Physical Therapist Assistant Requirements

Physical therapist assistant requirements are a mixture of personal qualities, technical knowledge, and practical skills gained through training, observation, and experience. It’s a responsible role that can bring great job satisfaction as a physical therapy assistant works with patients and fellow team members, and plays an important part in helping to deliver the plan of care devised by the supervising physical therapist.

A Career As a Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assisting as a profession is growing fast, and it’s part of the boom in healthcare services that is predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to occur over the next decade. The demographic trends in the population that emphasize the increasing numbers of elderly people mark a rising demand for medical treatments and procedures, and all the therapeutic services that complement them.

Being a physical therapist assistant is thus seen as a job with great prospects by students leaving school, as well as by other workers whose professions have been hit by the effects of the recession. Whether training to enter the job market for the first time, or retraining to change career direction, would-be physical therapy assistants have acquire the skills and knowledge needed to meet the requirements for licensure or other credentialling before they are ready for professional practice.

Becoming a PTA

Physical Therapist Assistant Requirements

These are not skills you can simply pick up on the job. In order to be a physical therapist assistant, requirements include graduating from an accredited program with an Associate’s degree. In most states, and individual needs to be licensed or registered separately from their training, and candidates sit the National Physical Therapy Exam in order to be credentialed by the jurisdiction in the area in which they wish to work.

If you look at any of the admissions sections of schools offering an accredited physical therapy program, you will see a stringent list of requirements relating to an applicant’s educational background and understanding of what the job of a PTA involves. Because the popularity of this career means that there are often many more applicants than there are spaces on a program, people who want to study on one of these courses need to be as well prepared as possible, both personally and academically.

Physical Therapist Assistant Requirements — Personal Qualities

  • Enthusiasm: because physical therapy assistants are likely to be working on a daily basis with many different kinds of people, they need to have an enthusiastic demeanor and a sympathetic and sensitive understanding of the needs of patients. They need to be able to maintain a positive outlook, encouraging clients whose progress maybe slow. Good interpersonal skills are essential.
  • Communication: much of a physical therapist assistant’s time is likely to be spent teaching patients how to do exercises and use equipment, helping them correct issues with gait and balance, and instructing them on how to prevent future injuries and stop conditions getting worse. The PTA will also need to be able to communicate effectively with other co-workers and team members.
  • Physical fitness: part of their work may include long periods of standing, and they may also have to be able to lift safely. Bending and stretching may also be required as they help clients whose mobility is impaired.
  • Taking direction and instructions: a key feature of the role of the PTA is to help administer the plan of treatment according to the direction of the physical therapist. Different types of intervention may be delegated to the PTA, who will be expected to feedback information to the supervising PT on patients’ progress and status.

Physical Therapist Assistant — Requirements for Training

PTA schools normally have competitive entry procedures for their programs, and use a variety of methods to select students. Some schools have waiting lists for those who have not been successful in a particular year, but as this occupation becomes more popular and applicant numbers rise, it’s possible that schools may have to resort to more stringent criteria for admission.

Every school has its own principles for entry. These may include criteria such as the following:

  • General Education Courses: applicants are normally expected to have completed pre-requisite courses in subjects such as English composition, mathematics, biology, anatomy and physiology, social sciences and psychology with a minimum passing grade such as C.
  • Observation/Volunteer Work: in order that applicants have a realistic idea of what a PTA career entails, schools normally set a minimum period of work experience or observation in an approved physical therapy setting as a requirement for entry. This also gives the student an opportunity to decide for themselves whether the job is really for them.
  • Placement Tests: some schools set their own entrance tests to determine applicants’ suitability, or they may use a healthcare career test such as HOBET V.
  • Interviews: some colleges interview all eligible applicants as part of their admissions procedure. They may also require applicants to attend an information session in person, where they can express their interest in applying at an early stage, meet faculty members and ask questions.
  • Post-Selection Requirements: before successful students are admitted to the course, they will usually be expected to provide evidence of health screening and a complete immunization record, and undergo a drug test and a criminal background check. CPR certification is commonly required.

You can find out more about physical therapy as a career by visiting the website of the American Physical Therapy Association. And if you have narrowed down your choices for a program, you can check individual schools’ physical therapist assistant requirements by visiting their website or by arranging a visit to the campus to meet with faculty members.

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