Explore Career Options, Jobs, Schooling, and Salary for an in Demand Career in Physical Therapy
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Career Steps for a Physical Therapist Assistant


There are only a few avenues a prospective student can take when working to become a physical therapist assistant. To be a physical therapist assistant you are going to need an associate degree in applied science.  There are a number of courses available to choose from, but it is always best to choose schools with the strongest accreditation. The strongest accreditation in the United States of America is The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This accreditation allows you to write state license exams across the nation, and is the benchmark for physical therapy education. But your career steps do not just begin with what physical therapist assistant program to choose, it starts with gaining admission to a college first.

A physical therapy assistant course will take 2 years of full time study to complete, although other options are available at some colleges and universities to complete the course on a part time basis. Part of the training is a hands on clinical portion, which familiarizes the potential graduates with the different areas they are able to work in, within the scope of physical therapy. What is a physical therapist assistant exactly? They truly are there to add support, and follow direction given from a licensed physical therapist. They are required to have a wide range of medical knowledge, as well as a strong skill set in massage and physical therapy. The course can be challenging and intensive, but it is upon completion that graduates begin to notice the amount of opportunities in-front of them for this career. Physical therapist assistant salary can fluctuate from state to state, and it can also fluctuate within the different job descriptions in the physical therapy field.

Admissions Process for Physical Therapist Assistant Schools

The admissions process for physical therapist assistant schools can in some cases be challenging for the student. Often a base level of English, and mathematics, as well as knowledge of some of the sciences (exercise or biological) is required. Almost all admissions programs will have national tests available to write for those who do not have prerequisite courses from high school. Generally with physical therapy assistant schools, you should hope to have a high school grade point average of 2.5 or greater. If you have been working as a physical therapist aide, arrange a test with the PTA program of your interest, and find out before hand what materials to study to gain admission. If you are coming from high school have all your materials and transcripts prepared for your application. Once you have received an admissions offer, you can now find out your options for paying the tuition. All accredited colleges will have financial aid available, you simply have to contact the school and find out the procedures you need to successfully apply. If you are paying for the program, expect costs of $8000 to $15 000 for the entire program (depending on which state you study in).

Preparing for the State License Exam

A physical therapist assistant state license exam can be a time of great nervousness for a graduate student. You have worked incredibly hard to complete a 2 year associate degree as a physical therapy assistant and now you must pass a test in order to gain employment. If you have chosen a CAPTE accredited college, part of the curriculum is to prepare students for the state license exam. This is a no brain-er for the schools,  having graduates from their program with a high success rate on state license exams is good for business. You will be trained thoroughly as part of your course curriculum for what to expect on the state license exam. There are also many study guides available that help prepare students for the state license exams if you require additional resources.

Physical Therapist Assistant Career Options:

Once a student has graduated with an associate degree, and successfully passed a state license exam, they are now eligible to work. Physical therapy assistants make roughly $48 000 per year on average across the nation. It is wise to not expect that figure, as the average entry level physical therapist assistant salary is probably closer to $40 000 across the nation. Salary is reflected by the type of industry you work in, and the type of jobs you do.

Home health care physical therapy is the highest paying line of work for a PTA, as it requires excellent communication with the head physical therapist. Practitioners will often work with little supervision, only the given direction from a physical therapist on what exercises, or treatment protocols to complete with the patients they see. Other physical therapist assistant jobs include working in old age homes, where the assistants may teach group classes, and assist a physical therapist with their daily work duties with the homes residents. Other areas you will find jobs with physical therapist assistants will be sports medicine clinics and all types of hospitals.

The best option for this career is to have a strong work ethic and continue to work hard, this will truly be the way that you can increase your salary. Physical therapy as a career has an extremely high job satisfaction rate, and there will be plenty of opportunities for continueing education and workshops to keep skills sharp. As an associate degree is only a 2 year program, if a physical therapist assistant wishes to upgrade their education, they are looking at an additional 4-5 years of full time study to become a fully licensed physical therapist.