Physical Therapist Aide Certificate and Certification Programs

Find out about educational programs and certification processes for aspiring physical therapist aides. Read about the job responsibilities of a physical therapist aide and assistant. Find out more about prerequisites and courses taken in a degree program, as well as continuing education, licensing, employment outlook and salary info.

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Essential Information

Although physical therapist aides and assistants may share certain tasks, the two roles are quite different. Physical therapy aides are most often responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and orderly. They may help order supplies and assist patients as they move to and from their session. This work group does not generally need formal training or certification.

Physical therapist assistants, on the other hand, are more directly involved in patient care and may execute many of the same tasks as the physical therapist. While there is very little formal training for aides, physical therapy assistants must be formally certified. Thus, educational programs target prospective physical therapist assistants rather than aides.

Physical therapist assistants obtain their qualifications through degree programs rather than certificate programs. Most physical therapist assistant degree programs lead to an Associate of Science. These programs generally last two years and introduce students to a variety of related medical topics. This education combines classroom instruction with clinical training. Courses are generally taken in medical terminology, kinesiology and pathophysiology. Graduates are prepared to pursue necessary certification in the field.

Educational Prerequisites

Most physical therapy assistant associate degree programs require students to hold a high school diploma or equivalent before applying. Many programs also require that students complete a certain number of hours of physical therapy observation in an approved clinic.

Program Coursework

Students in an associate degree physical therapy assistant program are exposed to a wide range of therapy-related subjects in a combination of classroom coursework and hands-on, clinical experience. Some of the possible topics included in such a curriculum are listed below.

  • Medical terminology
  • Fundamentals of physical therapy
  • Kinesiology
  • Issues in clinical practice
  • Pathophysiology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, the employment of physical therapy aides is expected to grow by 43% between 2010 and 2020. The BLS also states that, as of May of 2012, the mean hourly wage for physical therapist aides was $12.22.

Continuing Education and Licensure Information

Depending on the state in which they practice, physical therapist assistants may be required to be formally certified. This usually involves passing a certification exam administered by the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE).

Some states may also have other requirements like completion of fieldwork hours and CPR certification. Physical therapy assistants may advance their career by specializing in a particular aspect of the field. They may also use their experience to pursue a career as a physical therapist. Physical therapy aides do not need to be licensed in order to work.

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