Physical therapy is a branch of healthcare that helps patients recover from injuries or disabilities by improving their movement and managing their pain. Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work with physical therapists to provide patients with exercise and other treatments to help them recover their mobility and independence. If you're interested in becoming a PTA, here's what you need to know about PTA schooling.
Education and Training:
To become a PTA, you must complete an accredited PTA program. These programs typically last two years and include both classroom and clinical components. Classroom instruction covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, therapeutic exercises, and patient care. Clinical components give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
It's important to attend a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This ensures that the program meets certain standards of quality and prepares you for a career as a PTA. Accreditation also makes you eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs.
After graduating from an accredited PTA program, you must pass the NPTE for PTAs to become licensed to practice as a PTA. The exam covers the knowledge and skills required to provide physical therapy services safely and effectively.
The demand for PTAs is expected to grow in the coming years as the population ages and the need for rehabilitation services increases. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of PTAs is projected to grow 29% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The median annual salary for PTAs was $50,860 in May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries vary based on factors such as location, experience, and employer.
Once you become a licensed PTA, you must complete continuing education courses to maintain your license. This ensures that you stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the field and continue to provide high-quality care to your patients.
In conclusion, becoming a PTA requires completing an accredited PTA program, passing the NPTE for PTAs, and completing continuing education courses. A career as a PTA can be rewarding, with strong job prospects and opportunities for professional growth.
How to Prepare for PTA Schooling
Preparing for PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant) schooling requires a combination of academic and practical skills, as well as a commitment to the profession. Here are some tips on how to prepare for PTA school:
Before applying to PTA programs, research different schools to find one that fits your needs and interests. Look for accredited programs that offer a combination of classroom instruction and clinical experience.
Most PTA programs have prerequisites that must be met before admission. These may include courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, and math. Make sure you meet all the requirements before applying.
To be competitive for admission to PTA programs, gain experience in a related field. Consider working as a physical therapy aide or volunteering in a healthcare setting to gain practical experience.
Develop Study Habits:
PTA programs are rigorous, so it's important to develop strong study habits before starting school. Practice time management, organization, and effective study strategies to prepare yourself for the workload.
Build Interpersonal Skills:
PTAs work closely with patients, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals. Developing strong interpersonal skills, such as communication, empathy, and teamwork, will help you succeed in the profession.
Stay informed about developments in the field of physical therapy. Read industry publications, attend conferences, and participate in professional organizations to stay up-to-date on best practices and advances in the field.
PTA programs can be expensive, so prepare financially by researching tuition costs, applying for financial aid, and exploring scholarships and grants.
In summary, preparing for PTA school involves research, meeting prerequisites, gaining experience, developing study habits and interpersonal skills, staying informed about the field, and preparing financially. By taking these steps, you can position yourself for success in PTA school and a rewarding career as a PTA.
Why Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
If you are interested in a career that involves assisting individuals with physical injuries or illnesses in their recovery process, working as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) could be a great fit for you. Most PTAs work in various settings such as the offices of physical therapists or physicians, hospitals, nursing care facilities, or even providing home healthcare services. Some of the responsibilities of a PTA may include:
- Assisting patients under the guidance of a physical therapist
- Helping patients perform stretching and exercises for specific muscle groups
- Communicating with families to determine the most effective at-home techniques
- Transferring patients from wheelchairs or walkers to the physical therapy area
- Completing administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments
- Instructing patients on balance training and other techniques
If you want to know more about this career, you can read our article on How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant.
Working as a PTA is not only a fulfilling job, but it also offers attractive compensation. As of May 2021, the average salary for PTAs was more than $61,000, and the top 10% earned over $80,000. Additionally, the job outlook for PTAs is highly positive, as overall employment for this profession is projected to grow by 24% over the next decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This indicates that there will be a high demand for PTAs in the coming years.
Find the Right PTA Program for You
If you're considering a career as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), it's essential to learn how to prepare for PTA school. Choosing the right school requires careful consideration. The first step is to ensure that the school you choose is approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
By browsing through the directory of accredited institutions offering PTA programs on the CAPTE website, you can narrow down your search based on the type of program and credential awarded. This will help you find an institution that meets your desired PTA school requirements.
Once you've identified a few potential schools, the next step is to determine which program is the best fit for your needs. Consider whether the program is online, in-person, or blended, and whether the school is large or small. If you have any questions, you can schedule an appointment with a representative from the school to learn more about the program, student culture, and financial aid.
Typically, associate degree programs for PTAs take around two years to complete. However, accelerated programs are available that can be completed in a shorter amount of time. For instance, Brookline College offers an accelerated PTA program that can be completed in as few as 80 weeks.
The cost of attending PTA school can vary widely. Community colleges may charge as little as $2,500 per year, while private colleges could cost as much as $10,000 per year. It's important to consider the cost of tuition, as well as any associated fees, books, and living expenses when choosing a PTA program.
How to Get Into PTA Schooling
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), there are no standardized admission requirements for PTA education. However, the most common PTA school requirements for admission typically include:
- A competitive GPA (based on high school transcripts or GED)
- Volunteer experience in a physical therapy clinic
- A letter of reference from a physical therapist
To simplify the application process, APTA created the Physical Therapist Assistant Centralized Application Service (PTACAS). This service enables applicants to apply to multiple PTA programs using a single application. However, not all PTA programs accept PTACAS applications at present.
After submitting your application, it may take a few weeks to receive a response regarding your acceptance or rejection. If accepted, you'll prepare to begin your program at the next available start date (Brookline enrolls students once a year in their PTA program). However, it may be a few weeks or months before you begin your program.
If you aren't accepted into your first-choice program, don't be discouraged. You can apply again for the next enrollment date or apply to other PTA schools.
What Are the PTA School Prerequisites?
According to the APTA, in order to become a Physical Therapist Assistant in the United States, you must graduate from a PTA program accredited by CAPTE and pass your state-administered national exam. Most PTA associate degree programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED, as well as official transcripts from high school and/or college.
If you're wondering what to study before starting PTA school, note that prerequisite coursework varies by program and may include courses such as biology, anatomy/physiology, psychology, and algebra. Contact a school counselor or program advisor at your prospective school to obtain a complete list of prerequisites.
Additionally, some PTA programs require an entrance assessment exam or an interview. For instance, Brookline College mandates that applicants pass the ATI-TEAS assessment examination. The TEAS exam assesses students' readiness for PTA school in four subject areas: Reading, Math, Science, and English/Language Usage. Although the score needed to pass varies by school, more challenging questions are given more weight.
It's also important to make sure your immunizations are up to date before starting PTA school. Generally, this means you've completed your Hepatitis B, MMR, Meningitis, IGRA blood test, Tdap, Varicella, and Influenza vaccines (specific requirements may vary by school).