How do I Choose the Best Physical Therapy Assistant Programs?

Graduates of physical therapy assistant programs earn an Associate's Degree in physical therapy. These programs are based upon an intense physical therapy curriculum designed to get the student working in a professional healthcare career in as little as two years of full-time study, which includes summer internships. Currently there are hundreds of colleges that offer this allied health professional training.

Like physical therapists, a physical therapist assistant, or PTA, is a licensed healthcare professional. However a PTA is required to work directly or indirectly under the supervision of a physical therapist. The level of supervision is dependent on the geographic area you wish practice. When choosing physical therapy assistant programs, the student should seek out only those colleges that are CAPTE accredited. This accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education will assure the classes are acceptable in order to be eligible to sit for the licensure examination.

Acceptance into physical therapy assistant programs often requires more than just a high grade point average (GPA)in the major sciences such as biology, chemistry and statistics. Community involvement through volunteer activities, preferably in the healthcare field, is typically required. Other community involvement is highly recommended as well. Another common prerequisite is a letter of recommendation from a licensed physical therapist, typically obtained through volunteer work. Other letters of recommendation from complementary healthcare professionals is often helpful as well.

Since a good portion of training will take place in the form of hands-on practice, when choosing physical therapy assistant programs, the student should consider where this training will take place. Many schools offering this degree program are affiliated with local hospitals and often practice clinical skills in these settings. It is best to research these facilities to assure they are regarded as competent teaching facilities.

In addition to in-class hands-on training sessions, physical therapy assistant programs require a certain number of individual clinic hours, usually during both summer sessions. Clinic hours, often referred to as internships,are typically arrranged in four to six week increments. This is where the student works a 40-hour per week schedule to practice skills on real patients and clients under the direct supervision of a licensed physical therapist. When choosing physical therapy assistant programs,it is also a good idea to request a listing of the facilities where internships are offered to assure the intended career path of the student has a solid base in which to practice skills necessary upon graduation.

Once instruction and training is complete, the student will sit for the licensure exam. However, in many areas, a new graduate may work under a temporary license as long as all requirements are satisfied and the student has taken the licensure exam. Once licensure is completed, the PTA is under obligation to follow all rules and regulations set forth by the state in which they choose to practice.



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