Becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) can be an excellent choice for individuals who are seeking a well-compensated and secure career.
This is especially true given the dramatic expansion America’s health care sector is currently enjoying. For this reason, a growing number of students are entering PTA courses across America.
By understanding how to properly prepare for and study during a PTA program, the student can be assured that he or she will complete the program and be well prepared to pass the state’s PTA professional examination.
PTAs and the Job Market
Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there are over 71,000 active PTA jobs in the United States. In addition, this number is expected to increase to at least 100,700 jobs by 2022, representing an increase of about 41 percent between 2012 and 2022.
This rate of job creation is far greater than the average rate of job growth in America. When combined with job openings due to attrition among already employed PTAs, this rate of job growth ensures that there are a large number of job openings for qualified applicants.
In addition, the BLS has determined that the median annual salary for American PTAs is over $52,000 in 2012. The highest paid 10 percent of PTAs earn a median annual wage of over $72,000. The salary PTAs receive can vary depending on their experience, specialty and the region where they are employed.
In many cases, a lower cost of living will result in the PTA’s wage being equivalent in purchasing power to those PTAs who while earning a larger wage, live and work in a more expensive part of America.
Finally, many PTAs enjoy robust benefits including paid vacation time and generous individual and family health insurance.
Preparing to Become a PTA
Individuals seeking to become licensed PTAs should start to prepare while still in high school. PTA programs demand the following skills from their students:
• Being able to effectively communicate in English. This includes reading, writing and verbal communication skills.
• The student must be able to effectively understand instructions and complete comprehensive written reports.
• An understanding of the medical field as it applies to PTAs.
• Good interpersonal skills as regards working with coworkers and patients alike.
For this reason, individuals who are planning on becoming a PTA should focus on developing their language and science skills while in high school. If the school offers advanced placement (AP) courses, the student should attempt to qualify and complete those courses.
In addition, many schools offer a variety of volunteer programs that can help the student prepare himself or herself for a career as a PTA.
Finally, the student should work to ensure that his or her grades remain excellent in high school. By doing so, the student can qualify for various types of student loans and scholarships. This can be especially important for those students who have limited financial resources.
Entering a PTA Program
There are many PTA programs offered by community colleges and vocational training centers. The student should always ensure that his or her program is currently accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) as most state licensing agencies will not accept programs that have not been accredited by the CAPTE. In most cases, a full-time student can complete a PTA program within two years, although this can vary depending on the nature of the program and the student’s schedule.
Study Tactics and PTA Programs
There are a number of study tips that can assist students who are seeking to complete a PTA program. The most important points include the following:
• Remaining organized and practice effective time management.
• Developing effective study practices.
• Remaining in contact with the faculty and administration.
Perhaps the most important study tip is to remain organized and practice effective time management. Students who have a well-organized study plan can effectively meet the challenges of their PTA program.
Remaining organized includes developing a study time line and allocating time for homework and test preparation while also understanding that many tasks may take more time than initially planned. Finally, a study plan can help the student determine what areas he or she may need to seek further assistance in from the faculty.
Secondly, the student must develop effective study practices. These practices vary from student to student, but at their core, they involve determining what style of study is most effective when it comes to mastering the material.
For example, some students find it difficult to study in public while others find solitude to be a distracting study environment. The student should determine what specific study style suits them and focus on studying in those surroundings.
This can be especially important for students who are currently working or raising a family. In addition, finding the right study style can dramatically reduce the student’s academic workload.
Finally, one of the most important study tactics it to remember that it is vital to remain in contact with the student’s faculty and administration at all times. Instructors are always willing to help their students, but a student who waits until the day before the final exam will find that the instructors can do little to help him or her.
Conversely, a student who remains in regular contact with the academic staff during the course of the program can quickly obtain assistance before an academic problem spirals out of control. Finally, many instructors offer official or informal tutoring sessions or can help put the student in touch with academic assistance from other sources. However, none of these forms of assistance will be available to a student who never asks for them.
Ultimately, becoming a PTA can be an excellent choice for an individual seeking a secure and well-compensated professional career. Using well thought out study strategies will help to ensure that the student will be able to complete his or her PTA program with a minimum of difficulty. By doing so, the student can enjoy a rewarding academic program while becoming prepared for a career as a licensed PTA.