Physical Therapist Assistant Certification and Certificate Programs
Physical therapist assistants work closely with physical therapists to alleviate patients' pain, improve their mobility and lessen the symptoms of physical disabilities. A physical therapist assistant certificate program is the first step toward gaining the skills necessary to work in a professional setting.
Physical Therapist Assistant Certificate
Physical therapist assistants provide care to patients by helping them perform exercises, applying hot, cold or electrical stimuli, administering massages and maintaining their records for the supervising physical therapist. Since physical therapist assistants must earn at least an associate degree in order to work in their field, certificate programs allow students to obtain foundational training that prepares them for formal 2-year degree programs. Certificate programs usually last one year, and they are sometimes known as pre-physical therapy assistant programs.
Schools offering certificate programs typically require students to have a high school diploma or GED. Although not specifically required, a high school background in natural science or health science courses may help students understand the physical therapist assistant coursework.
Physical therapist assistant certificate programs prepare students to enter 2-year associate degree programs by fulfilling their general education and basic medical science requirements. Courses within a certificate program often include the following:
- Medical vocabulary
- Anatomy and physiology
- English composition
- General psychology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Although some certificate holders may work as physical therapist aides and acquire training on the job, most states require physical therapist assistants to hold an associate degree before they are permitted to work in a professional setting. Physical therapist assistants earned a mean annual salary of $52,320 in May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment opportunities for physical therapist assistants were expected to grow significantly by 46% between 2010 and 2020 as the aging population's demand for physical therapy services expands, reported the BLS (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Nearly all students who complete certificate programs enter associate degree programs to train as physical therapy assistants. Students who earn the certificate are not guaranteed admission into an associate degree program, though many certificate programs are affiliated with 2-year programs that accept the certificate for credit. Some states also require physical therapist assistants to be licensed before they can be employed. Licensing criteria varies from state to state and may include an examination; specific licensure information can be obtained from state licensing boards.
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