Physical therapy is a vital component of any full-spectrum health care strategy in America.
Whether it is assisting individuals to recover from a traumatic injury, or to help the elderly maintain their physical and mental capabilities, physical therapy is found in virtually every medical institution in the United States.
Because of this, there is a growing demand for qualified and licensed physical therapist assistants in America.
Alabama and Physical Therapy Assistants
Alabama currently has a vibrant mixture of urban and rural regions in addition to a growing elderly population. This has resulted in a robust and growing demand for physical therapy assistants.
Currently, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are over 1600 physical therapist assistants employed in Alabama, with an annual mean wage of over $50,000.
In addition, the job outlook for physical therapy assistants continues to be strong, with the BLS predicting a 46 percent increase in available careers between 2010 and 2020. When combined with retiring workers and other sources of job attrition, this makes employment prospects for newly licensed physical therapist assistants very promising.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Alabama
All Alabama physical therapy assistants must be licensed by the State of Alabama Board of Physical Therapy before they can legally provide any services in the state. In order to be licensed by the state, the candidate must complete the following steps:
- Successfully graduate from an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
- Take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
- Successfully complete the state jurisprudence examination.
- Individuals who are currently licensed in another state may, upon documentation of their status, seek to obtain licensure by endorsement. These individuals will not have to take the NPTE or repeat the educational requirement, but must still pass the jurisprudence examination.
Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Most physical therapy assistant programs are offered by community colleges and vocational schools. In most cases, a full-time student will complete the program in two years, after which he or she will be awarded an associate’s degree.
In addition, part-time and online programs are available in order to accommodate students who are currently working or otherwise unable to attend on a full-time schedule.
These programs provide an in depth education in the various practical and academic aspects of the physical therapist assistant’s duties. The student’s coursework will include both academic class work and laboratory courses.
Finally, some schools work with hospitals or other healthcare facilities in order to provide their students with the opportunity to work with actual patients while under the supervision of their instructors.
In order to be accepted by Alabama, all physical therapist assistant programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Being accredited by the CAPTE ensures that the program has met rigorous standards of excellence in education and is capable of properly preparing its students for a career as physical therapy assistants.
A student should always ensure that his or her program is currently in good standing with the CAPTE before enrolling.
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Foreign Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Students who have graduated from a foreign physical therapy program must provide information to the Board which will allow it to decide if the school’s standards are equivalent to those of a CAPTE accredited program in the United States.
This process may take some time, so it is important to submit all information as early as possible. In addition, some foreign students may also be required to prove their fluency in English.
The NPTE is the national examination used to determine the candidate’s academic and practical capabilities. This exam is regularly updated in order to ensure that it remains current with the modern practice of physical therapy.
Although a candidate can repeat the NPTE if he or she should fail to pass it, retaking the examination will impose substantial delays on the licensure process. Because of this, students should try to ensure that they are prepared to pass the test the first time they take it.
The Jurisprudence Examination
The state jurisprudence examination is an examination that focuses on the candidate’s understanding of how the laws of Alabama interact with the practice of physical therapy. Students may repeat this test as many times as necessary, but cannot receive a permanent license until they have successfully completed it.
It is extremely important that all candidates fully understand their rights and responsibilities under Alabama law, as failing to comply with the laws regarding physical therapy assistants can lead to the revocation of the individual’s license or even criminal charges.
In today’s healthcare sector, physical therapist and physical therapist assistants provide a vital service to patients of every type.
By becoming a physical therapy assistant, it is possible to enter a field that is highly respected and enjoys excellent options for professional development. In addition, given the continuing growth in this sector, new physical therapist assistants can rest assured that their employment will remain secure for the foreseeable future.