The opportunities for people who have taken the time to earn a physical therapy assistant degree are many and varied. The job security is good, and there are several different environments in which you can work. In fact, as the health industry is one of the fastest growing in terms of the job market, getting a PTA degree may be the best choice you ever make. At some point you may even study further to become an actual physical therapist, so your physical therapy assistant degree can be used as a way to kick start your career.
When you get a physical therapy assistant degree you will be qualified to assist physical therapists in a wide range of daily activities. You will be eligible to work in nursing homes, home health care situations, health care practitioner offices and hospitals. You will need an associate’s degree in order to become a physical therapist assistant.
Training And Licensing
To be a physical therapy assistant you will need to get a physical therapy assistant degree. If you want to practice, you will also need to be certified. Something that is very important to keep in mind is that certification qualifications vary from state to state, so find out what the exact prerequisites in your state are.
There are several different courses that you can engage in order to become a PTA:
- Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assisting
- Associate of Applied Science in Allied Health
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assisting
- Graduate Certificate in Geriatric Health
Some physical therapy assistants train on the job, but in most states you need to be fully qualified and licensed in order to practice as a physical therapy assistant. For this you will need an associate’s degree.
Online Physical Therapy Assistant Degrees
An online PTA degree is an easy and flexible way for you to become an accredited PTA, but you need to make sure that the online school that you get your Physical Therapy Assistant Degree through is actually one that is accredited and that you are not effectively wasting your time with the qualification.
The following are generally considered to be the 9 best online schools (in reverse order) for getting your physical therapy assistant degree in the United States:
- Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences
- Pima Medical Institute
- Keiser University Online
- Independence University
- Penn Foster Career School
- A.T. Still University
- Argosy University
- Herzing College
- Grand Canyon University
Your Learning Expectations
Different physical therapy assistant programs come with different curriculum’s, but there basics that you will learn will include:
- Theory and Practice of Physical Therapy (resuscitation (CPR) and other first aid, and field experience in treatment centers)
- Medical Sciences Courses
- General Courses (algebra, English, anatomy and physiology, and psychology)
- Practical Work
- You will also develop the skills needed to be well-organized, detail oriented, and caring, as well as being easy to lead and able to work in a team
- Interpersonal skills
More specifically, at the end of a physical therapy assistant degree:
- You should be able to become employed as a physical assistant in an entry-level capacity
- You should be able to comprehend and implement the various procedures that a physical therapy assistant will be responsible for easily and adequately (under the supervision of a Physical Therapist)
- You should be able to pass a licensing exam easily
- You should be able to put theory knowledge regarding legal and ethical considerations in the physical therapy arena into practice efficiently and consistently
- You should have developed an interest in constantly bettering your knowledge in the field through the acceptance and adherence to life-long learning standards for the industry
- You should be able to implement treatments plans and adapt them according to patient responses and interactions
- You should be able to take information you learn from literature reviews into practice efficiently and appropriately
- You should be able to report and communicate changes in patient status and patient progress
- You should be able to communicate effectively in terms of documenting information regarding the patent’s care, progress and responses
- You should be able to collect data and then apply that data appropriately to the plan of care formulated for the patient
- You should be able to identify how to interact appropriately with the various people with whom you will come into contact with and provide the appropriate support needed at a variety of levels
To enter a physical therapy assistant degree:
- You will need to have the comprehension skill of an 11th grader
- You will need to be able to function competently and safely if you are taking prescription or over the counter medication
- You will need to be able to communicate and assimilate information in a variety of different formats
- You will need to have personal and grooming standards that are appropriate for the work you will do as a physical therapists assistant, namely close contact with clients
- You will need to have the skills necessary to analyse and draw conclusions from data
- You will need to have the social skills necessary for this type of work
- You will need to have the physical ability to stand for a minimum of 2 hours
- You will need to have the emotional stability to keep your head under emergency circumstances
- You will need to have the physical ability to walk for a minimum of six hours
- You will need to have the natural ability to identify a potentially dangerous situation and intervene before the situation becomes severe and serious
- You will need to be physically able to stoop and bend for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time and to repeat this activity at uncertain intervals
- You will need to be able to respond well and appropriately to various skills and signals given by patients
- You will need to be physically able to lift a person weighing 40 pounds on your own, and you will need to be physically capable of assisting in moving a much heavier patient
- You will need to have the fine motor coordination necessary to do tasks such as assisting with dressing
- You will need to be able to determine what is going on with a patient by touch
Nature Of Work
You should note that there are differences between physical therapy assistants and physical therapy aides, but a physical therapy assistant degree should qualify you for both.
As a Physical Therapy Assistant you will assist the physical therapist in:
- Providing care to the patient
- Providing exercise instruction to the patient (under supervision)
- Providing therapeutic methods to the patient (under supervision)
- Recording responses to and outcome of the various treatments that the patient is made to undergo
As a physical therapy aide you will:
- Assist in making the therapy session productive (under supervision)
- Keep the treatment area clean
- Keep the treatment area organised
- Prepare the treatment area for each therapy session
- Assist patients in moving from treatment area to another
- Deal with various clerical and administrative tasks (depends on the institute you are working for)
- Physical therapy assistant aides are not licensed to perform clinical duties
In general the work you will do with a PTA degree is:
- Assisting in improving patient mobility
- Assisting in preventing or lessening any disabilities a patient may have
- Assisting patients with exercising
- Assisting patients in learning to use aids, such as crutches
- Gathering and preparing therapy equipment
Environment and Hours
- Strength is required to a certain degree , something you need to keep in mind when applying for a physical therapy assistant degree
- Hours will vary depending on your place of work
- Part time and weekend hours are a possibility in this line of work
Future Prospects And Salary
You’ll be very happy to hear that jobs in the physical therapy assistant field are projected to grow faster than average in the future, making it a safe and secure bet for someone looking for a stable career. This is in fact true of many jobs in the health care industry, the fastest growing job industry at present. New technological advances create new jobs, and higher prevalence of certain conditions cause health care workers to be highly in demand.
It is important to remember, however, that you may face quite stiff competition when applying for a PTA job as more and more people are becoming qualified to work in this area.
There are several future plans you may be able to make once you have a PTA degree:
- You could enter an accredited physical therapy assistant school that will allow you to convert your PTA degree to a Physical Therapist Degree, opening up your career options even further.
The physical therapy assistant salary you can expect varies slightly, generally falling somewhere between $33,840 and $49,010.
In general it is easy to see that if you want to get your foot in the door of the health care industry without the years of study involved in becoming, for example, a doctor, then a physical therapy assistant degree is the perfect avenue for you to pursue. As far as employment goes, you should be able to find a job if you have the appropriate certification, and once you have entered the job market in this way you should never have any trouble staying employed.