Physical Therapy Assistant Requirements

Physical therapy assistant requirements are regulated by individual state boards of physical therapy, to ensure that practising PTAs have the appropriate training and licensing to operate in the various jurisdictions in the US. Almost every state requires that a physical therapist assistant be licensed or certified, and that status depends on fulfilling a variety of conditions, including passing the National Physical Therapy Exam, and graduating successfully from an accredited physical therapy assistant training program.

These two key criteria — accredited training and licensure — are ways in which different states normally manage the profession of physical therapy assisting, to ensure professional competence and public safety. It means that there is usually a prescribed route for becoming a PTA, and those who wish to enter this career need to plan accordingly.

Physical Therapy Assistant Employment Prospects

Like many other health care service occupations, the job of physical therapy assistant is predicted to enjoy significant employment growth over the next few years. As demographic trends shift towards a greater proportion of older people in the population, and as medical advances find ways to extend life expectancy and help people overcome illness, accidents and disabilities, it’s expected that more and more people will have need of physical therapy services. And because PT assistants need to be trained to Associate’s degree level, it’s expected that there will be less competition for jobs than there will be for physical therapy aides, who normally require their skills through on-the-job training and do not have to be licensed.

Physical Therapy Assistant Training Options

Physical Therapy Assistant Requirements

If you are interested in entering the career of physical therapy assisting, it’s a good idea to investigate training options in your locality at community colleges or other schools which offer accredited programs to associate degree level. You must ensure that programs you consider for enrolment are currently accredited by the Commission on Accreditation In Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) — the only agency recognized by the US Department of Education to confer accredited status on entry-level PTA programs. CAPTE currently lists over 250 programs in its directory, in schools and colleges spread across the country.

PTA Program Admission

Admission to an accredited PTA program is usually by selective entry, and schools normally require applicants to have completed a period of observation, volunteer contribution, or paid work experience lasting a minimum number of weeks in a number of recognised physical therapy settings. Home health experience may not qualify — enquire with individual college departments for their specific requirements.

Other conditions may include achieving a satisfactory school on an admissions test such as HOBET V, performance in an interview, submission of a recommendation from a licensed physical therapist or PTA, and completion of general education courses to a minimum level such as grade C. These courses may include English composition, mathematics or algebra, other humanities or fine arts courses, and career specific topics such as anatomy and physiology and medical terminology.

PTA Curriculum Content

Once admitted to a program, a student must normally follow a prescribed route through the sequence of core components, such as professional ethics and psychological aspects of treatment, pathophysiology (including ethiology, and diseases of the nervous, cardiopulmonary, and musculoskeletal systems), soft tissue treatment techniques (such as massage, stretches, range of motion in joints, and body mechanics), kinesiology (the analysis of human movement according to biomechanical principles), therapeutic intervention (focusing on the appropriate use of treatment options such as heat and cold, light and sound, water and electricity, for the care of injuries, burns and infections), therapeutic exercise, cardiopulmonary and neuromuscular rehabilitation, and other professional issues. Integrated with these academic courses is a series of clinical practicums, where students learn the implementation of theory and skills in real-life settings.

Once a student has successfully graduated from an A.S. degree program — which normally takes two years or five or six semesters, they are eligible to sit the National Physical Therapy Exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy in order to qualify for licensure in the state in which they wish to practice.

In most cases, physical therapy assistant requirements include the need for a certain amount of continuing education in order to keep the licence current. Individual state licensing boards can supply specific information for licensed PTAs on their websites or local offices.

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