On this page, we will cover everything you could ever want to know about schooling for a physical therapist assistant. We will also share the best images and videos that we have curated to help show you the whole picture.
If you are interested in physical therapist assistant schooling then you have come to the right place to learn about it before making your decision.
✔️ Page updated: August 24th, 2023
A Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is a healthcare professional who works alongside Physical Therapists to help patients recover from injuries or manage chronic conditions.PTAs assist in implementing treatment plans, providing therapeutic exercises, and performing various other tasks to support patients in their rehabilitation journey. They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehabilitation centers.
PTAs play a crucial role in patient care, working closely with the Physical Therapist to monitor progress, adjust treatment plans as needed, and provide important feedback to ensure optimal outcomes.
With their technical skills, knowledge of human anatomy, and ability to communicate effectively, PTAs are essential members of the healthcare team, helping patients improve their quality of life and regain functional abilities.
Physical Therapy Assisting is consistently ranked in the top 3 careers in Best Health Care Support Jobs and top 40 in 100 Best Jobs by USNews
Schooling for a Physical Therapist Assistant
Schooling for a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is an intensive journey, but one that is ultimately rewarding. A successful PTA begins with completing an accredited physical therapist assistant education program and continuing with clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience in the field.
PTAs must master the fundamentals of physical therapy practice, which includes understanding human anatomy and physiology, learning how to use therapeutic modalities, and mastering patient assessment techniques.
The educational program typically consists of classroom learning and laboratory components. Students learn important concepts such as therapeutic exercises, joint mobilization, muscle energy techniques, functional training, gait training, and other skills related to physical therapy practice as well as other important skills such as communication skills, and collection skills.
Education Requirements for Physical Therapy Assistants
Although earning an associate degree is required to begin working as a licensed PTA, it only takes about 2 years to complete and is offered at many accredited schools in all 50 states and online.
To become a physical therapist assistant (PTA), individuals must complete a formal education program at an accredited PTA program. These programs typically require the completion of specialized laboratory courses that cover subjects such as CPR, basic life support, human anatomy, medical terminology, kinesiology, therapeutic exercise, and more.
Obtaining an Associate Degree
One of the great things about physical therapy assisting is that it only requires 2 years of education in order to get licensed and work. Many other healthcare degrees are a minimum of 4 years and some take much longer to complete.
The first step in becoming a PTA is to complete an associate degree program in physical therapist assistant education.
An Associate of Science (AS) degree is a 2-year degree offered by most community colleges and some 4-year colleges, which prepares graduates for higher education and specialized knowledge in the field of study. Many students who earn an AS go onto study for a bachelors degree.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is also offered by most community colleges and some 4-year colleges, but it focuses more on practical skills and prepares graduates to enter a career immediately after graduation rather than continue their education.
Coursework in these programs covers subjects such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, therapeutic exercise, and physical therapy techniques. Students also gain practical experience through supervised clinical rotations with a licensed physical therapist and real patients.
Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
It is important to choose a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This ensures that the program meets the highest standards of quality and prepares students for their future careers as PTAs.
Accreditation also allows graduates to sit for the national physical therapy examination and obtain the necessary licensure to practice as PTAs.
Licensure and Certification
After completing an accredited PTA program, graduates need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Upon passing the exam, they can apply for state licensure to practice as PTAs.
Upon earning a degree at the completion of the educational program, PTAs must next apply and schedule their national exam. Passing a national certification exam is required in order to practice in the United States. This exam tests their knowledge of the material and ensures they have acquired the necessary skills to practice physical therapy safely and effectively.
Additionally, some states may have specific continuing education requirements for PTAs, with a certain number of hours needed to maintain licensure. Continuing education helps PTAs stay up to date with advancements in the field and expand their knowledge and skills.
It is important for aspiring PTAs to research and choose an accredited program that meets their educational needs and ensures compliance with licensure requirements.
By completing the necessary education and continuing education, PTAs can enter the field equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide quality patient care.
Although not mandatory, PTAs can also pursue additional certifications to enhance their professional credentials and increase job opportunities.
Physical Therapy Assistant Program Overview
A Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) program provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to become valuable members of a healthcare team.
These programs typically result in an associate degree and are offered by community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. The curriculum includes a combination of classroom instruction, laboratory exercises, and hands-on clinical experience to prepare students for a career in the field of physical therapy.
Courses cover a range of topics, including medical terminology, human anatomy, therapeutic interventions, and physical therapy techniques. In addition to technical skills, students also learn important communication and patient care skills, as they will be working closely with individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
Graduates of a PTA program must also pass a licensure exam to practice in their respective states. The program opens up various job opportunities in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, and home health agencies.
Students can expect to earn a competitive salary, with average wages varying depending on location and experience.
Overall, a PTA program provides the necessary foundation for individuals looking to pursue a rewarding career in the healthcare industry as a physical therapy assistant.
Common Courses & Topics Covered in PTA Programs
PTA programs provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to assist physical therapists in providing quality patient care. These programs typically consist of a variety of courses and topics that cover both theoretical and practical aspects of physical therapy.
Common courses in PTA programs include anatomy and physiology, which provide a solid foundation in understanding the structure and function of the human body.
Another important course is therapeutic exercises, which introduce students to various techniques and methods used in physical therapy to improve mobility and function. Medical terminology is also covered to ensure students are familiar with the language used in the healthcare industry.
In addition to these core courses, PTA programs often offer specialty seminar options that allow students to explore specific areas of physical therapy in more depth.
Examples of these specialty seminars include aquatic rehabilitation, which focuses on treating patients in a water-based environment, and women’s health, which addresses specific conditions and concerns related to female patients.
Other seminar options may cover topics such as vestibular rehabilitation, oncology rehabilitation, and lymphedema management.
By offering these specialty seminars, PTA programs provide students with the opportunity to gain additional knowledge and skills in areas of interest. This allows them to be better prepared for a career in physical therapy and to provide specialized care to patients in need.
Types of Physical Therapy Assistant Degrees & Associate Degree Options
Physical therapy assistant degrees typically come in the form of an associate degree. These programs are designed to provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to work as physical therapist assistants in various healthcare settings.
Associate degree options for physical therapy assistants usually require two years of full-time study. Students can expect to take a combination of general education courses, such as English and math, as well as specific courses related to physical therapy. These courses may include anatomy and physiology, therapeutic exercises, medical terminology, and clinical education.
Furthermore, some associate degree programs may offer additional specializations or elective courses. These specializations can allow students to gain more focused knowledge and skills in specific areas of physical therapy.
Examples of specializations may include pediatric physical therapy, geriatric physical therapy, sports rehabilitation, or orthopedic physical therapy.
Upon completion of an associate degree program, students are eligible to take a licensure exam, which is required to practice as a physical therapy assistant. It is important to note that licensure requirements may vary by state.
Overall, an associate degree in physical therapy assisting provides a comprehensive education that combines both theoretical knowledge and practical training, preparing students for a rewarding career in the field of physical therapy.
Clinical Practice Components of PTA Programs
Clinical practice is a crucial component of physical therapist assistant (PTA) programs. These programs aim to prepare students for a rewarding career in the field of physical therapy by providing them with hands-on experience in a clinical setting.
During their studies, PTA students are typically required to complete a certain number of clinical education hours under the supervision of experienced physical therapists. This allows students to apply the theoretical knowledge they have gained in the classroom to real-world patient care situations.
Under the guidance of clinical instructors, students learn how to assess patients, develop treatment plans, and implement therapeutic interventions. They also learn how to effectively communicate with patients, provide assistance with functional activities, and operate various exercise equipment.
By gaining practical experience in a variety of settings, PTA students develop the technical skills and clinical experience necessary to excel in their future careers.
Variety of Settings Where PTAs Can Work
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are trained professionals who work under the supervision of physical therapists to help patients regain strength, mobility, and flexibility after an injury or illness. PTAs can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, and in-home care agencies.
In hospitals, PTAs collaborate with physical therapists to provide treatment and therapy to patients recovering from surgeries or acute medical conditions. They may assist in the implementation of therapeutic exercises, administer physical therapy modalities, and educate patients on proper body mechanics and mobility techniques.
Rehabilitation centers are another common work setting for PTAs. These centers focus on providing intensive rehabilitation services to individuals who have experienced severe injuries or illnesses. PTAs here work with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that may include therapeutic exercises, functional activities, and the use of specialized exercise equipment.
Outpatient clinics are another option for PTAs. Here, they work with patients who have less severe injuries or conditions that don’t require hospitalization. PTAs in outpatient clinics often focus on providing ongoing therapy, such as strength training, balance training, and pain management.
In-home care agencies provide PTAs the opportunity to work directly with patients in their own homes. They assist individuals who may have difficulty traveling to a clinic or require personalized care due to their unique living situations. PTAs in this setting may focus on improving patients’ ability to perform daily living activities and functional tasks.
In all these settings, PTAs are responsible for accurately documenting patient progress, communicating with other healthcare providers, and maintaining patient confidentiality. They may encounter a variety of patients, including those recovering from orthopedic injuries, neurological conditions, cardiopulmonary illnesses, or individuals requiring rehabilitation after cardiovascular incidents.
PTAs play a crucial role in the overall well-being of patients, regardless of the setting they work in. Their skills and dedication contribute to improving patients’ quality of life and facilitating the recovery process.
Understanding the Human Body & How to Treat Conditions Through Exercise
Understanding the human body and how to treat conditions through exercise is a fundamental aspect of being a physical therapist assistant (PTA). PTAs play a crucial role in helping individuals rehabilitate and regain functional abilities through targeted exercise programs.
To effectively design exercise programs for patients, PTAs need to have an intricate understanding of anatomy and physiology. This knowledge allows them to assess the specific needs of each patient, identify areas of weakness or dysfunction, and develop personalized treatment plans. By understanding how the different systems of the body work together, PTAs can target specific muscle groups and joints to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility.
- Motion exercises to which help improve joint mobility
- Strengthening exercises to build muscle strength and increase stability
- Flexibility exercises to improve range of motion
- Cardiovascular exercises to improve overall fitness and endurance
PTAs may also utilize therapeutic modalities such as:
- Electrical stimulation to reduce pain, improve range of motion, and increase muscle strength
- Ultrasound to reduce pain and increase range of motion
- Heat/cold therapy to reduce stiffness, pain, and spasms in muscles and joints
All of which can aid in pain relief and tissue healing
PTAs must have a deep understanding of the human body in order to effectively treat conditions through exercise. By assessing patient needs and utilizing a variety of exercises and therapeutic interventions, PTAs play a vital role in helping individuals regain function and achieve optimal health and well-being.
Creating Treatment Plans and Performing Interventions on Patients
As a physical therapist assistant (PTA), one of the primary responsibilities is to develop and implement treatment plans for patients. This process involves evaluating the patient’s condition, understanding their goals, and designing individualized plans to address their specific needs.
Implementing the treatment plan Once the treatment plan is established, PTAs utilize a variety of interventions to aid in the recovery process. These interventions commonly include therapeutic exercises, which focus on improving strength, mobility, and flexibility. Manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations and soft tissue mobilizations, are also frequently utilized to enhance joint function and alleviate pain. Additionally, PTAs may employ modalities like electrical stimulation to manage pain and promote tissue healing.
It is important to note that PTAs always work under the supervision of a physical therapist. The physical therapist collaborates with the PTA to ensure that the treatment plan is appropriate and effective for the patient’s condition. This partnership provides a comprehensive approach to patient care, as the PTA implements the interventions outlined in the treatment plan while continuously assessing and monitoring the patient’s progress.
By developing individualized treatment plans and implementing targeted interventions, PTAs play a crucial role in helping patients achieve their rehabilitation goals and improve their overall quality of life.
Working with Health Agencies, Medical Terminology, & Other Health Care Industry Skills
Working with health agencies, understanding medical terminology, and developing other healthcare industry skills are essential for physical therapist assistants (PTAs) in providing high-quality patient care.
Collaboration with health agencies is crucial for PTAs to deliver comprehensive care to patients. They work closely with hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers to ensure effective treatment and seamless transitions for patients.
By partnering with health agencies, PTAs gain access to a vast network of resources, including state-of-the-art equipment and specialized services, which enhances their ability to deliver optimal care.
PTAs use medical terminology to discuss patients’ conditions, treatment plans, and progress accurately, reducing the risk of miscommunication and potential adverse outcomes.
In addition to working with health agencies and understanding medical terminology, PTAs develop various other healthcare industry skills.
These skills include:
- effective communication
- critical thinking
- training on electronic health record systems
PTAs also learn about ethical and legal principles that guide their practice. These skills enable PTAs to provide safe, efficient, and compassionate care in a dynamic healthcare setting.
In summary, working collaboratively with health agencies, mastering medical terminology, and developing other healthcare industry skills are essential for PTAs. These skills contribute to delivering comprehensive care, ensuring accurate communication, and navigating the complex healthcare industry, ultimately enhancing patient outcomes.
Licensure Exam for Physical Therapist Assistants
The licensure exam for physical therapist assistants is a crucial step in their career journey. This exam assesses the knowledge and skills of PTAs to ensure they meet the standards necessary to provide safe and effective patient care.
The exam typically covers topics such as human anatomy, therapeutic interventions, treatment plans, and functional activities. PTAs must demonstrate their understanding of the human body and its functions, as well as their ability to apply therapeutic exercises and interventions in a clinical setting.
Passing the licensure exam is a requirement for PTAs to obtain their professional license and practice legally. This exam serves as a benchmark for competence and helps maintain high standards in the physical therapy field. PTAs can prepare for the exam by completing their educational requirements, gaining clinical experience, and studying relevant material.
Requirements for Taking the Licensure Exam as a PTA Graduate
As a graduate of a physical therapist assistant (PTA) program, there are specific requirements you need to fulfill in order to take the licensure exam. The first requirement is that you must graduate from an accredited PTA program. Accreditation ensures that the program meets the standards set by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), ensuring quality education and training.
Once you have graduated from an accredited program, you are eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and is the standardized exam used to assess the knowledge and skills necessary for safe and effective practice as a PTA.
In summary, the requirements for taking the licensure exam as a graduate of a PTA program include graduating from an accredited program and passing the NPTE administered by the FSBPT. By meeting these requirements, you are demonstrating your readiness and competence to provide quality care in the field of physical therapy.
Job Outlook & Average Salary for PTAs
The job outlook for Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) is incredibly promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is expected to grow by 33% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
This growth is primarily driven by the increasing demand for PTAs to provide services to aging baby boomers and individuals with chronic conditions or disabilities. Additionally, advancements in medical technology and a greater emphasis on preventative care are contributing to the need for more PTAs in the healthcare industry.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for PTAs was $64,510 as of May 2022.
However, it is important to note that salaries can vary based on factors such as experience, location, and the setting in which PTAs are employed.
PTAs working in home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, and hospitals tend to earn higher salaries compared to those employed in outpatient care centers or educational services.
Overall, the job outlook for PTAs is excellent, with strong employment growth anticipated in the coming years. Additionally, the average salary for PTAs is competitive, making it a promising career path for those interested in the field of physical therapy.
Job Openings & Growth Rate for PTAs in the U.S.
Job openings for Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) in the United States are abundant and expected to continue growing at an impressive rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is projected to increase by 32% from 2020 to 2030, which is significantly faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. This growth can be attributed to several factors such as the aging population, advancements in medical technology, and a greater emphasis on preventative care.
PTAs have the opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare settings. These include outpatient clinics, hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, and home health agencies. In outpatient clinics, PTAs can assist in providing therapeutic exercises and devising treatment plans for patients recovering from injuries or surgeries. Hospitals often employ PTAs to aid in patient care and rehabilitation. Rehabilitative facilities, such as nursing care facilities, offer PTAs the chance to work with individuals with chronic conditions or disabilities. Lastly, PTAs can provide services in a home health agency setting, delivering care to patients in the comfort of their own homes.
Entry-level PTAs can expect a competitive salary. According to salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for PTAs falls within the range of $50,190 to $83,600 and is usually around $64,510. It is important to note that salaries may vary based on factors such as experience, location, and the specific healthcare setting in which PTAs are employed.
Average Salary Range for PTAs Across Different States and Industries
The average salary range for physical therapist assistants (PTAs) can vary across different states and industries. Factors such as location and employer type can impact the salary that PTAs earn.
In terms of location, some states offer higher salaries for PTAs compared to others. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying states for PTAs are Nevada, New Jersey, California, Texas, and Connecticut. PTAs working in these states may earn salaries at the higher end of the range.
Additionally, the industry in which PTAs work can also influence their salary. PTAs employed in specialty hospitals tend to earn higher salaries compared to those working in nursing care facilities or home health agencies. Similarly, PTAs working in outpatient care centers and physician offices may also earn higher salaries compared to other healthcare settings.
It is important to note that while the average salary range for PTAs across different states and industries may vary, the overall median annual wage for PTAs is typically above the national average for all occupations. PTAs play a vital role in the healthcare industry and their salaries reflect the value they bring to patient care and rehabilitation.
Choosing a Physical Therapist Assistant Program
When choosing a physical therapist assistant program, it is important to consider the following:
Accredited Programs by CAPTE
✔️ Ensure that the program you choose is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Accreditation ensures that the program meets the highest standards of quality and prepares students for their future careers as PTAs.
Considerations for PTA Program Selection
✔️ Consider factors such as program length, curriculum, clinical training opportunities, and faculty expertise when selecting a PTA program. It is also beneficial to attend information sessions or speak with current students to gain insight into the program’s strengths and weaknesses.
Resources for Finding Accredited Programs
✔️ We provide a directory of accredited programs, information on the accreditation process, and guidance on program selection as well as a list of online PTA programs and more information on PTA degrees.