A physical therapist assistant program is an associate’ degree program aimed at preparing students to pass the national licensure exam, known as the National Physical Therapy Examination, and become a practicing physical therapist assistant. These programs offer a combination of academic courses and clinical work, which provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed on the exam and in their place of employment.
The courses you will take in a physical therapist assistant program include basic math and science courses, English and communication courses, and courses in specialized physical therapy techniques. The skills you learn in all of these areas will be invaluable as you work to provide care to patients recovering from illness, injury, or surgery.
It generally takes two years to earn an associate’s degree in applied science, which is the degree you will receive when you graduate from physical therapist assistant school. This includes roughly one or two full terms of intensive clinical practice. Some programs may be shorter, but these schools often require students to take certain math and science prerequisites before entering the official program. Let’s take a look at the structure of a typical physical therapist assistant program.
Students in all associate degree programs are required to complete a core general studies curriculum, which includes courses in math, science, English, and the humanities. You usually take these courses before you start the specific physical therapist assistant program. Most schools have a variety of electives from which to choose.
The foundation courses for physical therapy assistants include medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, college math, general psychology, and English composition. Why English? you may wonder. Well, physical therapist assistants often need to communicate with patients as well as with physical therapists and other health care professionals, so they need solid oral and written communication skills.
After completing the core courses, students move on to courses in patient care skills, tests and data collection, physical therapy exercises and techniques, rehabilitation, and working with special populations. These courses all involve both classroom time and hours spent in the laboratory. Finally, after completing the academic requirements, students move on to their clinical training. The format for clinical training varies, but it is fairly standard for students to spend about sixteen weeks doing hands-on learning in a physical therapy environment. This is when you get your first experiences observing physical therapy in action and working with actual patients.
If you are not yet ready to enroll in a physical therapist assistant program, but would like to take some steps now to prepare for the future, considering taking a few basic math or science courses. This will help you gain valuable knowledge and skills and help you determine whether you are ready for college-level work.