Becoming a physical therapy assistant is a challenging, yet very rewarding career choice for anyone interested in a much more hands on position in the medical services field.
It is a wonderful job for those who love working with the public on a one to one basis and offers an excellent salary as well. In order to secure this kind of job though, individuals are required to be titled, and (in most US states) to obtain licensure, which can be applied for after earning a physical therapy assistant degree.
How to Get a Associates Degree
First you will need to earn an Associates Degree of Science in Physical Therapy Assistance in order to obtain certification and licensure.
This involves a 2-year college education in a course that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTA), and the included, required externships.
Courses for an Associates Degree with emphasis on PTA include the basic courses of English, Maths and Algebra, Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology, Rehabilitation, Therapeutic exercise, Medical Terminology and others. After formal education and passing of all related exams, students earn their degree.
There are also some online, accredited Associates Degree programs which state they can prepare a student for PTA education and training; however, even though most of the coursework is done online, students will still need to fulfill externships and other required course work offline in order to graduate, and be prepared to take their certification exams.
A licensure is required individually by state, though currently 48 of fifty states require it (Colorado and Hawaii currently do not require licensure as long as someone has their PTA).
Once a PTA has passed their certification exam they are then eligible to take their state’s licensure exam, making them eligible to work as a PTA in that state, only. PTAs who change location and wish to then work in a different state are required to take a new state exam in order to do so.
Information about state licensure and the National Physical Therapy Exams (NPTE) for PTs and PTAs can be found on the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy website at http://www.fsbpt.org
Jobs Available with a Degree
Once certification and licensure is complete, PTAs are able to apply for jobs in a variety of medical settings including in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, sports medicine practices, skilled nursing facilities, home health aide services, schools and with individual companies as on-staff physical therapy providers.
Licensed PTAs can also continue their education and obtain specialty training to become qualified to work in specific fields such as post-surgical, orthopedic and cardiopulmonary. Many PTAs also continue their college education and work toward becoming an actual Physical Therapist, too.
Salary After Getting a Degree
Depending on the location, job experience and the type of position, physical therapy assistant salaries range between $31,000 and as high as $68,000 (upper 10 percent) as of May, 2010 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This range is expected to rise in the coming 5 to ten years, too, as the physical therapy field grows. Job numbers are also expected to grow as much as 46 percent during this time, so it seems that becoming a PTA is a position with a good future and a lot of promise in both opportunity and salary.
Physical therapy aides (non-licensed, non-schooled) on the other hand earn a salary of between $17,000 and $34,000.
With these kind of statistics, anyone interested in a medical profession where they will assist with actual patient care and other hands on duties is likely to be a very satisfying one, personally, professionally and financially.
Those looking to become PTAs are recommended to find the best accredited program available in order to be well prepared for physical therapy assistant degree and licensing exams.
It should also be noted, currently there is discussion of changing the course curriculum for a PTA from a 2 year Associates Degree to a 4 year Bachelors Degree, the same as there have been discussions in other medical areas of raising the schooling requirements.
Getting a degree finished now will enable someone to get into the field faster if these changes do come about in the near future.