Attending one of the many Physical Therapy Assistant schools to become a PTA can be rewarding and it is fairly easy to complete the necessary training to become certified. It is extremely important for those entering the field of Physical Therapy to choose wisely when weighing their options between studying to become a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA), or a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).
Unfortunately, the coursework and the schools are completely different for the two professions, even though the jobs are very similar. Unlike some degree programs, attending one of the physical therapy assistant schools does not help you if you should decide to move on to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. For this reason, it is advisable to start out with the program that will certify you for your final career choice, rather than wasting time attending one of the physical therapy assistant schools, only to start over should you decide to become a Doctor. If you would like to search for Physical Therapy Assistant Schools, you can search for schools in your area using our Physical Therapy Assistant School Finder here.
Physical Therapy Assistant Schools Overview
When considering which of the Physical Therapy Assistant schools you are going to attend, it is very important to choose a school that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), since it is the only recognized accreditation agency for physical therapy assistant schools and programs. Graduating from one of the CAPTE accredited physical therapy assistant schools is the only way to able to take the licensure exam which is called the National Physical Therapy Examination (PTA NPTE) and is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy — FSBPT. Without passing the exam, you will be unable to gain employment in every state except Hawaii and Colorado, which are the only two states that do not have stringent requirements. Click here for a listing of Physical Therapy Assistant Schools by State.
Typical Physical Therapy Assistant Schools Curriculum
The most common PTA program length is 2 years and includes general ed courses in addition to PT classes before moving into the clinical education phase. Many physical therapy assistant schools include courses in exercise physiology, neuroscience, clinical pathology, communication, ethics, kinesiology, physiology and anatomy. Approximately three quarters of the program is dedicated to class and lab time, while the remaining one quarter consists of 16 weeks of clinical education and work experience.
Most physical therapy assistant schools are actually an Associate’s degree program with an emphasis on the sciences courses that will prepare you for becoming a PTA. Below are listed the four PTA related degree and training programs.
Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assisting: These programs typically are 2 years in length, and focus on general education along with all of the courses necessary to become a PTA upon program completion. Students learn about mobility, pain management, physical therapy equipment, working with recovering surgery and injury patients, and patients who are dealing with diseases or problems that affect mobility.
Associate of Applied Science in Allied Health: These programs are more general in scope and give students a broader background of general health care procedures and practices. Programs typically are 1 to 2 years in length and graduates are prepared apply for employment in medical facilities, or move on to a more advanced physical therapy assistant school
Graduate Certificate in Geriatric Health: These programs are popular with people who have already worked as a PTA and are looking to go back for a graduate certificate that will allow for increased employment opportunity and income. Obtaining a geriatric health certificate trains students to work with the elderly and is a specialized niche.
Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant: These schools focus on training students for the treatment of those who may be afflicted with physical disorders and cognitive impairments. The skills set acquired during these programs is more comprehensive than that of a standard physical therapy assistant school and qualifies the graduate for employment in the OTA job market.
Picking The Right Physical Therapist Assistant Schools
The most important factor in choosing between physical therapy assistant schools is to select a school that is CAPTE accredited. That being said, there are over 250 CAPTE accredited physical therapy assistant schools in the US, so there are plenty of options. Below are some factors that may help you decide on the PTA program that best fits your needs.
- Distance from home – travel costs
- Requirements for admission
- PTA Schools cost and financial aid availability
- 1st time pass rates for licensure
- College Size
- Program curriculum
- School and lab facilities
- School surroundings (city or country)
- Population Demographics
- Social and recreational activity availability
- Local employment opportunities upon graduation
Average Costs For Physical Therapy Assistant Schools In The US
In 2008, The mean annual tuition or fees of physical therapy assistant schools in the US for those attending a public school and who were a resident of that state was $7,800. Those who attended a private PTA school spent an average of $26,500.
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