Physical Therapy Assistant Colleges

Over 10,000 students were enrolled in physical therapy assistant colleges in 2010, studying on accredited programs as preparation for a career in physical therapy assisting. These two year courses lead to an Associate’s degree for successful graduates, at which point they’re eligible to sit the National Physical Therapy Exam to gain the necessary certification or licensure to go into professional practice.

Finding Physical Therapy Assistant Colleges and Programs

If you are interested in studying to be a PTA, one of your first steps will probably be to find a school or community college in your area that offers an accredited training program in this field. It’s important to look for course that’s been accredited by CAPTE (The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) because only graduates of such a program are eligible to take the NPTE and apply for a licence. It is mandatory to be credentialed in this way to work as a PTA in almost every state in the US.

You also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that an accredited program has been reviewed and found to meet acceptable educational standards. The CAPTE website can give you more information about this review process and its benefits. It’s a big help in enabling students to find the professional education they need to prepare for their career.

Physical Therapy Assistant Colleges

There are currently over 270 programs available in 48 states, so it’s likely that you will be able to find one or more physical therapy assistant colleges near where you live. Several are located in easy reach of major metropolitan areas. And for students who don’t have a school in their region, there are even a few colleges which offer some parts of the academic curriculum of their programs online.

Admission to PTA Colleges

Health-care services jobs such as physical therapy assisting are very popular these days, and are expected to show significant growth in numbers despite the recent economic downturn. So it’s not surprising that in many PTA schools there are many more applicants for a program than there are places. In such a situation, schools have little option but to operate a selective entry procedure, setting a range of eligibility standards for admission. Schools sometimes operate a wait list for those candidates who are unsuccessful in a particular year. But recent reports suggest that some colleges have found these lists have grown unmanageably large, and are having to re-evaluate their admissions criteria.

In order to impress an admissions panel and present a competitive profile, prospective applicants need to research the prerequisites of the programs that interest them, and aim to satisfy these criteria as highly as possible. In order to show commitment to the profession of physical therapy, a period of work experience or observation is a valuable way to find out more about what a career as a physical therapist assistant entails — and indeed, schools usually make it compulsory, specifying a minimum amount of time and number of different PT settings in which it must be completed.

PTA Schools’ Prerequisites

Individual physical therapy assistant colleges have their own admissions criteria, and it’s best to research these by visiting the school’s website or contacting an admissions representative or member of faculty. There is usually an application deadline, so it’s important to make enquiries well in advance.

Typical admissions requirements will include criteria such as:

  • Maths and English: passing schools in a placement tests, or satisfactory results in ACT or SAT tests
  • Science: for example, satisfactory schools in high school chemistry
  • GPA: schools normally look for a minimum GPA in the range of 2.0 to 2.5
  • Health Occupations Basic Entrance Test: some schools use the tests such as HOBET V to assess candidates’ skills of critical thinking, and other academic abilities
  • Interview: schools often like to meet applicants in person, and may schedule a formal interview as part of their admissions process
  • Observation/Volunteer Work: each school will specify the minimum period and number of locations required for this activity

Although they may not be factors in the formal selection process, applicants are usually expected to have qualifications such as CPR certification, and undergo health screening, drug testing, and a criminal background check.

Once admitted to a program, physical therapy assistant colleges expect their students to maintain satisfactory grades in each component or module in order to proceed through the sequence of classes.

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