We're excited that you're considering a career in physical therapy.
Before you submit your question to a current student, please review these frequently asked questions:
What is the best PTA program in the US?
Review the information provided under the header "Ranking" on the Physical Therapist Assistant Careers Overview page.
How do I choose a PTA program?
Review the guidance provided under the header "Choosing the Right Program" on the Physical Therapist Assistant Education Overview page.
How do I improve my chances of being admitted to a PTA program?
There are no standard admission requirements for PTA education, although many require a competitive grade point average (GPA), volunteer experience in a physical therapy clinic, and a letter of reference from a physical therapist. To improve your chances of being admitted, work hard to maintain good grades and volunteer in two or more types of physical therapy clinics where you can get to know the staff and they know you well enough to speak to your aptitude in physical therapy.
How do I find physical therapists or clinics that allow pre-PTA students to visit and observe?
Many programs require applicants to have a certain number of volunteer or paid PT experiences working with patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. The program may specify the settings and types of experiences required. Applicants may also be required to have a licensed physical therapist verify the hours. This experience may be an important factor in the admissions process. Respectfully contact physical therapy clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities (eg, nursing homes), and other healthcare settings in your area to find observation opportunities. APTA cannot assist you in these efforts.
Should I repeat a class, if I didn't do well the first time?
It's generally a good idea to retake prerequisite science courses, if you didn't do well the first time. Before you decide to repeat, be sure you are well prepared and confident in your ability to perform better the next time. Programs may average your grades or only consider the highest or most recent attempts. Applicants who achieve good grades the first time may be at a competitive advantage in the admissions process as compared to those who don't. Each program will evaluate your academic history differently. Contact programs directly for additional information.
I already have a related degree in healthcare. Can I finish the PTA program in less time?
A degree in a related discipline often reduces the time it takes to complete the PTA degree because the general education component may already have been met. Applicants who have earned a degree in a related field must still complete all of the PTA knowledge and skills courses in the program. Please contact PTA programs directly to determine if your general education courses will transfer.
Would it help me in the PTA admissions process to first become a physical therapy aide or technician?
Being a physical therapy aide or technician first will increase your exposure to the physical therapy environment. However, this is not a requirement. Aide and technician jobs can be difficult to find.
If I have a criminal record, can I enroll in a PTA program and be licensed as a physical therapist assistant?
PTA education programs may ask applicants to disclose any previous felony or misdemeanor convictions as part of the application process. A criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from enrolling in a PTA program; however, failure to disclose any past or pending charges may be grounds for dismissal. Criminal background checks and/or drug tests are used to verify your eligibility to participate in clinical education, confirm your eligibility for PTA licensure, and ensure patient safety. Contact PTA programs directly for institution-specific criminal background check policies. Also review the APTA criminal background checks report (.pdf) and information on the PTCAS website.
You may also want to contact the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) at www.fsbpt.org to determine whether a criminal record may prevent you from obtaining a PTA license/certification in a particular state in the future.
Can I complete a PTA degree program online or part-time?
Only a few PT programs offer distance, weekend, and part-time formats. Visit the CAPTE directory of PTA programs and use the 'A5' key code to filter the list.
What financial aid is available to PTA students?
Review the scholarships, awards, and grants information provided for current PT students.
What are the differences between PTAs and COTAs?
Physical therapist assistants and occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) both serve important functions as members of the rehabilitation team. Both PTAs and COTAs have completed challenging associate degree education programs; are licensed/certified healthcare providers; and provide hands-on patient care under the direction of a physical therapist for PTA or occupational therapist for COTA. While both PTAs and COTAs assist the therapist in helping individuals attain the highest possible level of function in the presence of or after injury or disease, the PTA's focus is typically on restoring movement, including, ambulation, sport, and fitness through the use of therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and activity training. PTAs have a broad scope of work and work in a wide variety of clinical settings. COTAs use everyday activities as part of patient treatments to help patients return to normal activities of living, like bathing, preparing meals, driving a car, working, etc. They also may assist the OT in fitting arm and hand braces. For more information on COTAs and what they do, go to www.aota.org.
After graduation, what are the career opportunities for a PTA?
Review the Physical Therapist Assistant Careers Overview page for information on PTA career opportunities, including Recognition of Advanced Proficiency for the PTA.
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Tyler King is a current student in a physical therapist assistant education program and serves as PTA delegate for the Student Assembly Board of Directors.