All About Physical Therapy Education

A physical therapy aide (PTA) is a great career option for many people. Typically a PTA provides therapy through:

  • Exercise
  • Therapeutic Methods (electrical stimulation, mechanical traction, ultrasound)
  • Massage
  • Gait and Balance Training

During a typical day on the job, a physical therapy aide will keep the treatment rooms clean and organized, prepared for a patient’s individual therapy, help patients get to and from the treatment area, and assist with other tasks pertaining to crucial patient care. It’s a job that comes with a lot of responsibility and helps prepare patients for quality physical therapy care.

Becoming a physical therapist aide takes a few years of either education or training. Most U.S. states require physical therapy assistants to acquire an associate’s degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Most states allow aides to only receive on the job training, and typically aides don’t obtain formal education.

Physical Therapy Assistant & Aid Programs

Programs vary depending on where they are and the type of training they’re providing you. A typical assistantship program is divided into two different kinds of education: coursework and clinical experience. Coursework is the more educational side that focuses on equipping students with the knowledge needed to move into the experiential side of the program. Clinical experience is where aides get hands-on work with physical therapists before moving into work on their own. These two facets make up two sides of the same coin, so it’s important to have a thorough understanding of both.

Core academic coursework in PTA programs will most likely include the following

  • Algebra
  • English
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Pathology
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Orthopedics
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Advanced Physical Therapy Procedures

Clinical experiences happen in the second year of your PTA program. Typically clinical experiences require students to test their knowledge of physical therapy by working with an actual physical therapist in a doctor’s office or hospital. This will increase your breadth of knowledge through hands-on experience and work.

Clinical work will vary depending on the type of clinical setting you’re in. Most of the core work will remain the same though and typically, the clinical work you work to receive certifications in include:

  • CPR
  • First Aid
  • Massage
  • Hands-on experience

Formal education can be continued in order to also be qualified in administration, management, and education of physical therapy centers and it’s a good way to build up a career. As an aide you can also receive on the job training, which may last a few weeks to a couple months.

Physical Therapy Aide Licensure

Most states require physical therapy assistants to be licensed, but not all states require physical therapy aides to be licenses. Licensure is usually provided upon graduation from an accredited physical therapy assistantship program. A graduate then needs to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam. Additionally many states have their own state-administered exams that graduates must pass. You can check with your state licensing requirements to know what your state requires.

Also check out this great Electronic Keyboard for those that are disabled, it’s a great tool for recommending to patients as well.

Making a Career as a Physical Therapy Aide

All the factors are in place for the physical therapy aide field to accelerate in growth over the coming years. If you haven’t already started the fairly short educational path to becoming one, now is a fantastic time to get started. As the infrastructure is made stronger for the field, job openings will expand, and it will be a great field to get involved in. Since the entire healthcare field will experience rapid growth over the next generation, it only makes sense that physical therapy will. Being an aide will continue to be one of the most accessible areas within healthcare.

Guide to Physical Therapy Assisting Programs

Purdue University – Purdue University is one of the nation’s largest providers of online education. The school has a bachelor program for Health and Wellness as well as Health Science. While these programs will help students in learning many of the credentials needed for physical therapy assisting, on the job training and further education may be required.
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South University – South University offers an AS degree in Physical Therapy Assisting that is designed to be completed in about two years. This program teaches students skills needed to be successful including patient interaction, preparing patients as well as equipment for testing or exams, verifying insurance coverage, filing reports, and ordering supplies. South also offers an AS in Occupational Therapy Assisting and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy
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AT Still University – For students who wish to obtain their education while holding part- or full-time jobs, AT Still University makes that possible by offering an online program for their MS in Physician Assistant Studies. This program is designed for students seeking a career in healthcare and helps prepare them for various positions like Physical Therapy Aide.
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