Physical Therapy Assistant Online Training

Is physical therapy assistant online training a practical route into the profession? Is it even possible to find an online program for a physical therapy assistant degree? Here’s a look at some of the issues involved in online education, and how they relate to PTA training.

These days, it can seem as if we are bombarded with information and advertisements for getting your degree online. In areas as diverse as health care, liberal arts, or criminal justice, and at levels ranging from certificate programs to doctoral degrees, there have never been so many opportunities to get your higher education through distance learning. With so many programs from so many schools, navigating your way through the enormous range of choices can be a daunting task. How can you be sure that the education you receive from an online program will be up to standard? Will employers respect the value of an online degree? Are you the sort of student who would benefit from this style of training?

Can You Train to Be a Physical Therapy Assistant Online?

Online degrees are such a hot topic right now and it’s not surprising that many people are asking whether it’s possible to train to become a physical therapy assistant online. In the aftermath of a recession that has cut jobs in so many sectors, seemingly “evergreen” industries such as health care services are attracting lots of attention from high school graduates and people who want to retrain for a different career. And since the path into a career such as being a physical therapist assistant is a two-year Associate’s degree, it’s an appealing option to those who don’t have the time or resources to study for a bachelor’s degree, let alone go to grad school.

Physical Therapy Assistant Online Training

Fortunately, for aspiring PTAs, the choice is clear cut: you really need to train with a CAPTE-accredited degree program. This has the benefit of letting you know whether a particular program’s standards have been subjected to peer evaluation and been found to meet acceptable levels of quality. It’s also a good idea because in most states you need to be licensed or registered before you can work as a PTA, and graduation from an accredited program is usually a pre-condition of licensure. Every jurisdiction sets its own criteria for this process, and more information is available from the specific state board of physical therapy.

Going for an accredited program helps you narrow the field of potential courses. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education publishes a directory on its website listing accredited programs state-by-state. A quick way to see whether a program includes an online option is to look for the code A5 beside the directory entry, and follow up with further research on the school’s website.

For an area such as physical therapy assisting, however, a fundamental part of training has to be the hands-on, clinical experience and observation that helps students put their training into practice. So even physical therapy assistant online degree courses must include on-site lab classes and practicum sessions if they are to be accredited by CAPTE.

Which Schools Offer Online Training Options?

The solution that’s been found by some schools is to offer certain areas of the theoretical curriculum online, and to schedule the laboratory classes and clinical rotations at times when it’s easier for online students to attend to them in person. This kind of arrangement is sometimes called a “hybrid” program, because of how it combines elements of a traditional degree with online program features. Colleges offering choices like these currently include the following:

  • Jefferson State Community College, Birmingham, AL
  • GateWay Community College, Phoenix, AZ
  • San Juan College, Farmington, NM
  • Clark State Community College, Springfield, OH
  • WhatCom Community College, Bellingham, WA

Is an Online PTA Degree Right for You?

Assuming that some physical therapy assistant online degree programs are available in this hybrid format, the question remains: is it the right style of education for you?

If you are the kind of student who is sufficiently well disciplined and motivated to organize your study schedule independently and is able to work well away from your fellow students, you may suit this type of learning. But do not underestimate the academic challenges of the program. Many schools have far more applicants for their PTA program than they have places to offer, and operate a competitive entry policy. There may also be a waiting list. Colleges are keen to impress upon prospective students the rigorous nature of the program, and the need to devote sufficient time to preparing for classes and completing assignments. So they may discourage students from taking on part-time work at the same time as studying.

Health care services jobs offer very good employment potential that is expected to increase even further in the next few years, and the range of professional education options has grown to meet the needs of those who wish to train for these careers. At present, only a few schools offer accredited PTA training with a distance learning element, and only certain parts of the course can be taught in this format. Some students can benefit from this style of learning, but others may find they prefer a more traditional, campus-based approach. These are important considerations for anyone considering training to become a physical therapy assistant online.

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