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Physical Therapist Assistant

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between a physical therapist assistant and a physical therapist related to educational preparation, regulation and practice?

Educational preparation: Physical therapist assistant education results in a 2 year Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree. The University of Saint Francis awards the Associate of Science to graduates of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program. Physical therapy education programs award either a Master of Science or a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree depending on the program and its requirements. The year 2001 was the last year in which Bachelor Degrees were awarded in physical therapy education programs.

Regulation: A physical therapist is required to have a license to practice in any state. Most states require a license, registration or certification in order for an individual to practice as a physical therapist assistant.

The scope of practice of physical therapy by a physical therapist or the scope of work of a physical therapist assistant is described in each state's laws, however, the major responsibilities that are identified (in licensure regulations and professional and accreditation literature) as belonging to the physical therapist are the

Why should I consider becoming a physical therapist assistant rather than a physical therapist?

There are several advantages to becoming a physical therapist assistant:

What are some of the Career Opportunities for Physical Therapist Assistants?

Certified/licensed physical therapist assistants work in settings that include hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, home care, school systems and outpatient physical therapy offices. With the aging of Americans including the transition of baby boomers into retirement and older adulthood, the need for physical therapy services are expected to increase. The United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-2011 states that, for physical therapist assistants: “Employment is projected to grow much faster than average. Physical therapist assistants should have very good job prospects; on the other hand, aides may face keen competition from the large pool of qualified applicants.” Students/ graduates of the Department of Physical Therapist Assistant Studies have access to counseling and assessment related to career options; assistance in searching for jobs including access to the USF-maintained job postings web site; and coaching in resume development and interview skills.

Is the USF PTA Program accredited?

The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

What is the typical class size for PTA classes and labs?

Twenty four students are admitted to the four semester program each August. Class size is typically 24 students or less.

What is the graduation rate for the USF PTA program?

Completion rates are very high: qualified applicants with the tools to succeed are accepted into the program.

What is the pass rate on the state certification exam for USF PTA program graduates?

The pass rate for USF graduates on the state certification exam has consistently been above the national average for each year since the first class graduated in 1997.

What is certification?

Graduates of accredited Physical Therapist Assistant educational programs are eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for Physical Therapist Assistants in order to obtain certification in the State of Indiana. The University of Saint Francis Physical Therapist Assistant Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Most states require licensure, certification or registration of the physical therapist assistant.

Indiana state law requires certification of persons who are physical therapist assistants. Physical therapist assistants are identified by the Rules and Regulations for Physical Therapists and Physical Therapists Assistants (844 IAC 6-1-2 (F) Definitions) as persons who assist in the practice of physical therapy. These rules and regulations delineate the roles and responsibilities of the physical therapist assistant. Performing the duties of a physical therapist assistant as an employee of an institution or facility without being certified is unlawful. It may also result in denial of coverage of physical therapy services by third party payers.

What if I want to be a PT after becoming a PTA or without becoming a PTA first?

Students may obtain the PT school prerequisite coursework and bachelor’s degree with or without becoming a PTA.  University of Saint Francis has an articulation agreement with Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Illinois for their DPT Program for qualified students who receive their bachelor’s degree at USF.  A separate brochure with more information is available about the Midwestern University opportunity. A practicing physical therapist assistant (PTA) has the opportunity to pursue physical therapy education after or while practicing as a PTA. The PTA may enroll in a traditional physical therapy educational program or the PTA may continue to practice while enrolled in a weekend college program and obtain a DPT in the University of Findlay PTA to PT Program. The University of Findlay is 86 miles from Fort Wayne.

Can you tell me more about the PTA program for faculty?

The four qualified and dedicated core faculty have varied backgrounds related to their undergraduate and graduate or post-PT/PTA education. All four continue to be involved in clinical practice year-round. The PTA program faculty are committed to continued professional development.

Can you tell me about the facilities and laboratories used in the PTA program?

The program facilities, including laboratories, and a state of the art high fidelity simulation laboratory are well-equipped with teaching models and treatment equipment. The laboratory area and laboratory equipment are reviewed on an ongoing basis in order to effectively use this space while having varied and current equipment available to students.

Where do students complete the clinical component of the PTA education curriculum?

Over 90 clinical education sites affiliate with the USF PTA Program. They offer excellent and varied clinical experiences. Clinical faculty have consistently described USF Physical Therapist Assistant students and graduates as knowledgeable workers with professional behaviors.

Where on the USF campus does the PTA program call home?

The PTA Program is located in the 65,000 square foot Doermer Family Center for Health Science Education. This facility opened in May of 2000 and includes class rooms, a dedicated PTA laboratory, a state-of-the-art high fidelity simulation laboratory, faculty offices and computer lab.