PTA Training Overview

If you want to start your physical therapy assistant (PTA) education, you should know that it’s going to take you around two years to get and associate degree from institution, approved by CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). These programs fully prepare students to enter the PT field having all needed skills and knowledge. After accomplishing the program, in order to practice as PTA in most of the states, you will need to undergo certification and obtain a license.

Goal of PTA degree

The main goal of PTA training program is to train students to become service-oriented healthcare professionals that have full knowledge of the field, can adapt to different working conditions, competent in what they do, so that can work with less direct supervision. Future physical therapy assistants will learn how to perform their job duties in the safe, legal, ethical and effective way, including data-based work and work with patients themselves, ensuring their safety and positive response to procedures provided. Of course, this all is done under supervision of physical therapist.

Apart of their direct job duties, during the training future PTA’s are prepared to effectively work with patients, members of their families; within their own healthcare team and other providers of healthcare service.

This means ensuring the highest level of support to patients by taking in the account cultural, personal and economical differences. Being highly-skilled in their own field, physical therapy assistants are able to teach and guide other healthcare specialists with the help of supervising physical therapist.

Physical therapy assistant is considered an entry-level occupation, therefore, degrees that prepare students for this career, are associate degrees in most of the cases.

PTA Degree Curriculum

Training programs take approximately 2 years to accomplish and consist of 5 semesters. They include subjects from clinical education, physical therapy courses as a core and also general education courses. Core subjects usually are the following: exercise physiology, biomechanics, anatomy & physiology, kinesiology, clinical pathology, neuroscience, behavioral sciences, ethics and effective communication.

More importantly, these programs don’t only provide theoretical part, but a very extensive practical component. Thus, PTA students undergo 16-week training in real healthcare facilities. The split between classroom/lab study and clinical education is 75/25 percent respectively.

How to choose a PTA program?

First of all, your program of choice should be accredited by CAPTE. This is the only officially recognized agency that verifies PTA training programs. The reason is simple: if your program is not approved by CAPTE, you won’t be allowed to take PTA license exam. Without PTA license, you can only work in Hawaii and Colorado. In all other states it’s an absolute must.

You should also be aware that some of PTA schools offer a part of their curriculum via online study. You can check our state-by-state PTA Schools Directory to find programs near you. Don’t hesitate to request more info from the school you like – members of admission committees will happy to help and advise on the best option in your situation. When choosing the school here are important factors you should consider:

• CAPTE accreditation
• Admission requirements
• Amount of enrolled PTA students and size of your class
• Demographics of your class
• Program curriculum
• Clinical education facilities
• Costs involved, financial aid and scholarship options
• Employment success & licensure pass rates

To verify most of the above requesting information directly from the school is enough. However, after having all this info in your hands, you might want to contact current students and graduates to get a view from a different perspective.

PTA School Rankings

We’re often asked where official ranking of PTA schools can be found. The thing is, there are none. Reason: since schools are CAPTE-accredited, quality of education they provide is already verified. Therefore, if you graduate from a school like this, you will be ready for licensure and real work. Unless you will practice in Colorado and Hawaii (where licensure is not obligatory), however, lots of employers from these states also want to see you PTA license as a verification of your knowledge and skills.

PTA Schools Cost

Cost of an actual program varies greatly on a number of factors, but the main is type of setup where the training is provided – whether it’s online or in-campus (can be public or private).
In 2014 average rate are the following:

Public: $7,900
Private: $28,000

Some of the schools can offer various financial aid options. You should also look for scholarships that can be provided by schools themselves or PT organizations.