How to Choose a Physical Therapy Assisting Program

With a growing employment rate and an average yearly salary of over $52,000, it’s not surprising that more and more people are training in the area of physical therapy assisting.

Physical therapy assistants work right alongside physical therapy doctors, providing care and rehabilitation for patients. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Observing patients and reporting back to the physical therapist
  • Helping patients with specific exercises and movements
  • Helping patients using rehabilitation equipment like walkers
  • Working with patients and their families to educate them about treatment, and life after treatment

A physical therapy assistant is also trained in hands on treatment and can also help to work with patients, under the guidance and supervision of a qualified and licensed physical therapist. Some of the ways they work with patients are:

  • Supervising and demonstrating certain exercises
  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Walking and balance training
  • Other therapy, including electric stimulation, traction, and ultrasound

Because physical therapy is a natural, drug free way to promote healing and pain relief in the body, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are finding themselves in demand in more and more departments and specialty areas, like pediatric and cardiovascular units. This is great for both job security and job flexibility. But in the quest to establish a successful physical therapy career, there are several steps someone should take first.

Since physical therapy assistant have to be licensed to practice in the United State, the American Physical Therapy Association – the organization that oversees the qualifying of those who practice in the physical therapy field – stresses the importance of finding an education program that is accredited. Any student who has graduated from a school that is not accredited according to the APTA education guidelines will not be able to sit through their licensing examination. While looking into accreditation, it would also be good to look into licensure pass rates to see how often graduates are able to go on to earn their certification as physical therapy assistants – this is often the mark of a solid program.

There are, of course, other things to consider when choosing a program. The first is curriculum, and the types of classes required to graduate. It’s helpful to have an initial interest in science and anatomy, as most programs that lead to physical therapy assistant certification will focus on the science of the body. Some classes that might be required during the program would be kinesiology, medical terminology, and pathology, as well as others that center around anatomy and physiology. It might also be helpful to make sure that the school offers good quality labs and facilities, as there will likely be laboratory components to the program.

But the most important things when looking at a physical therapy program are making sure that it matches your wants and needs as a student. Does it have a flexible schedule if you need to still work while going to school? Can you take any components online? Does it work around any financial restrictions you may have, or offer financial aid? What is the length of the program and does that fit into your career and education goals?

The field of physical therapy is one that is not only growing, but is truly helping people. Those who work as physical therapy assistants can expect to work hard, but also to make a difference in the day to day lives of the patients they work with.

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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