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Physical Therapist Assistant Frequently Asked Questions

 

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) describes the role of a PTA as "provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. PTAs help people of all ages who have medical problems, or other health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.” Additionally, the APTA states the PTA will “implement selected components of patient/client interventions (treatment), obtain data related to the interventions provided, and make modifications in selected interventions either to progress the patient/client as directed by the physical therapist or to ensure patient/client safety and comfort.” More information can be found at APTA website: http://www.apta.org/PTACareers/

The Physical Therapist (PT) and the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) differ in educational preparation and levels of responsibilities as it relates to the provision of physical therapy services.

Education

  • PT = Doctorate degree
  • PTA = Associate degree

Responsibilities

  • PT = can work autonomously; performs patient evaluation; develops goals and designs the plan of care
  • PTA = can only work under the supervision and direction of a PT; addresses the patient’s goals by following the plan of care but cannot independently alter or deviate from the plan of care

The PTA has a working knowledge of the theory behind treatment interventions, knows pathological conditions being treated, and understands how to apply modalities and techniques used to treat those conditions. The PT has extensive education in evaluative skills, research, and administration, as well as advanced coursework in human anatomy, neuroanatomy, orthopedics, pathology, and therapeutic techniques. Both the PT and the PTA must graduate from accredited programs and pass a licensing examination in order to practice in their respective roles.

The PT performs the initial examination and evaluation of the patient. The evaluation will result in a physical therapy diagnosis, and as appropriate, the PT will establish goals or outcomes to be accomplished by a physical therapy plan of care and treatment plan. The PTA cannot perform the initial examination or evaluation; however, the PTA may assist the PT in collecting data. Following the evaluation of the patient, the PTA may perform selected interventions and data collection as directed by the PT. The collaborative relationship between the PT/PTA is highly effective and valued, and the team greatly contributes to the success of the overall rehabilitation process.

PTAs work in hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, rehabilitation centers, schools, pediatric facilities, and specialized clinics. PTAs may serve in leadership roles such as management of facilities or director of clinical education for facilities. Qualified PTA’s may also teach in CAPTE accredited colleges and universities.

The employment outlook for PTAs is generally very good throughout the United States at the present time. In the Kentucky/Southern Indiana market, the job outlook is very positive. Our graduates have historically reported little to no difficulties in securing employment. In fact, our recent surveys indicate that 100% of graduates responding are employed as physical therapist assistants. Employment trends for the PTA have historically been positive, despite the profession moving though a changing healthcare market.

Today's market indicates a demand for both PTs and PTAs through 2024 of at least a 40% increase.  Aging & baby boomers advances in medical technologies, and a renewed emphasis on health and wellness are all contributing factors to the continued growth of the physical therapy profession. Current graduates enjoy a variety of practice opportunities in an open employment market.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for a physical therapist assistant is $56,610 depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location, and practice setting. In general for the state of Kentucky, new graduates can expect to earn a minimum of $40,000 annual salary.

Physical Therapist Assistants must complete all of the Associate Degree requirements set forth by the PTA Program curriculum and graduate from a college that has been granted accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After graduation, the student must apply for licensure within the primary state of preferred employment. Once the graduation and application for licensure has been completed, the student must register to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination for Physical Therapist Assistants.

  • Step 1: meet with an advisor and plan out your general education courses to maximize your opportunity to be selected for enrollment in the Program. The PTA Program is a selective admission program, meaning that not all students who are interested may enroll in the required courses. Grades earned in the general education courses weigh heavily in the point system for admission. Emphasis is placed on successful completion of the human anatomy and physiology courses, as well as the oral and written communication courses.  
  • Step 2: attend a preadmission conference. Students may only receive the application materials by attending or sending a representative to attend the preadmission conference.  The conference provides detailed information regarding the required courses, application requirements, and application process.
  • Step 3: work to maximize the points earned toward selective admission and turn in the completed application prior to the due date. If your application is not selected for admission, you may choose to reapply for the following year, however the entire application process must be repeated.

Students are strongly encouraged to read through the curriculum guide and review this web site prior to meeting with an advisor. Individual academic advising is available for any student interested in physical therapy as a career. The Jefferson Advising Center is located on the second floor of the library on the Downtown Campus.

Students may also schedule an appointment for academic advising during the designated advising hours as outlined on the faculty door schedules.  Faculty offices are located on the Downtown Campus on the 4th floor of the Health Sciences Hall.

With Jefferson Community & Technical College's "integrated" program format, the only absolute prerequisite for the first semester PTA program course is the successful completion of BIO137, Human Anatomy & Physiology I. Successful completion is defined as a grade of "C" or better. Students applying to the program must have already successfully completed BIO137, be currently enrolled in BIO137, or be planning to take this course during the summer semester. Students will not be allowed to begin the program without successful completion of BIO137. Students admitted to the PTA program must successfully complete BIO139, Human Anatomy & Physiology II, prior to beginning the second semester (1st Spring) program coursework. Students may integrate other general education courses as desired, however, all general education coursework must be completed prior to beginning the second year of the PTA program.

No. The physical therapist assistant program is not a stepping-stone for a degree in physical therapy. If you are interested in a career as a PT, you should contact selected physical therapy programs to learn about program admission requirements. Although each PT school may have slightly different admission requirements, you should be able to complete the majority of prerequisite courses at Jefferson Community & Technical College. The general education courses required of the PTA degree will count as general education credit towards a bachelor's degree, however, not all colleges accept the PTA Program-specific courses.

Students wishing to apply to the PTA Program must compile the following documentation

  1. Official transcripts “issued to student” from EACH INDIVIDUAL INSTITUTION that granted credit hours for a course. Students who have only completed courses from KCTCS schools are exempt from this requirement, as the KCTCS transcripts will be readily accessible to the Jefferson selective admission committee.
  2. Proof of the ACT Composite Score record. The writing portion is not required.
  3. If applicable, a letter to verify employment in a health-related industry. This letter must be signed by the employer, provide an original signature, and provide contact information. Work experience is not required, however, it does provide bonus points.
  4. If applicable, proof of military service for yourself or a spouse.

Take advantage of both math and science elective courses while in high school. Courses like Anatomy, Chemistry, Physics, Algebra and Calculus, will also help your performance on the ACT. Reading and English courses are also imperative as health care workers require sufficient communication skills to interact with individuals and to communicate their needs promptly and effectively.

If you plan on enrolling at Jefferson and applying to the PTA program immediately upon graduation, you will need to plan ahead. The deadline for application to the PTA Program is April 1 of the year for which you are applying for admission. This means that you will need to attend a spring pre-admission conference and/or meet with the PTA Program Coordinator during your senior year of high school. You will also need to take the ACT or SAT, as this exam is a minimum requirement for program admission.

When you begin your college coursework, you must be prepared to take BIO137 (Human Anatomy & Physiology I) during the first summer semester immediately following your graduation. In order to register for this course, you will need to demonstrate your academic preparedness by achieving certain benchmarks on either the ACT or Jefferson's assessment test, which is a general assessment test given to entering freshmen. Students falling below these marks must complete other academic requirements before registering for BIO137. For more information, please contact the assessment center.