A two-year Associate Degree is required for individuals who want to become a physical therapy assistant or PTA. In the United States, there are over two hundred accredited physical therapy programs.
It order to become a licensed physical therapy assistant, all classes have to be taken from an accredited program. For a program or school to receive accreditation it has to be certified by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, or CAPTE.
This accreditation ensures that students will receive quality educational courses from competent instructors.
Getting Accepted into a PTA Program
Having a high grade point average in high school will increase an applicant’s chances of being accepted into a PTA program. It is also important to take as many science and math classes as possible while in high school. Performing volunteer work in some healthcare field is highly recommended because this also helps applicants to be accepted into the program.
Since physical therapy assistant programs are not all the same, there are no sets of universal prerequisite courses that are required.However, based on a survey done by the American Physical Therapy Association, most programs do require coursework in the following fields:
English, biology, general psychology, chemistry, physiology, and anatomy, Additionally, many programs require that students perform a certain amount of volunteer work in a Physical Therapy Department.
Since there are accredited physical therapy assistant programs available through out the country, it is very important to take into account all of the different options. The size of the school and the experience of the instructors are important considerations. Another aspect to think about is if the program has all of the latest training materials and equipment.
Some physical therapy assistant programs have online classes. But, the American Physical Therapy Association prohibits accreditation for PTA programs that are completely online. The reason is students need practical clinical experience working with clients, as well as personally working physical therapists.
The association will approve of programs that have some of their program’s classes online, as long as they require students to attend practice laboratories which are held in person.
Fast-Track Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Some physical therapy assistant programs have accelerated opportunities so students can graduate in less than two years. Many of these PTA programs offer online courses that can be taken all year long. They also offer convenient times for required laboratory work that is conducted in person.
Specific Program Information
It is a great idea to contact the admissions office of the school to learn more about their PTA program. Applicants can meet with counselors and other students to have their questions answered. Many schools offer tours of their campus so new students can get an idea of what it would be like to attend classes there.
Most schools will have a financial aid office, along with a website that explains what type of aid and scholarships are offered for their program. For further details about government financial aid for college, go to the website for the United States Department of Education.
Associate of Science Degree in Physical Therapy Assisting
This is a two year program that is an introductory one that focuses on the basic principles of physical therapy, as well as general academics, and it gives students an overall preliminary education. Students are taught various physical therapy procedures and techniques, pain management, recovery principles for patients. Students also learn how to use different kinds of physical rehabilitation equipment, along with other medical devices.
Certificate in Geriatric Health
This is a graduate certificate for physical therapy assistants who would like to specialize in geriatrics so they can work with senior patients. This physical therapy assistant certification program is only for licensed physical therapy assistants that have been working for five years and there are several other requirements as well, to be able to attain this certificate.
When graduated they leave prepared to treat clients of all abilities and age groups in many different settings while they are supervised by physical therapists. After graduation, it is important to continue their education by taking classes to make sure their skills are up-to-date. Enrolling in classes and getting certified in new areas helps physical therapy assistants to expand their career opportunities and also to receive better salary increases.