How To Become A Physical Therapist Assistant In California – A physical therapist assistant works directly with therapists to guide patients through rehabilitation treatment. As a physical therapist, I know firsthand the invaluable role that PTA plays in a patient’s progress. If you are interested in physical therapy as a career, don’t overlook the opportunity to become a PTA. I will give you all the steps below!
Although the path to becoming a physical therapist assistant is not as long as a PT, you will still need to go through rigorous training to obtain state-regulated certification.
How To Become A Physical Therapist Assistant In California
I will cover each of these steps in more detail later in this article. But first, let’s take a closer look at the physical therapy assistant career so you can decide if it’s the right path for you.
Physical Therapist Assistant Program At Suffolk County Community College
PTA not only helps the physiotherapist but also the patients and the clinic. Among their main duties are the following:
Compared to physical therapists, PTAs can actually spend more time in contact with their patients. Although they do not assign or design the plan of care, PTAs have the authority to modify treatment to reflect the patient’s needs.
Like PTs, most PTAs work in an outpatient setting, but there are many other places where PTA duties are in demand.
In addition to a clinic, PTAs work in hospitals, such as acute care or subacute rehabilitation facilities, helping hospital patients recover and discharge. A nursing home or skilled nursing facility may also have its own physical therapy clinic open to residents or other patients who have nowhere else to go.
Why Becoming A Physical Therapist Assistant Is A Great Career Choice
The physical therapist assistant can also work in other environments alongside a healthcare facility. For example, a home health PTA provides rehabilitative care in each patient’s home, just as they would in a clinic. Some schools and fitness centers have PTAs on deck to help people with mobility impairments and promote wellness. As a PTA, you may even work in a state or government agency such as the military, or be asked to help a corporate office achieve a more ergonomic work environment.
In general, the application of physical therapy is a very useful skill, and PTAs are in demand not only across the country, but in a variety of industries.
As the population ages and the baby boom generation slows down, physical therapy will be in greater demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of physical therapist assistants will grow 33% in the ten years between 2019 and 2029.
Career prospects are positive for both PTs and PTAs, but the respective salaries vary widely. The average PTA makes just over $28 an hour or $59,000 each year, a whopping $30,000 less than the average PT salary. PT salary increases come with their own tuition costs and – in most cases – a potentially huge student debt burden. So just because you make less money as a PTA doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice.
How To Become A Physical Therapist
What does an employer look for in a PTA? Well, apart from their education and qualifications which we will discuss later, the employer is interested in the PTA’s soft skills. All the training in the world won’t make you love a job if it doesn’t play to your strengths.
These qualities will not only help you decide if PTA school is a worthwhile investment, but they can also show potential employers that you have what it takes to thrive in this career.
To practice as a PTA, you need a valid, current, state-issued PTA license. But getting this license requires more than filling out an application form. In fact, becoming a PTA requires years of training, both in and out of the classroom.
PTAs should be well versed in physical therapy treatments and feel comfortable applying methods such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation. A good PTA is also a good communicator who can effectively educate patients about their care plan and the use of specialized equipment.
Become An Occupational Therapy Assistant In Four Semesters
So before you can apply for a PTA job or PTA license, you need to go to school!
After you graduate high school or complete your GED, you must apply to an accredited physical therapist assistant program and complete a 2-year associate degree.
To qualify, the program must be accredited by CAPTE, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. CAPTE is the only agency recognized by the US Department of Education to accredit entry-level physical therapy programs.
The best way to find a PTA program is through the CAPTE website. With over 350 accredited programs across the country, you’re sure to find schools that fit your needs.
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Typically, an accredited PTA program graduates with an Associate of Science degree or an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Regardless of the actual title of your degree, if it is an accredited PTA program, it will likely consist of 5 regular semesters of coursework and clinical experience. Some PTA programs allow part-time status or online courses, so flexibility is possible. Otherwise, take two years to complete your degree.
To complete your PTA program, you will likely earn between 65 and 75 credits, ¾ of which will be earned through didactic courses such as the following subjects:
In addition to coursework, your training will include at least 16 hours of clinical experience – hands-on training under the supervision of a PT or PTA in a clinical setting. Clinical training typically takes place over the last 3 semesters and takes place in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, and outpatient facilities.
Differences Between Medical Assistants Vs. Physical Therapist Assistants
Once you have completed your PTA program and earned your associate degree, you will be eligible to sit for the board exam, the National Physical Therapy Exam, or NPTE.
Both PTs and PTAs must pass the NPTE to become certified or licensed. If you hope to become a PTA, you will take a version that is 4 sections long and consists of 200 questions. The NPTE is a timed test and should last no longer than 4 hours, with at least one scheduled break in between.
Unlike other standardized tests, the NPTE has no essay questions—only multiple-choice questions and no penalties for incorrect answers. But don’t let that mislead you into thinking that NPTE is a piece of cake. The test gets 200-800 points and you need at least 600 to pass. You are allowed a maximum of three consecutive attempts to pass the NPTE, or a total of six attempts in your lifetime.
Obviously, when you’re ready to take the NPTE, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to study. I took the NPTE myself a few years ago, and I’m confident that these NPTE study tips will be as helpful to future PTAs as they were to me.
How To Become A Physical Therapist Assistant (pta)
All states require passing scores on the NPTE as a condition for PT or PTA licensure. But many countries require other things as well. For example, half require prospective licensees to pass a law degree, while others conduct background checks or require professional indemnity insurance. So before you register for your exam, check your state requirements in case you need to complete another step first.
The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) has compiled this flow chart for aspiring PTAs to determine their licensure requirements. Just enter the name of your school and the state where you want to be licensed, and the flow chart will spell out the rest of the process. The FSBPT is the agency that issues the NPTE, so you can trust that this information will be up to date.
Once you have completed all licensing requirements, you can apply for your PTA license! Some states will issue the license automatically after receiving notification of your positive NPTE score. However, in order for the license to be processed, you must complete all other steps beforehand, including payment of any application fees.
A licensed PTA never stops learning, and not just figuratively. Almost all states require their licensed PTAs to demonstrate “continuing education” or “continued competency” as a condition of licensure. In other words, if you do not regularly attend more PTA courses or participate in qualified learning activities, you will not be able to renew your license and continue your practice.
How To Become A Physical Therapist Assistant In 2023: Step By Step Guide
Just as licensing requirements vary by state, so do continuing education requirements. Expect to work anywhere between 10-40 hours of continuing education units, known as CEUs, annually or every other year. Depending on your state, you may only have a range of courses and providers to choose from, or you may not need to complete any. Your permit may give you a break during the first renewal period and not require as many CEUs, but it’s best to check this in advance, at least a few months before your license expires.
After working alongside physical therapists in the clinic or hospital, you may decide that you would like to become a PT instead of a PTA. In addition to a higher salary, you get more opportunities for leadership and decision-making autonomy. Personally, I love being a PT and there are many benefits that we don’t fully share with PTA.
About 1 in 10 PTAs become PTs, so it’s not
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