A physical therapy assistant degree is required to work as an assistant in the physical therapy healthcare field. A graduate of a physical therapy assistant program earns an Associate in Applied Science Degree. The curriculum has to meet all of the accreditation requirements of the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. There are more than two hundred programs across the United States.
Most two year programs are full time. Some schools offer their programs with only five regular semesters, and one summer term which is held right after the first year. Some schools offer a few of their courses online but accredited schools are not allowed to offer all of their classes online.
That is because, hands-on training is required and this is done in person in a lab or clinical environment. The two year program typically consists of sixty-nine credits. To graduate, most schools require that students have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher.
This healthcare program will prepare students for a career as a physical therapist assistant who works under the guidance of physical therapists, and will know how to performs many functions as a member of the team. This healthcare field continues to expand and the employment opportunities remain good for working in hospitals, out patient facilities, clinics, and home care.
Standard Course Work
The required classes for a degree usually include abnormal psychology, neuroanatomy and physiology, medical terminology, kinesiology and instrumentation for physical therapy, as well as advanced techniques.
General education classes are also required such as English, psychology, biology, algebra, and speech. In combination with the above classes, students also receive hands-on training through clinical practice at local area health-care facilities.
Other Skills That Are Taught
Physical therapy assistants learn many types of exercises that will increase strength, coordination, endurance, as well as range of motion for clients. Additionally, they learn how to use different therapy treatments that use electricity, sound, water, cold and heat methods to alleviate pain and also to stimulate muscle activity.
Students are taught how to use assistive devices like crutches, walkers, and wheel chairs. A significant part of the program consists of on-site clinical training where students practice their skills while they are being supervised by a licensed physical therapist.
Students learn how to work under the direct supervision of physical therapists in a legal, ethical, and professional manner. They will know how to execute comprehensive treatment plans that have been developed by physical therapists.
Also, students will be taught how to identify the outcomes for clients in a number of settings. Effective oral, non-verbal and written communications skills are also taught in this healthcare program.
Enrolling In A Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Acceptance into a physical therapy assistant program usually requires a very high grade point average in high school, especially in science courses, such as biology and chemistry. Applicants are expected to have some experience in community involvement such as volunteer work in the healthcare field. Some programs require a licensed physical therapist’s letter of recommendation as part of the application process.
After Receiving A Physical Therapy Assistant Degree
After graduation, in order to work as a physical therapy assistant, most states require graduates to pass the National Physical Therapy Assistant Licensing examination. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy regulates the National Physical Therapy Assistant Examination.
All accredited programs will prepare students for their licensure exam. This preparatory course will be somewhat different from the actual exam. The real exam has about two hundred questions, and it might or might not be, entirely computer-based.
There are multiple choice questions and the scoring system is on a scale from two hundred to eight hundred, where six hundred is the minimal passing score. The licensing exam is administered in all states every year and individuals have four hours to complete it. The subject areas that are generally covered in the exam are standards of care, intervention, ethics and codes.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for this career are estimated to increase by forty-six percent from 2010 – 2020, and this is faster than most other occupations. Physical therapy assistant job levels are expected to improve because of the increasing healthcare needs of the growing senior population.