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Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant

Become a Physical Therapy Assistant...

Physical Therapy Assistant Resources...

Interested in becoming a physical therapy assistant? If you start out with a roadmap, you’ll be more likely to succeed. The following steps were designed with high school students in mind, but most apply to high school graduates as well.

  1. Make sure you are academically prepared to study at the college level. Physical therapy assistant positions often require at least an associate degree.

  2. Get some health care experience. Resources may include your local AHEC (Area Health Education Center) or school vocational center.

    Meanwhile, prep for the ACT or SAT and continue to work toward graduation.

  3. Research programs. Your program must be accredited by CAPTE (the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). The American Physical Therapy Association also advises students to consider factors like class size, pass rates on licensing exams, clinical opportunities, opportunities for extracurricular activities, and employment success of graduates.

  4. Graduate from high school and take prerequisite courses. These may include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and composition. Fulfill other requirements necessary for program entrance (vaccines, health screenings etc.).

  5. Work on your classwork and clinical requirements. Join a professional organization like the American Physical Therapy Association Student Assembly. It is open to students of both physical therapy and physical therapy assistant programs.

  6. Take the licensing exam.

  7. Now it’s time to find a position. Most jobs are in hospitals or physical therapist offices, but schools, home health, and rehab facilities also hire PTAs. Your state likely has a workforce site where you can post a resume and apply for jobs. However, not all jobs will be posted there. Other resources include the American Physical Therapy Association and TherapyJobs.com -- you can apply for a number of positions online. And don’t forget the value of networking.

Personality Traits: Employers look for candidates who are reliable, energetic, and have good people skills. Job postings often note that you will need to collaborate in an effective manner with other team members.