Physical therapy assistant (PTA) programs are offered at the associate degree level, the minimum education requirement for working in the field, at many 4-year colleges in Florida. Programs combine lectures, lab courses and clinical rotations in health care settings. Though specific requirements vary somewhat by program, common admission requirements typically include a course in anatomy and physiology, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, a physical exam, a criminal background check, health and/or liability insurance, a drug screen and current immunizations.
Broward College is located in Fort Lauderdale and offers a physical therapy assistant program in a hybrid format for Broward students and via synchronous distance learning classes for participants enrolled at Florida SouthWestern State College. A few on-campus orientation courses are required at the Health Sciences Building on Broward's North Campus in Coconut Creek, Florida. The program's lectures and labs follow a cohort model through real-time video classrooms between the campuses, and some courses can be taken fully online. Upon program completion, students are required to take the state and national licensing examinations.
Through coursework in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and applied kinesiology, students learn to help patients perform the treatment modalities prescribed by physical therapists. Students also complete practicums and clinical rotations at affiliated clinics. Florida SouthWestern students will have to attend five preparatory courses at Broward College once they are admitted to the program. All accepted students must take an orientation course that introduces them to online learning.
Daytona State College
Daytona State College, located in Daytona Beach, has a PTA associate degree program. To earn the degree, students must complete several practicums in addition to 60 credits of coursework, including 36 credits in general education courses and 24 credits in elective courses. To meet state educational requirements, students must complete six semester hours of math courses and 12 semester hours of courses requiring written assignments; foreign language requirements must also be satisfied. In addition to completing required core courses, candidates complete physical therapy assistant courses, as well as 20 hours of observation with a licensed physical therapist or PTA. Students are accepted into this limited-access program based on a point system.
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Aspiring PTAs can earn an Associate in Science degree at Florida State College at Jacksonville. Admission to this limited-access program is based on academic performance and completion of admission requirements, such as the Health Occupations Aptitude Examination. The curriculum includes lectures, laboratory courses and clinical training, which is completed at the Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital. In addition to the three sequential clinical courses, students take courses in electrotherapeutic modalities, neurological and cardiopulmonary physical therapy, trends in physical therapy, kinesiology and basic patient care. This 74-credit program also articulates into a bachelor's degree program.
Indian River State College
Fort Pierce-based Indian River State College has a PTA associate degree. An applicant for this 74-credit program must take a pre-admissions test and complete a PTA information session. Students learn about being physical therapy assistants through a curriculum of lectures, laboratory studies and clinical assignments. The clinical courses provide students with hands-on training in assessing and treating patients. Graduates are ready to take the Jurisprudence exam and the PTA licensing examination.
Keiser University - Ft. Lauderdale
The PTA associate degree program at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale requires students to complete 48 credit hours of physical therapy assistant courses and 26 credit hours of general education courses. General education courses include communications, computers, English, math, natural science, humanities and behavioral science. Students complete major-related courses, such as kinesiology, functional modalities, rehabilitation, medical diseases and patient care procedures. Hands-on training is obtained through three clinical rotations: a two-week rotation and two, six-week rotations, each requiring 40 hours per week. Applicants must have adequate scores on pre-entrance exams and proof of at least 10 hours of observation or work experience in a physical therapy department; five of these hours must be in a skilled nursing facility and five in a physical therapy outpatient clinic. Completion of three study skills workshops and two anatomy workshops is also required.
Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College in Miami offers a physical therapy assistant program at the Medical Center Campus through the School of Health Sciences. Aspiring PTAs take courses in anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, medical terminology and rehabilitation procedures. Specialized, professional courses cover brain and spinal cord injuries, orthopedic disabilities, neurological dysfunctions and therapeutic exercise techniques. Students also learn treatment procedures for children. A cooperative experience in a physical therapy clinic rounds out program requirements. Students must complete 74 credits to graduate from this two-year program, including several prerequisite courses in physics, psychology, communication fundamentals and ethics.
Pensacola State College
Pensacola State College in Pensacola offers a four-semester physical therapy assistant A.S. program. This limited-admission program only admits one class each year. Candidates must complete the following preliminary courses: anatomy and physiology (lecture and lab), English composition, college algebra and concepts of life fitness. Students take basic health courses in the first semester and begin studying PTA techniques and completing clinical rotations in the next three semesters. Applicants must meet admission requirements to be eligible for this first-qualified, first-served basis program; additionally, they must show proof of at least 48 hours of observation. Prior to starting clinical rotations, students must complete CPR for the Health Care Provider.
Polk State College
Aspiring PTAs can earn an Associate in Science degree at Polk State College in Winter Haven. The 74-credit hour program includes both day and evening classes. Students attend classes Monday through Thursday. Admission requirements must be met and prerequisite courses completed prior to being admitted to the program. This program consists of 54 PTA credit hours and 17 general education credit hours. Before starting the PTA courses, students must complete 11 general education credits. In addition to coursework, students complete two, five-week clinical rotations (200 hours each) and one, six-week rotation (240 hours). Before students can start clinicals, they must provide proof of physical examinations, current immunizations, CPR certification, HIV/AIDs certification, criminal background check and drug screening.
Seminole State College of Florida
Seminole State College of Florida, with campuses in Altamonte Springs, Heathrow, Oviedo and Sanford, has a 74-credit PTA program that prepares students to take the NPTE and Florida laws and rules exams and to work as physical therapy assistants. To be admitted into this limited-access program, candidates should complete a placement test, submit documentation of 20 hours of observation or work experience in more than one area of physical therapy, submit transcripts and complete required general education courses. While in the program, students complete classroom assignments, lab courses and a series of three clinical rotations where they obtain work experience. A seminar course teaches students about trends in the physical therapy profession.
St. Petersburg College
St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg has a PTA associate degree program that provides lecture and clinical lab classes designed to prepare students to take the national licensing exam. Additionally, students complete three clinical rotations in the third and fifth term of this five-term program. PTA courses are held at the Health Education Center in Pinellas Park. Students learn about safety regulations and industry standards, legal and ethical issues, diseases treated with physical therapy and therapeutic exercise. The graduate can join the workforce after obtaining his or her PTA license or can transfer to the school's health services administration bachelor's degree program.
After completing an accredited, 2-year physical therapy assistant program, aspiring PTAs must become licensed. Candidates must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), and the Florida laws and rules (jurisprudence) exam.
A 2-hour prevention of medical errors course is required prior to initial licensure and for license renewal. Licenses expire on November 30th of every odd year. PTAs must complete 24 contact hours of continuing education to be eligible for license renewal. The Florida schools outlined above offer PTA programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and prepare students to take the required exams for licensure.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type and Setting||Physical Therapy Assistant Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)|
|Broward College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; large suburb||Associate in Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$2,753 in-state; $8,875 out-of-state*|
|Daytona State College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees; small city||Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$3,282 in-state; $12,352 out-of-state*|
|Florida State College at Jacksonville||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; large city||Associate in Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$2,830 in-state; $9,944 out-of-state*|
|Indian River State College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; large suburb||Associate in Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$2,764 in-state; $10,201 out-of-state*|
|Keiser University - Fort Lauderdale||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, private not-for-profit; midsize city||Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$17,664 full-time undergraduates*|
|Miami Dade College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; large city||Associate in Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$2,834 in-state; $9,661 out-of-state*|
|Pensacola State College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; small city||Associate in Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$2,704 in-state; $10,875 out-of-state*|
|Polk State College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; small city||Associate in Science in Physical Therapy Assistant||$3,366 in-state; $12,271 out-of-state*|
|Seminole State College of Florida||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; small city||Associate in Science in Physical Therapist Assistant||$3,131 in-state; $11,456 out-of-state*|
|St. Petersburg College||Four-year, primarily associate degrees, public; small city||Associate in Science in Physical Therapist Assistant||$3,352 in-state; $11,607 out-of-state*|
Source: *NCES College Navigator.