Physical therapy assistants work closely with physical therapists to diagnose and treat patients who have sought out their services. People who choose to be PTs or PT assistants are often compassionate people who enjoy helping others and would get personal satisfaction out of seeing others improve. They also have an interest in the physical body and anatomy and would enjoy learning about nerves, bones, and muscle groups. PT assistants additionally hold administrative responsibilities, so they typically are organized, detail-oriented, and have strong communication skills. If you think you fit this description, becoming a PT assistant is a great idea for you. Not only will it be a good fit, but you’ll benefit from a career path that will be growing rapidly over the next ten years. Furthermore, you only have to go to school to earn an associate’s degree, instead of a typical four-year degree. If you’ve decided to go ahead with this option, follow these steps to make your career goals a reality.
Step One: Research Educational Programs
There are a lot of different options for you in terms of physical therapy assistant school. The fact that you must get an associate’s degree doesn’t limit you very much. There are around 280 programs in the country that will allow you to graduate with a degree in physical therapy assisting! When you’re considering where to go to school, ask yourself a few important questions. How far am I willing to travel to go to school? What does my schedule need to look like? Should I focus on schools that offer evening, weekend, and summer classes? Do I want to take some courses online? Are there any specific classes that I would like to take? How much can I afford to spend? How big do I want my classes to be? My school? If you can answer these questions and paint a picture about your ideal institution, the chances are you will have narrowed your choices down quite a bit.
Step Two: Apply and Obtain Prerequisites
Each school will have their own admission process. Some schools allow you to apply to the physical therapist assistant program right away, and others require that you apply first to the school and then complete prerequisites before you apply to this specific program. You will have to fill out an application, which you can usually do either online or on paper. If you choose to fill out a paper application, you can usually find a downloadable form on the website. Most institutions make their decision about applicants by looking at a variety of factors, including most recent calculated GPA and test scores. If you first enter into a general associate’s program, you’ll have to complete prerequisites, which are also called general education requirements. Once you have completed these general classes, which often include English, history, and math, you can apply to the PTA program. The admissions board will look at your GPA and may ask to interview before making decisions about applicants.
Step Three: Complete Final Degree Requirements
The last step in your educational career will be to take specific classes required by all PTA degree-seeking students. These may include classes in patient care, movement science, and musculoskeletal and neuromuscular PT. You’ll have to work hard to keep your grades up in these classes so that you can complete the program on time. Plus, the better performance you have in these courses, the more likely you are to excel in your professional career.
Step Four: Look for Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs
Once you are armed with a degree, you can set out to look for jobs in your chosen career path. If you were lucky enough to be offered an internship when you were in school, your relevant work experience will help you in your search. Because it is a burgeoning field, more people are seeking degrees in this area, so competition is likely to be fierce. If necessary, you might have to take a job as a PT aide or office assistant and then work your way into a PTA spot once it becomes available.