Physical Therapy Assistant Training Programs and Requirements

Physical therapy assistants are responsible for assisting physical therapists with a variety of clinical tasks. Assistants work closely with full-fledged therapists and may administer much of a patient's treatment.

Training Requirements and Recommendations

The majority of physical therapy assistants complete at least an associate degree in the field. Some may pursue a bachelor's or more advanced degree in a related field. Assistants usually gain experience working with patients before entering the workforce and must be certified before practicing.

Formal Education

The vast majority of physical therapy assistant degree programs lead to an associate's degree. Some students may choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in a related field. Advanced degrees are only necessary for students who wish to go on to become a physical therapist.

Associate of Science

The Associate of Science (A.S.) in Physical Therapist Assistant is a 2-year, undergraduate degree program that introduces students to the basics of the field. Students generally take core courses, such as English composition and psychology. They also complete physical therapist assistant classes, such as physiology, pathology and rehabilitation.

Job Experience

Most A.S. programs for physical therapy assistants include off-campus, organized clinical experience. Students can therefore engage in hands-on, practical therapy with patients in a clinic. Some clinical experience may take place during the semester while some may be offered during the summer months. This experience is valuable to physical therapists who seek qualified assistants.

Licenses and Certifications

Physical therapist assistants must be licensed by the state in which they wish to work. This involves graduating from an accredited institution and passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) administers an exam specifically for physical therapist assistants. Some states may also require assistants to pass a state-administered exam.

Workshops and Seminars

Many workshops are available to physical therapist assistants who wish to develop their knowledge of the field. Because technology in the field is always changing, seminars to keep assistants current may be available. Professionals may learn to use new techniques in the treatment of physical therapy patients.

Additional Professional Development

Physical therapist assistants may choose to further specialize in a particular area of the field, such as pediatric or neuromuscular physical therapy. They may also pursue a career in an administrative or management role at a physical therapy clinic.

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