Should I Become a Physical Therapy Assistant?

If you're wondering, should I become a physical therapy assistant, then read this to learn about PTAs and decide if you should become a physical therapy assistant.
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Physical Therapy Assistant Career Facts

Should I Become a Physical Therapy Assistant?

There are many great reasons to become a Physical Therapy Assistant.

For example, most PT professionals agree that rehabilitating the human body is one of the most interesting and rewarding healthcare career options available.

Year after year Physical Therapists and Assistants are rated in the top 20 best healthcare jobs.

But just because there are many great reasons to become a physical therapy assistant, doesn’t mean that this career is a good fit for everyone.

Today we want to answer the question, “Should I become a Physical Therapy Assistant?

Hopefully, after learning some of the pros and cons and reasons why to become a Physical Therapist Assistant, you will know whether or not the career is a good fit for you.

Steps to Becoming a PTA

PTAs, or physical therapist assistants, are highly trained health care workers who function under licensed physical therapist’s close supervision.

Their job is to provide assistance and support as the physical therapist treats a broad array of patient types.

Some patients may have physical concerns that stop them from performing the usual tasks of daily life. Others may have bone fractures, chronic conditions, back or neck injuries.

PTAs often typically assist with clinic maintenance, patient transport, and other similar tasks.

In the midst of a physical therapy program, a PTA may work to assess patient progress, based on the licensed therapist’s instructions.

A PTA could be assigned to help with everything from electrotherapy or massage therapies to helping patients learn to effectively use walkers, canes, and crutches.

We wrote a step by step guide to become a PTA:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED
  2. Apply to a CAPTE accredited PTA program
  3. Complete your PTA Associate’s degree
  4. Complete 16 weeks of clinical practicum training (During Degree Program)
  5. Pass NPTAE Exam and Apply for State License

As you can see, to become a PTA you must complete a 2-year associates degree program along with clinical work. Upon completion, you must pass a national exam (NPTAE) in order to obtain a license to work as a PTA in your state.

So, education to become a PTA is affordable and quick compared to most other medical education programs.

Valuable and Affordable Education

Physical Therapy Assistant Education is Valuable and Affordable

Courses of study for PTAs generally last for two years, and once completed, they lead to the associate’s degree. It is wise for students to choose programs that have received accreditation in their chosen state of practice.

That way, there will be no obstacles when it comes time to sit for the state’s specific licensing exam. The standard curriculum is likely to include general studies, physiology and anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, ethics, and behavioral sciences.

There are many two-year associate’s degrees PTA programs. However, in order to be eligible for taking the PTA exam in some states, students need to graduate from programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

As much as 25% of this training should be in a clinical environment. That is where the job hunt really starts, but valuable education is required first in order to pursue a physical therapist career.

Hands-On Clinical Experience

PTA Programs Provide Hands on Clinical Training

Clinical experience is also a part of every program. Real-world experience in a clinical environment can be a great foot in the door technique for those who are interested in such a career.

This is why students who consider internships that start during school have a significant advantage over their colleagues. It’s very important that the student is acknowledged as a good person to work with and having positive clinical experience is the best way to show this.

Roughly 350+ accredited PTA programs are available in the United States. However, given the volume of interested applicants and the number of open spaces in such programs, most institutions demand certain grade point averages in order to be admitted.

Online Classes Are Available

There are certain portions of a PTA curriculum that may be fulfilled via online study, but hands-on clinical hour requirements must be done in facilities that have already been approved.

Prior to the clinical training however, students may enroll and complete the majority of their coursework online. Once a certain number of hours are completed students may begin their clinical work.

It is also worth noting that before any student can start doing clinical training, they must submit to and pass background and criminal history checks.

Wide Variety of Work Settings

PTAs work in a wide variety of places

Since PTAs regularly help all types of patients, PTA positions are generally available with:

  • Nursing facilities
  • Traditional hospitals
  • Outpatient facilities
  • Community health centers
  • Industrial health offices
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Educational institutions
  • Sports teams
  • Military Branches
  • and more

We have written an entire post dedicated to the topic of the many places where physical therapists assistants work.

Competitive Salaries

The median annual salary for a PTA has risen to roughly $57,750. No less than 45 states require that PTAs be either registered or licensed. Information about a specific state’s licensing rules can be found by making inquiries with its own licensure authority or board.

The BLS published a median salary of PTAs amounting to $57,750 in 2018. The upper limit was $79,810, while the lowest level amounted to a little less than $33,780.

Among the best-paid workers in this industry, there are the PTAs who work for home health care services or for nursing facilities.

In terms of location, the biggest earners are in:

  • San Antonio, Texas
  • McAllen, Texas
  • Lakeland, Florida

Opportunities for Specialization

Though certainly not a necessity, many PTAs pursue a specialization in distinct areas and forms of physical therapy. Such a credential will necessitate further education and clinical experience.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is the entity responsible for granting such specialist certification.

Those seeking such accreditation must have no less than five years of formal, clinical experience as well as the designated number of additional educational credits. There are usually other ancillary requirements that must also be met.

It is possible to obtain certification as a specialist in aquatic, cardiovascular, pediatric or neuromuscular therapies.

Because of the baby boomers’ continued progression into old age, the job market for PTAs is experiencing explosive growth.

Increases in available positions have grown nearly 35% through 2018 and aren’t expected to slow down.

Job Security and Advancement

As the population continues to age, the physical therapy world keeps growing.

This has caused an increase in demand at places employing physical therapy assistants and physical therapists. They work at such places as hospitals, outpatient clinics, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Employers are looking to hire individuals with degrees in the field of physical therapy to work as Physical Therapists and PT Assistants.

Working as a physical therapy assistant can be a great way for somebody to get started in the medical field. It can be a quicker and lower-cost way to enter the field compared to many other medical career paths.

Generally speaking, community colleges offer and healthcare or technical schools offer PTA programs. A person can complete a degree in two years and then enter into the growing field.

There are hundreds of programs that are available all over the country. Individuals getting started in this field will discover that quite competitive salaries are offered.

Did we mention, a PTA’s average annual mean salary is nearly $52,160 per year.

Serve and Help Others

Should I become a PTA? Yes, if you enjoy helping people

Also, being a PT Assistant is a really good way of helping people.

It gives you the ability to closely work with patients who can really use the help. An individual might be going to physical therapy due to the fact that they are having to deal with the after-effects suffered from being in a very traumatic and serious car accident.

In cases like this, the PTA really can make a big difference in the individual’s life. The physical therapy assistant can help a person regain motion in a badly broken leg or injured hip.

This allows the PTA to watch the life of a patient dramatically improve.

Many individuals leave a physical therapy session knowing they have regained some that are very important to their life.

Flexible Schedules

Working as a physical therapy assistant also can be a great way to achieve an ideal work schedule. Flexible hours are offered by many places hiring PTAs. An individual can frequently choose to work as few or as many hours as they want to.

For people working in this field, there is also plenty of overtime that is available for those who want it.

For those wanting to work part-time, they shouldn’t have a hard time finding work either. Individuals can decide to work the regular five days a week, nine to five hours or they can choose to work on the weekends or shifts that start later in the day.

For women who have children, or anyone wanting control of their schedule, this flexibility can really be ideal.

Travel Opportunities

For people who love to travel, this is also a good career choice.

Many states allow physical therapy assistants to work in whatever state they choose. Somebody who likes to work in a place with a warm climate often can choose a job located in a different state and relocate there.

For those who prefer a cooler climate with four seasons, they will also be able to find jobs that fit their preferences.

The PTA world is growing and offers numerous well paying opportunities along with the chance to really make a difference in the lives of people. Consider becoming a physical therapy assistant today!

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

PTAs work on teams and require communication skills

Being a physical therapist involves various skills such as hands-on care, patience and even teaching abilities. Physical therapist assistants work as part of a bigger team.

Like therapists support doctors in creating and implementing treatment plans, their assistants support the patients to overcome their movement difficulties through the regular practice of various exercises and through treatment.

Assistants need patience and teaching skills, as they are the ones who must teach the patients how to use their crutches and canes and how to execute their exercises properly for a fast and safe recovery.

The career of a physical therapist assistant can be very rewarding, thanks to the multiple possibilities of growth. They can move up in the hierarchy much faster than other specialists.

Such evidence is supported by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that almost 30,000 new PTA jobs are expected to be created over the next 10 years or so.

Final Reasons For Becoming A Physical Therapy Assistant

A physical therapy assistant (PTA) is a highly rewarding career.

As a medical professional who works with individuals who have suffered injuries or have some other type of issues that impairs their ability to be physically mobile, you will feel great satisfaction with your patient’s results.

An individual might need to go to physical therapy due to having suffered a medical issue such as having a stroke or as the result of being in an auto accident.

You will be the one who helps them recover.

But the job is a big responsibility and comes with many challenges.

So, now that you know all of the reasons to become a physical therapist assistant you can answer the question for yourself,

“Should I become a physical therapy assistant?”

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