive pay.
- A physical therapist assistant job will also give you the chance to work alongside others with the same passion, and you can learn a lot from your colleagues with the opportunity to advance to a Physical Therapist through PTA to PT Bridge Programs.
- PTA positions are available in hospitals, schools, clinics, private practices, and even in the military. You will be working with people of all ages, and you’ll see how your work can improve their overall health and happiness.
How Can You Learn More About Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant?
You completed the guide! We hope you found our 7 step guide on how to become a physical therapist assistant useful. For more info and help getting started on becoming a PTA you may want to look into physical therapy assistant schools online or a local accredited PTA program. Already have your degree? Then it is time for you search for PTA jobs.
If you still aren’t sure that becoming a physical therapy assistant is for you then check out all of the specific physical therapy assistant requirements for completing a degree and also look into how much a physical therapist assistant salary is.
Questions About How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
If you have more questions about becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant, then ask the community on our FAQ page.
Wondering how can you find a job as a physical therapist assistant? Click ‘Jobs’ on our navigation menu to search for physical therapy jobs near you.