Physical therapist aides support physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, though they require little education or training, and do not need to be licensed or certified to practice. Certificate programs for physical therapist aides can last anywhere from 30-100 hours over a couple of months and may award continuing education credits, if needed. Many are available part-time in the evenings and could include practicums, internships or job shadowing as part of the program.
As an unlicensed profession in the physical therapy industry, physical therapist aides require very little education and could be trained on the job. Certification is available for aides, but it's not required. Physical therapist aides need to pass an exam to obtain certification.
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Certificate for Physical Therapist Aide
Certificate programs for physical therapist aides are usually offered 3-4 hours one or two times a week over a period of 2-3 months. Some schools offer college credit, some continuing education credits, and some provide only the training with no higher education or professional credit awarded. Programs consist of classroom courses and labs, and most include some form of practical experience requirement in the form of an internship or job shadowing.
To be eligible for enrollment, some schools require applicants to meet certain prerequisites, such as anatomy and medical terminology courses, HIPAA training, or CPR certification. Enrolled students could need to obtain specific insurance coverage on their own or through the school.
Physical therapist aide programs teach students how to handle much of the administrative and non-technical duties associated with physical therapy, though there is some limited patient interaction. Aspiring physical therapist aides learn to provide support by setting up and maintaining treatment spaces, keep equipment functional and clean, and manage reception duties. Patient care generally includes checking in and escorting patients to the treatment area. Common coursework in a certificate program includes:
- Patient transfer and preparation procedures
- Infection control, injury prevention, and pathology
- Human anatomy courses
- Physical therapy ethics and legal issues
- Principles of exercise and muscle strengthening
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Physical therapist aides do not need to be licensed in order to work. However, optional certification is available through the National Career Certification Board. The Physical Therapy Aide Specialist Certification (CPTAS) is a nationally recognized credential. Candidates need to have received educational training, though experience isn't required.
The exam for the CPTAS certification is offered online and must be proctored. After ordering the 80-question exam, candidates need to complete it within 30 days. There's a time limit of 2 hours to take the exam, and a score of 70% is required to pass.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of physical therapist aides is expected to grow by 39%, from 2014-2024, adding upwards of 51,400 new jobs. The BLS also reported the average salary for physical therapist aides was $27,440 as of 2015.
Several schools offer part-time, evening certificate programs for physical therapist aides, though prerequisites and costs vary greatly. Certification isn't required for the profession, but could demonstrate a PTA's proficiency and expertise in the field.