If you love helping people and are interested in working through a variety of complex medical problems, a career as a physical therapy assistant (PTA) may be right for you. PTAs are responsible for providing many of the same services to patients as traditional physical therapists every day. This said, since PTAs work under the supervision of a full PT, most states only require PTAs to have completed an appropriate 2-year associates degree. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a PTA is $56,610. Because of the quick path to the profession (relatively speaking) and the solid salary, many interested individuals find themselves asking how to become a physical therapist assistant. Whether you are considering this career path, are interested in learning how your PTA earned their credentials, or simply want to learn more about a job that has been predicted to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, this article is for you. Follow these steps and you’ll be helping patients work towards recovery in no time!
5 Tips on How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant
1. Prepare Early
As soon as you start thinking that you are interested in a career in physical therapy, it is time to start planning how to become a physical therapist assistant. The path to your degree will be science filled so be sure to make the most of those high school chemistry and biology classes or brush up on the basics if it’s been a while. While it is not crucial that you remember every element on the periodic table or can name every bone in the body right now, beginning your program with a basic understanding will only make your life that much easier down the road.
2. Observe a PTA
You’d be surprised how willing most PTAs may be to help you get started. Before you fully invest the time and money necessary to become a PTA yourself, try reaching out to a physical therapy practice in your area to see if they might allow you to shadow a PTA. Even if just for a day, spending some time in the middle of this environment will give you a better idea for what PTAs do better than any informational article or video can. That said it may be helpful to do some reading first too. And who knows, the PTA you shadow may have their own tips on how to become a physical therapist assistant! After you’ve spent some time checking out what the job is truly like, you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to continue down the path towards your physical therapist assistant degree.
3. Research Programs
Although all states require PTAs to have completed an accredited 2-year associates degree, not all programs are the same. Of course, every program will teach similar general education classes in fields like algebra, anatomy, and physiology, but each program can have unique distinguishing features. For example, many of these programs provide different degrees of opportunity for clinical experience and some offer financial aid while others do not. Consider your circumstances and what you want from your time in school so that you can be sure to choose the program that is right for you.
4. Apply, Enroll, and Study
The most important step to becoming a certified PTA is absorbing as much information and gaining as much experience as you can. By doing this throughout your two years earning your degree, you can ensure that you will be as prepared as possible for your first day on the job. While this section’s heading may make this seem more straightforward that is actually is, this really is the only way to gain the skills that you will need in your career. By working hard in your classes you will be setting yourself up for a successful career down the road.
5. Take the Licensure Exam
Each state administers the national licensure exam that is required for you to practice as a PTA. While the prospect of this certifying exam may frighten you, after two years of education you will be ready! Between this education and a little bit of extra studying, you will be prepared to register for (and excel in) the licensure exam. Once you do, you will finally be in a position to begin your exciting new career as a physical therapist assistant.
So, there you have it. The basics on how to become a physical therapist assistant. Now you just have to decide where you want to start your career. Or if you can’t decide where to start consider travel therapy! Don’t forget your journey to this point, though. Soon enough you’ll be teaching the next generation of PTAs how to become a physical therapist assistant.