Steps To Becoming A Physical Therapy Assistant

Jun 5, 2019 by

A physical therapist assistant is a professional who provides rehabilitative services to people who’ve lost mobility due to medical conditions or trauma and work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. These professionals monitor the development of patients and train clients on how to perform therapeutic procedures and how to increase function through exercise. It is worth noting that the professional can sometimes be physically demanding considering that physical therapy assistants are often required to move or lift patients.

To become a physical therapy assistant, you will have to acquire a physical therapy assisting associate’s degree. All states, except for Hawaii, require physical therapy assistants to obtain state certification or licensure. No experience is required for an entry-level position. Some of the qualities physical therapy assistants need to possess include an interest in people and empathy. They should have the strength and manual ability to work with patients and should be organized individuals. Strong written and verbal communication skills are crucial. According to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average salary of a physical therapy assistant in 2015 was $55,170.

How To Become a Physical Therapist Assistant

Step #1: Join an Accredited Education Program

Would-be physical therapy assistants are required to complete a two-year degree therapy program that’s approved by CAPTE – the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. According to the commission, there were about 300 recognized therapy associate’s degree programs in the United States of America in 2012. It is worth noting that graduates of these programs are the only ones who qualify for the mandatory state licensure. As a prospective student, consider contacting potential accredited schools for your graduate employment statistics and accreditation information.

Step #2: Get an Associate’s Degree

Associate’s degree programs for people looking to become physical therapy assistants generally last about five months. These programs are mainly focused on clinical providing physical therapy education. The curricula mostly involve laboratory and classroom instruction. Courses may include medical terminology, kinesiology, anatomy, therapy exercises, pathology, and physical therapy assistance techniques. Students are also expected to complete about sixteen weeks of clinical practicum. If you want to know more then check out this comprehensive guide on how to become a physical therapist assistant

Step #3: Get Licensed

Most states in the US require physical therapy assistants to be certified or licensed. However, it is worth noting that eligibility will vary by state. Nevertheless, boards that regulate physical therapy require candidates to complete an approved degree program and have passing scores on a state-administered exam or the National Physical Therapy Exam. As a physical therapy assistant, you might also be required by the board to earn continuing education credits to maintain your licensure or certification.

Step #4: Seek Employment

As an accredited physical therapy assistant, you might find employment in various settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most therapy assistants are employed by occupational, speech, and physical therapists and hospitals. Other places that employ physical therapy assistants include physicians’ offices, home healthcare service providers, and nursing homes. Entry level assistants can also find employment in skilled nursing units, orthopedic clinics, and acute hospitals, which are increasingly offering job opportunities due to the increasing number of older people in the population.

Step #5: Pursue a Specialty

While it isn’t a requirement, you could opt, as an accredited physical therapy assistant, to dedicate yourself to a specific clinical field. APTA or the American Physical Therapy Association endorses physical therapist specialties in seven areas like neuromuscular, pediatric, aquatic, and cardiovascular physical therapy. To be eligible for these specialty certifications, it is essential that you be an APTA member with significant continuing education credits and over five years of work experience. You must also submit letters of reference and proof of your contributions to the profession.

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