Other Career Paths For Physical Therapist Assistants -Physical Therapist Assistant Career Guide
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Other Career Paths For Physical Therapist Assistants

Becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) is an excellent choice given America’s rapidly expanding healthcare system.

In addition to offering entry into a well paying and personally rewarding career, skilled PTAs have the option to enter a number of related careers, including specialized branches in physical therapy and even moving on to higher level careers in the medical field.

This makes becoming a PTA an excellent choice for those individuals who are seeking to become professional caregivers in America.

Basic Requirements To Become A PTA

PTAs are regulated in the United States and currently can only practice with a valid state license. Currently, most states require the following steps to be taken before they will allow an individual to obtain a license to work as a qualified physical therapy assistant:

  • Be at least 18 years of age and have either completed high school or obtained an equivalent educational degree.
  • Have completed an approved PTA program at a college that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Students who have attended a foreign program must be able to document the fact that their program is substantially equal to a CAPTE accredited program.
  • Finally, the candidate must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). In some cases, the state licensing agency may have other requirements, such as limiting the number of time the candidate can retake the test.

In addition, a number of states have further requirements, including submitting to a criminal background check and completing a jurisprudence examination in order to ensure that the candidate is aware of his or her rights and responsibilities under the law.

These requirements vary from state to state, so it is important to check with the state licensing authority in order to ensure that the candidate is fully aware of all the requirements he or she must comply with.

In many cases, a related PTA career, especially a specialist career, will require that the worker remain fully licensed as a PTA in order to work in the field. Because this can vary from state to state, it is important to check with the relevant state agencies before changing the PTA’s state of residence.

Specialist PTA Careers

Specialist PTA careers are those careers which involve a higher degree of training in a specialized area of physical therapy.

These careers are currently becoming more important due to the growing emphasis on providing a high quality of care to individuals with specialized needs.

These careers are currently becoming more important due to the growing emphasis on providing a high quality of care to individuals with specialized needs.

There are a wide range of specialist careers available to PTAs, including fields focusing on pediatric therapy, sports therapy and working with the elderly. These fields generally require that the practitioner be fully trained as a PTA in addition to obtaining extra experience and education in their desired specialty.

career paths for physical therapy assistantsCurrently, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers certification in a variety of fields, including the following:

  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neuromuscular

The APTA has a number of strict requirements that anyone seeking certification must meet.

This is to ensure that all certified specialist PTAs are capable of carrying out their duties in an efficient and safe manner. The requirements include the following:

  • The candidate must maintain his or her licensure as a PTA at all times. certification is not a substitute for a state PTA license.
  • The candidate must have at least five years of work experience as a licensed PTA.
  • The candidate must have a minimum of 60 hours of continuing education. At least 45 hours of this education must be in the area that he or she is seeking to specialize in. In order to ensure that this education will be acceptable to the APTA, the candidate should check with the APTA before completing his or her continuing education units.
  • At least two letters of recommendation from supervisors or other qualified individuals who can attest to the candidate’s professional and ethical qualifications.
  • The candidate must be able to document his or her participation in at least three activities that can demonstrate the professional and personal qualities needed for certification.
  • The candidate must be a current member of the APTA during the entire certification process.

Once certified, the PTA must continue to maintain his or her qualifications via continuing education and renewal of his or her certification.

This process helps to ensure that the certified PTA remains fully aware of changes in his or her field.

A certified PTA can earn somewhat more than non-certified PTAs, especially if the certification is in an area that is currently in high demand.

Advanced Medical Careers

Finally, there are a number of related medical careers that becoming a PTA can prepare the individual to enter.

Not only does a PTA have much of the basic information needed by all caregivers, but he or she has also already been prepared for the emotional and professional needs facing the medical professional.

In addition, the PTA will be better prepared for the educational requirements of these fields than individuals who have had no previous experience.


Becoming a registered nurse (RN) can be an excellent choice for a PTA. Although he or she will have to complete an extensive amount of medical training in order to enter this career, RNs are currently in high demand across America.

In addition, by working as a PTA, the individual will have had the opportunity to observe those RNs working in the facility and thus become acquainted with their duties and responsibilities.

In addition, many RNs work closely with physical therapists and PTAs, which will allow any former PTAs to make use of their experience and training in order to improve the level of care they can provide to the patient.

Not only is this beneficial to the patient, but it can also improve the RN’s professional medical opportunities.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists plan out, evaluate and conduct courses of physical therapy for their patients.

Unlike PTAs, physical therapists must complete a master’s or doctoral program in physical therapy, in addition to successfully passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and completing any other mandated state licensure requirements.

Physical therapists work alongside with doctors and other caregivers in ensuring that their patients receive the best possible care.

PTAs who are interested in this field must complete all of its educational requirements, but will be able to make use of their previous experience when it comes to preparing to become a physical therapist.

PTAs have a wide range of options when it comes to seeking other professional careers.

Whether it is to become a specialist, or seeking out an entirely different field such as becoming a registered nurse, the training and experience a PTA has amassed will stand him or her in good steed when it comes to seeking out new and rewarding professional opportunities in the medical sector.

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