How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

how to become a physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapy is a very respectful and rewarding career in the medical realm, where providers treat patient’s muscular pain and other issues through stretches, movements, holistic approaches, and exercises. They also provide treatment under the supervision of licensed healthcare providers. If you have a desire to help others, improve their quality of life with good treatment plans, and like to stay active all day long, then this career is apt for you. Know-How to become a physical therapist assistant.

Physical Therapist Assistants Job Description

PTA job is an entry-level position. It is one of the top 5 health care support jobs, according to the U.S. News Report.

The demand for physical therapist assistants is increasing day by day, especially in geriatric care. Therefore, it is not only a fulfilling career but also high in demand. The employment rate is projected to grow between 20% – 26% in the next 5 years.

The professional works under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Their job duties include:

  • Perform therapy and develop treatment plans and goals under professional guidance
  • Guide patients on how to exercise and educate them about injuries and lifestyle changes to manage pain
  • Use different modalities on patients, such as ultrasound, traction devices for muscle stimulation, ice and heat treatment and so on
  • Document treatment plans and sessions for medical record and insurance claim
  • Ensure that the patients’ improvements are on track
  • Communicate with the physical therapist on upcoming events, appointments, and plans
  • Educate patients and families on self-care at seminars and events

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Make Per Annum?

While prior experience is not a requirement, having some will improve your pay scale. Physical therapist assistant’s salary may also vary depending upon the industry, such as healthcare, recreational, or sports, and job location. Physical therapist assistants can gross salary between $ 33,780 and $79,230 per year considering all factors. Nursing care facilities pay the highest to PTAs.

How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

Extensive qualifications and experience are not required for an entry-level position. However, you must earn certification and develop support skills to work in this industry.

[Also Read: Things You Need to Know Before You Become a Physician Assistant]

Step 1: Gain Required Qualifications

Although a science background will help to find a PTA job, you must attend a PTA program or an associate’s degree from an accredited college or institution. A PTA program is the bare minimum physical therapist assistant education qualification. You can top it with a bachelor’s degree in physiology and human anatomy if you want.

The Commission of Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education provides more than 350 post-secondary physical therapy programs in the U.S. The associate degree usually lasts for two years that covers topics like kinesiology, anatomy, massage, anatomy, human science, and physiology.

During the training, you will devote 1/3rd of your time to hands-on training and learning in the clinical environment.

Step 2: Study and Pass Licensing Examination

All states in the country have made it mandatory for PTA candidates to be either licensed or certified. The license examination is regulated by the Federation of the State Boards of Physical Therapy(1). The examination is called the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE).

You must be at least 18 years old to sit for the examination. Additionally, you may have to go through a physical assessment and a criminal background check to qualify depending upon the state.

Some states require the candidate to pass the PTA license examination determined by the state’s law. To gain the correct information concerning the examination, we suggest you look up the state’s website and understand what is required.

Once you complete the NPTE program, you will gain eligibility to take the examination. You will get six attempts to pass the test, but you can retake only three times a year.

P.S.: There’s a vast difference between physical therapist aides and physical therapist assistants in terms of salary, job description, and educational requirements. For instance, aides are paid less and do not require to be licensed by state law.

Step 3: Complete On-the-Job Training

After obtaining your licensure, you can start your career and begin practicing as a PTA. You will learn the skills while doing your work. On the job training is part of the job application, which the candidate must take compulsorily. The firm or employer will determine the training tenure for you. However, it runs between 6 months and 1 year generally.

During the training, you will assist health care providers in different cases, learn how to sterilize and handle equipment, perform administrative works, and help physical therapists develop treatment plans.

Patient and family education, communication, counseling, and leadership skills are a few skill sets that employers always seek within candidates. Honing them during your training period will be a good idea.

Step 4: Advance in Your Career

Depending upon your career goal, you can think of pursuing additional certifications focusing on a particular specialty, such as orthopedics, cardiovascular, oncology, functional training, pediatrics, or geriatrics.

However, you must have at least 2000 hours of clinical experience to take the specialty examinations. These examinations are regulated by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialist(2) and consists of 200 questions created to evaluate LPTA’s knowledge in advanced physical therapist skills.