How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant
Colleges and universities that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) offer two-year, associate degree level programs in physical therapist assistant education.
PTAs are required by all states to pass the PTA National Physical Therapy Examination to be certified or licensed to work with patients and clients. The specific licensure requirements in the different states may include juris prudence exams.
1. Earn an Associate's Degree (2 Years)
Physical therapy assistants must have an associate's degree in most states. The programs usually take two year to complete and can be taken at an accredited community college or trade school. The programs have both classroom instruction and clinical work loads.
The program is designed to provide students with the skills to jump into the field after graduation.
A typical course load can look like the following:
- Medical terminology
You also must gain experience working at a treatment center and become CPR and first aid certified.
2. Earn the Required License
Most states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed. You can take the National Physical Therapy Exam, which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
In some states you might need to take an additional state exam and continuing education credits to maintain your certification.
3. Become a Certified Physical Therapist Assistant (Optional)
You can earn a voluntary credential to help you stand out in the job field. , such as the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) Recognition of Advanced Proficiency for the Physical Therapist Assistant credential, may help a physical therapist assistant stand out as a professional in the field.
Physical therapist assistants who are members of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and have at least five years of work experience, 60 hours of continuing education credits, a letter of recommendation, and demonstrated leadership abilities may qualify for the Recognition of Advanced Proficiency for the PTA.
Work experience requirements include at least 2,000 working hours in different areas like: musculoskeletal, geriatric, pediatric, or neuromuscular physical therapy. Five hundred of those hours must be completed in the year prior to applying for the credential.
4. Maintain Certification With Continuing Education
If you are looking to advance your career opportunities, you can further your education and become a physical therapist.
You can complete the last two years of a bachelor's degree, or participate in a bridge program that will enable you to use credits and work experience towards your degree.
Depending on your state, you may have to earn continuing education credits.