Physical Therapist Assistant Program
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
For better understanding of how to successfully enter this program, applicants are urged to read these Question and Answer pages thoroughly.
Q: What is Physical Therapy?
A: Physical Therapy focuses on the treatment and prevention of injuries and illnesses through the use of exercise and functional training in activities of daily living which may include teaching people to walk again or walk with assistive devices such as walkers, crutches, or canes. Physical therapists also use modalities such as water, electricity and sound to treat injuries. Persons who work in the field of physical therapy work closely with patients and other healthcare professionals to help the individual achieve an optimal level of function. Physical therapy professionals have the opportunity to make a positive difference in an individual’s quality of life!
Q: Who practices Physical Therapy?
A: Physical Therapy is practiced by both Physical Therapists (PT) and Physical Therapists Assistants (PTA). The Physical Therapist is primarily responsible for patient evaluation and development of a plan of care. The Physical Therapist Assistant works under the supervision of a Physical Therapist and is responsible for implementation of the physical therapy plan of care.
Q: What is the role of a Physical Therapist Assistant?
A: The PTA is an educated health care provider who assists the physical therapist in the provision of physical therapy including physical therapy procedures, patient assessment, and related tasks. Under the supervision of a physical therapist the tasks performed by the PTA may include but are not limited to effectively communicating through listening, speaking, reading & writing in English with a variety of patients, assessing patient progress, gathering patient information, performing data collection of muscle strength and patient function, taking vital signs, patient transfer and gait training, manipulation of exercise equipment, exercise instruction, application of various modalities, patient handling and facilitation skills, palpation, and wound care. The PTA may practice in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health, schools, research centers, industry, wellness & fitness centers, skilled nursing facilities, and long-term care.
Q: What is the difference in the background of a PT & PTA?
A: There are differences in the length of education, degree earned, responsibilities and income. Physical Therapists must attain a Masters or Doctoral Degree. The majority of Physical Therapist programs have already moved to a Doctoral Degree which takes approximately 7 years to complete full time. Physical Therapist Assistants obtain an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree which takes 2 years to complete on a full time basis.
Q: Where do PT’s & PTAs work?
A: Both PTs and PTAs may work in private practice therapy offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, home health agencies, fitness clubs, industrial health centers, nursing homes, pediatric centers, community health centers, colleges or universities.
Q: What types of patients are seen by PTs & PTAs?
A: PTs and PTAs work with persons of all ages. A few specific areas may include children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, and individuals with who have had a stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, broken bone, back injury to name a few.
Q: What kind of background do I need to apply to PT or PTA school?
A: You will need a strong background in science, math and English. Entrance into a PT or PTA program is competitive so you will need a good grade point average (GPA) in your college prerequisite courses.
Q: What if I decide I want to become a PT after I become a PTA? How would I do that?
A: There are several programs that are designed for the PTA who wants to become a PT. The American Physical Therapy Association website has a current list of accredited programs that offer bridge programs.
For more information about Physical Therapy, Physical Therapist Assistant Programs, bridge program for PTAs wanting to become a Physical Therapist, and Physical Therapy Programs go to the following links:
American Physical Therapy Association:
Arkansas Physical Therapy Association:
Q: When can I apply to the Physical Therapist Assistant Program?
A: PTA Program applications are due the first Monday in March each year. Students should turn in the PTA Program application in March if they have completed all the pre-requisite courses OR if they will complete all the pre-requisite courses by the end of that spring semester. After all spring grades are turned in, the rank of the applicants are calculated and letters go out to applicants informing them if they were accepted about 1-2 weeks after the end of the spring semester.
Q: Where do I find the PTA Program Application:
A: The PTA Program Application will be available on the PTA Program website by October for the next year. For example in October 2009 the PTA Program application for applicants applying for the 2010 class will be available.
Q: If I am accepted into the PTA Program, when does it start?
A: The 1st or 2nd week of June
Q: How long will it take to complete this program?
A: The program actually has two sections -- two full time semesters of prerequisite courses and three semesters (summer, fall, spring and summer) of the technical program courses and clinical work. Students can complete their prerequisites on either a full-time or part-time basis. Most general education classes are offered during the day and in the evening. After acceptance into the PTA Program students MUST attend the program full time they cannot be take the PTA Program courses on a part-time basis. Students will be in class almost 40 hours a week primarily from 8:30 to 4:30 depending on instructor availability
Q: I must work while going to school. What is the maximum number of hours suggested that I should work during a semester?
A: The program’s curriculum is strenuous and must be taken on a full time basis, so students should try to minimize all other demands on their time so they will have more time to study. It is suggested that students with part-time jobs work no more than 10 hours a week
Q: I have taken some of the prerequisite courses at another college or university. Will these courses transfer, and will I get credit for them for this program?
A: It depends on whether the course descriptions are the same for both institutions. If they match, credit for the course will probably be given. Applicants in this situation will need to check with the Registrar's Office or the PTA Program Director to find out if the courses transfer. Send a copy of your transcript to Registrar's Office for a transcript evaluation.
Q: How is selection made for this program?
A: Students are ranked using criteria from the following: PHTA 2105 Clinical Kinesiology in Physical Therapy final grade percentage, cumulative GPA of science and general education courses, and clinical observation and interview scores. A breakdown of the % of each of the categories toward rank is available in the PTA Program Application and on the PTA Program website.
Q: What are the grade requirements if I am accepted to the Physical Therapist Assistant program?
A: Student must have a "C" or greater in all required courses.
Q: Is hospital experience included in the program?
A: Yes, clinical practice is scheduled for PTA students during their training in the program. Students receive credit and a grade for their clinical experience while they are taking their didactic PTA courses. Students will receive more intensive training in a physical therapy setting during the last summer of the program. This serves as the clinical internships. This clinical experience will be provided in a variety of physical therapy settings and sites. The PTA program has over 40 sites in 4 states.
Q: Is transportation provided from the college to the clinical settings?
A: No. Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from classes and clinical sites. During clinical internships, students are responsible for their own housing. Some clinical internships are located out of town and out of state.
Q: Is this program accredited?
A: Yes. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accredits the program.
Q: When I finish this program, will I be a Physical Therapist Assistant?
A: Students who finish the program will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in Physical Therapist Assistant from NorthWest Arkansas Community College, and will be eligible to take any applicable licensing exams in the United States.
Q: Will I be a licensed PTA upon successful completion of this program?
A: No. You must take the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination given by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. This examination is given by appointment and is computerized. Once passed, you will be granted a license to practice physical therapy as a PTA in the state you apply for licensure to.
Q: What is the typical salary of a physical therapist assistant and how good is the job market in this field?
A: The salary will vary based upon the facility and geographic location in which you choose to work. Starting salary ranges from approximately $18 - $30 / hour. The mean salary the past few years has been $20 dollars per hour. Jobs are available in the field.
Q: Will the college find a job for me upon graduation?
A: No. The college is not involved in job placement. However, information regarding job availability will be made available as it is received.
Q: What are the costs of the program?
A: For the class admitted in June 2012, the cost of the PTA Program after admission into the technical phase of the program (so this amount does NOT include the cost of the pre-requisite courses) is approximately $6,500.00 for students that are in-district and approximately $8,800.00 for students who are out of district. The costs listed above include: Tuition, fees, books, one urine drug screen, and one background check.
Cost can vary considerably with changes in tuition, fees, and prices of books. Check the current catalog for tuition and fees.
Q: Do I get any vacation time during the year of PTA school?
A: Yes. Most vacations that the college observes while in the academic component, and any days observed by the clinical site.
Q: Do we get any training or practice in Physical Therapy departments during the program?
A: Yes. You will spend 1 day/week for 8 weeks during the fall semester and 3 weeks (40 hours/wk) at a clinical site during the spring semester for clinical training. During the final summer semester, you will have two clinical internships with 5 weeks at each site for a total of 10 weeks (40 hours/week).
Q: Do I receive any pay for clinical time?
A: No. Your clinical education is part of the curriculum, not employment. The student pays tuition during clinical rotations.
Q: Are uniforms and name tags provided?
A: No. You will be required to purchase them.
Q: May I choose the physical therapy department at which I want to spend my clinical time?
A: No. You will be allowed to specify first and second choices, but assignments will be made based on availability and discretion of the program. You could be assigned to any of the clinical facilities used by this program.
Q: Do I need to have malpractice insurance while working in the clinical?
A: Yes. The cost of malpractice insurance per person is included in the fees of the PTA Program.
Q: If I am still in high school, what courses should I take now to prepare myself for a career as a Physical Therapist Assistant?
A: Physical Science, Biology, Physiology, Chemistry, Algebra, Spanish, Public Speaking, etc. Volunteering in a Physical Therapy department or participating in health career clubs would also be helpful.
Q: May I take the program at night?
A: The PTA courses are offered at varying times throughout the week. You will not be able to choose class times or days. These will be assigned. The general education courses required as prerequisites are often offered during the day as well as at night.
Q: How much time per week will I actually spend in classes?
A: Once in the program, you are in classes/clinicals approximately 35-40 hours per week.
Q: After I graduate, may I work in another state?
A: Yes. You must take a licensure exam in order to practice. However, a few states do not require licensure.
If you pass the examination in Arkansas, generally, you can be granted a license in most other states through reciprocity (see each state practice act for details).
Q: Do I have to have a physical by a physician as part of the PTA Program Application?
A Yes. Students applying to the PTA Program must have a physical by a physician. The physician must complete the “Physician Certification of Physical Abilities” form. The Physician Certification of Physical Abilities form is included in the PTA Program Application.
Q: Are there any other requirements for ESL students?
A: Yes. All ESL students seeking admission into the PTA Program are required to complete the COMPASS ESL Listening Test. The ESL listening test is a component of the COMPASS test which is a college placement and diagnostic test for mathematics, reading and writing skills in addition to the ESL placement component. A level 4 score on the COMPASS ESL Listening Test is required for ESL students applying to the PTA Program.
Q: What are the clinical education requirements?
A: For students to be placed in the clinical setting for the clinical experiences and clinical internships, they must have and provide proof of health insurance, a criminal background check performed, a urine drug screen, annual TB skin test, and go through CPR Certification. Students must also follow other clinical facility policies. In addition, students may be required to go to health care institutions outside Northwest Arkansas for clinical internships at the student's expense.
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