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Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) Schools and Training Programs

Are you interested in working with people to help get them back on track? Consider a career as a physical therapy assistant or physical therapy aide, also known as a PTA.  These professionals help patients with treatments to restore function, relieve pain, and prevent permanent physical impairment. As a physical therapist assistant, you may work with accident victims as well as patients with fractures, arthritis, back pain or head injuries.

There is a slight distinction between physical therapy aides and assistants. Physical therapist assistants may provide patients with exercise instruction, therapies like electrical stimulation or massage, and balance training, all under the supervision of the physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants also must record their patients’ responses to treatment and report them to the therapist.

Physical therapist aides usually prepare and maintain the treatment area and help patients who need assistance in moving. Aides often do some clerical tasks, such as answering phones and doing insurance paperwork. In some states, they are not allowed to perform clinical tasks.

The work of a physical therapist assistant or aide requires a moderate degree of strength. Frequent kneeling, stooping, bending, and standing for long periods are part of the job, and so is the need to lift patients.

Training to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant or Aide

Training for physical therapy assistants is divided into academic coursework and hands-on clinical experience. Students take courses such as anatomy and physiology, psychology and English. Supervised clinical work is an essential component of learning to be a physical therapist assistant. It includes certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other first aid techniques, and field experience in treatment centers. Physical therapist assistant training programs typically last two years and result in an associate degree.

There is no academic requirement to become a physical therapist aide, on the other hand. However, additional training may increase job opportunities and allow for future advancement.

Licensing and Certification Options

Not all states require a physical therapist assistant to possess a license. However, most states regulate physical therapist assistants in some way – through licensure, registration, or certification. The most common requirements are for physical therapist assistants to graduate from an accredited education program and to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam.

The standards for certification are established by the American Physical Therapy Association. They involve both classroom work and hands-on practical experience.

Employment and Job Growth for Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) predicts that physical therapist aide and assistant employment will grow 35 percent from 2008 through 2018, much faster than average. As the United States population ages, the number of individuals with disabilities and medical conditions with limited physical function will spur the demand for physical therapy aides and assistants.

Other factors driving employment in the field include the push for reduced costs throughout the health care field, which is expected to encourage physical therapists to make better uses of assistants. Settings that serve elderly patients, such as acute hospitals, rehabilitation, and orthopedic clinics are also likely to have more opportunities. With medical advances, growing numbers of surviving victims will need physical therapy to overcome or improve disabling conditions.

In 2010, 72 percent of physical therapist assistants and aides worked in hospitals and physical therapy offices, according to the bls.gov. The rest worked in nursing care facilities, offices of physicians, home health care services, and outpatient care centers.

How Much Money Can You Make in the Physical Therapy Field?

The median annual salary for a physical therapist assistant was $46,140 in 2008, the bls.gov reports. Physical therapist aides earned a median salary of $23,760. Nursing care facilities were among the highest-paying employers, while physicians’ offices paid the least.

Additional Resources Individuals Pursuing Degrees in Physical Therapy Assisting and Aiding
American Physical Therapy Association
Bureau of Labor Statistics Data for Physical Therapy Assistants

Campus and Online Physical Therapy Schools

 
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Brightwood College

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Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.


California University of Pennsylvania

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Southern California Health Institute

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American Career College

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American Career College (ACC) offers hands-on training that will prepare students for careers in the healthcare industry at three campuses in Los Angeles, Ontario, and Orange County, California.


San Joaquin Valley College

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California College San Diego

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Capella University

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South University, Online Programs

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Grand Canyon University

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Institute of Technology

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US Colleges

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Unitek College

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