Physical therapy assistants take on a wide range of responsibilities in the workforce. They are also fully licensed professionals. Both of these factors mean that education for a physical therapy assistant needs to be very precise and on point, covering all of the important skills and knowledge that a PTA will need to have to become licensed and even more importantly, become a qualified, helpful and caring professional who is suited to helping his or her patients. Use this guide to learn about physical therapy assistant education and what’s involved.
Physical therapy assistants will need to complete a two-year educational program which results in an associate’s degree. Those two years will include about five total semesters, and courses may be taken either fulltime or part-time. There has been a growth in recent years in part-time programs as well as evening and weekend programs, to help accommodate adults with jobs and family responsibilities in their quest to go back to school.
The school that you attend must be properly accredited, or else all of your efforts will have been in vain. That means regardless of what the school says about how great its classes are, or its professors, or anything else, the number 1 thing you have to look for first is CAPTE accreditation. CAPTE stands for the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, and it’s the official accrediting body for both physical therapy assistants and full physical therapists.
Prospective students shouldn’t worry too much about finding one of these programs, as there are 276 accredited PTA programs in the United States, with more added to the list every year. There are programs to be found in just about every state or corner of the country, making it pretty simply to find the right program near you and get started with your educational journey.
Once you’re enrolled and working towards your degree, you’ll find a mix of both classroom and clinical coursework. Some are surprised to learn that the classroom work will account for about 75% of the educational program, with clinical work taking up the other 25%. Several months of every program are typically dedicated to full-time clinical exposure, once the knowledge and bookwork has been completed and an individual is ready to begin practicing what they’ll actually be doing in the field.
Coursework may include many different subjects, including biomechanics, physiology, anatomy, exercise physiology and more. Additionally, learning proper communication and interaction skills are also important, not only for dealing with patients and assisting them to the best of your ability, but also for communicating with physical therapists properly to find and implement the best solutions for those patients.
Completing the two year associates program for PTAs will arm students with all of the knowledge and experience they need to take and presumably pass the national physical therapy examination for PTAs. After this, continuing educational credits may be needed depending on the state you’re in, to keep up with the latest developments and technologies, and to keep your skills and knowledge sharp and fine-tuned.