Choosing Physical Therapy Assistant Schools

Your choice of physical therapy assistant schools will be influenced by several different factors. There are so many PTA programs available these days that you’re quite likely to find one or more options available quite close to where you live, particularly if you’re in a metropolitan area. Program format, admissions requirements, size and type of school are all likely to influence where you decide to get your physical therapist assistant training.

PTA Degree Choices

When it comes to studying for a career in physical therapy assisting, there’s really only one qualification to look at: an Associate’s degree. Some schools award an Associate of Science degree to PTA program graduates, others an Associate of Applied Science. Either way, if you graduate from an accredited program, you’ll be eligible to sit the National Physical Therapy Exam as part of your application for professional licensure in your local jurisdiction.

A typical Associate’s degree can be earned in two years — that is to say, about five semesters or seven quarters, depending on how the school organizes its schedule. While these are the most common options, they’re not the only scenario. Some schools offer part-time study options which accommodate the needs of a wide range of students, for example those whose work or home commitments not allow them to devote themselves to full-time training.

Choosing Physical Therapy Assistant Schools

Another factor which influences the length of a PTA program is the way in which it integrates general education requirements with the principal professional modules of the course. Schools normally have very specific criteria for applicants to be eligible to apply, and amongst these are a number of pre-requisite courses in subjects such as English composition, algebra/math, humanities, fine arts, information technology, and health care related topics such as anatomy, physiology and biomedical terminology. Lots of colleges expect applicants to have satisfied these requirements prior to admission, but some do allow an integrated approach which combines this general curriculum with the technical modules.

Online PTA Programs

A learning style which is very much in vogue at the moment, particularly where vocational degrees are concerned, is online education. Many students are keen to know whether it would be possible to study for a physical therapy assistant degree online. Unfortunately, due to the practical nature of many of the skills taught, it is not possible to find an accredited program where all course content is delivered via distance learning. Laboratory classes and clinical practicum sessions require students to attend in person at a designated location, and can’t be taken through the Internet.

What is available in a few colleges is the option to take some theoretical elements, such as lectures, online, with students coming to the campus for a specific number of days for each lab course. Programs like these sometimes concentrate the compulsory full-time clinical externships into a few semesters towards the end of the course, making the scheduling easier to manage for students who are physically distant from the site.

Looking at PTA Schools in Your Region

Many people who want to train for a career as a PTA are attracted to the notion of studying locally. Many of the programs that deliver allied health curricula have been established in community colleges. Some of these smaller institutions that have evolved from technical schools. Others are much larger institutions with a diverse and active student community, particularly those which share a campus with part of a state university system. There are several schools of this type in Ohio, for example, where a number of technical colleges share their site with one of Ohio State University’s regional campuses.

Follow the link here to check out our directory of PTA schools by state to find programs in your locality.

A Physical Therapist Assistant Curriculum

However schools structure their courses, accredited PTA programs need to teach the knowledge and skills required for professional practice in a variety of locations and settings, as part of students’ preparation for the NPTE and eventual licensure. Courses related to physical therapy will include topics such as:

  • Clinical Kinesiology
  • Functional Anatomy
  • Orthopaedic Conditions
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurological Conditions
  • Therapeutic Modalities
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Clinical Practice

General professional skills may incorporate areas such as:

  • methods for data collection, using patient observation and assessment, and medical records
  • oral and written strategies to enable effective communication with patients, carers, and other members of the medical team
  • use of documentation and reporting skills to communicate developments in patient status to the supervising physical therapist
  • means to implement physical therapy treatments in accordance with the care plan established by the PT
  • use of observation and critical thinking skills combined with technical physical therapy knowledge to form suitable clinical judgements
  • legal, ethical, and administrative regulations and guidelines
  • independent learning strategies to facilitate ongoing professional education

Admissions Criteria in Physical Therapy Assistant Schools

Motivated students can do a lot to prepare themselves for application to PTA schools and to give themselves the best possible chance in a selective admission process.

Prospective candidates need to research courses that interest them in good time, bearing in mind the need to take prerequisite academic classes, fulfil the colleges requirement for preparatory volunteer work or observation in a physical therapy setting, and attend such information sessions as may be necessary.

As well as researching physical therapy assistant schools on this website, interested students will find more information by visiting the website of the American Physical Therapy Association, which offers information for consumers, career advice, current research, and other physical therapy news.

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