For those seeking employment in the growing healthcare sector, becoming a physical therapist assistant can be an excellent choice.
With increasingly robust employment prospects and competitive wages, this field is ideal for individuals who want a personally and professionally rewarding career.
The Physical Therapist Assistant’s Duties
Physical therapist assistants work with physicians, physical therapists, and other medical professionals in providing high-quality care to patients who require therapy to regain or maintain their physical capabilities.
In some cases, this may involve working with an individual who has been bedridden for a long period of time and thus must be assisted in regaining his or her muscle tone and coordination.
In other cases, the physical therapist assistant may work with the elderly in order to stave off long-term degenerative disorders, assisting them in maintaining an active and independent life.
Finally, the growing emphasis on physical fitness in America has resulted in an explosion of gyms and other athletic centers.
In many cases, physical therapy assistants will work with those individuals who are seeking to develop an exercise regimen that can assist them in becoming physically fit without risking inadvertent injury.
Some of the common duties for physical therapy assistants include the following:
- Assisting physical therapists in providing effective physical therapy for patients following surgery or a lengthy illness.
- The physical therapy assistant often works with the elderly, providing them with effective physical therapy assistance, in addition to evaluating their progress for the supervising physician and physical therapist.
- Providing in-home care for individuals who are mobility impaired or who otherwise cannot travel to a clinic or hospital.
- Working with patients and their home caregivers to develop an effective physical therapy plan to be carried out after their discharge from the care facility.
Where Physical Therapy Assistants Work
Currently, the majority of physical therapy assistants work in clinics or physician’s offices.
Many physical therapists also find employment in hospitals, convalescent homes, and other healthcare establishments.
Additionally, the rising number of elderly Americans has resulted in an increasing emphasis on providing effective physical therapy in eldercare centers, and this area of employment is expected to provide a large portion of the total job growth for physical therapy assistants.
Additionally, there is a growing demand for rural physical therapy assistants. In many cases, these physical assistants may travel among the community, providing in-home services to shut-ins and other individuals. This can be especially important when serving economically disadvantaged rural areas.
Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant
All states require that the physical therapist assistant be licensed by the relevant state bodies. In most cases, the state licensure requirements include completing an accredited physical therapist assistant program, successfully passing the national examination and fulfilling any specific state requirements, such as a jurisprudence examination.
Some states will allow individuals who are already licensed as physical therapist assistants in another state to be licensed by endorsement.
The Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Physical therapist assistant programs normally take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete and award an associate’s degree upon graduation.
These programs include academic class work as well as hands-on clinical work in order to ensure that their graduates are fully prepared to become practicing physical therapist assistants.View PTA Requirements By State
Many programs also offer part-time and distance learning options to accommodate those students who cannot attend classes on a traditional schedule.
All states require that physical therapist assistant programs be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Programs that are not accredited by CAPTE usually cannot be used to qualify for state licensure. For this reason, students should make certain that their program is fully accredited by CAPTE.
The Physical Therapist Assistant National Exam
Passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is required by most states before they will license a physical therapist assistant. This exam is designed to evaluate the candidate’s skills in the field of physical therapy and ensure that they are capable of effectively serving their patients.
Some states only permit a limited number of attempts at passing the test. In some states, a failure to pass the NPTE after a certain number of attempts may permanently bar the student from licensure. Because of this, all candidates should only take the NPTE when they are confident that they will be able to pass it.
Finally, some states require that the student take and pass a state jurisprudence examination, which evaluates the student’s understanding of state law and how it interacts with the field of physical therapy. In most cases, these are open book exams and may be repeated an unlimited number of times.
Physical Therapist Career Prospects
The field of physical therapy is currently enjoying robust and sustained growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has determined that employment for physical therapy assistants is growing at a rate that is far above the national average.
In addition, physical therapy assistants currently earn a median annual wage of over $51,000 dollars, which is extremely competitive with other fields that have similar educational and professional requirements.
In addition, the long-term growth prospects for this field are very promising. With a rising number of elderly individuals, to say nothing of America’s increasing focus on the importance of physical fitness, the demand for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants is certain to continue growing.
Furthermore, the increased use of in-home therapy, as well as the growing rural demand for physical therapist assistants will make it more likely that all parts of America will share in the growing demand for skilled physical therapist assistants.
Becoming a physical therapist assistant is an excellent career choice for those wishing a personally satisfying career in healthcare.
Whether the individual is newly graduated and seeking out his or her first career or is considering transitioning away from an unsatisfying job, the physical therapist assistant is a well-regarded and professionally rewarding field.