How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Alabama
If you are looking for a job in the healthcare field that is rewarding but takes little time to train for, you should contemplate becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) in Alabama. You can complete the training, earn your degree and become licensed in just two years.
PTAs help patients who are recovering from injuries and patients with permanent illnesses or injuries who need help with movement and pain relief. Physical therapist assistants work under the guidance of physical therapists to treat patients using hands-on therapy, heat therapy and other assistive medical equipment. They also communicate with patients and their families to get their medical histories, keep up with patient progress and let them know what to expect during the recovery process.
Physical Therapist Assistant Requirements in Alabama
The first step you need to complete to become a PTA is to earn a high school diploma or GED. This is necessary in most all states, including Alabama. Then you must complete a post-secondary education program that has been approved by the Alabama Board of Physical Therapy and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After you have completed an accredited program, you can apply for licensure within the state of Alabama through the Board. This will include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and the Alabama Jurisprudence Examination.
Alabama PTA Educational Programs
To become a licensed PTA in Alabama, you need to complete an educational training certificate or degree program. That program must be approved by the state Board and be accredited by CAPTE. There are a handful of accredited programs offered in Alabama. Here are some examples:
- Bishop State Community College. Bishop State, located in Mobile, offers a PTA program that consists of general ed and physical therapy classes. Clinical experience is also provided. Graduates of this two-year, five-semester program will receive an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree.
- Jefferson State Community College. In Birmingham, Jefferson State’s PTA program consists of one year of prerequisite general ed classes and one year of course-specific classes. Upon completion, graduates will receive an AAS degree and be qualified to sit for the NPTE and apply for licensure. Classes can be taken online, but the lab courses must be taken on campus.
- South University. South University in Montgomery also offers an AAS degree program for aspiring PTAs. This program is designed to be completed in six semesters, which will take two years when taken in two fall, two spring and two summer semesters. The program is a mixture of laboratory classes, lectures and clinicals. Students will complete a clinical externship before receiving their degree.
Physical Therapist Assistant Licensing in Alabama
Once you have completed an accredited PTA program you can apply for licensure through the state. There are several things you must do to complete this process. You will need to complete an application through the Alabama Board of Physical Therapy. With your application, you must pay a fee and submit a citizen verification form, your school transcripts and two character references. Then you will need to take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination and the Alabama Jurisprudence Examination. You can register to take both through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). To sit for both exams, your transcript must be validated, and you will need to pay separate fees for each exam. You will then receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter, which you will need to present when sitting for both exams. Testing locations in Alabama include Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
You will be notified whether you pass or fail and will be given a license if you pass both exams. If you fail, your application will remain active and you can retest. Once you receive your license, you will need to renew it annually by paying a fee and taking 10 hours of continued education. You must also take two hours of continued education in physical therapy jurisprudence every five years.
Career and Salary Outlook
The growth rate for PTAs in the state of Alabama is strong at 25.4 percent, which is just slightly under the national growth rate of 29.2 percent. According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), there were 590 physical therapist assistants working in the state in 2016, and it is predicted that there will be 740 employed by the year 2026.
The salary for PTAs in the state is also good. They make an average of $26.45 an hour or $55,020 annually. Salary will also vary depending on location and experience. Some parts of the state, like Birmingham, Dothan, Gadsden and Huntsville, pay more than others. And PTAs who have more experience can make as much as $74,960 per year in the state.
Working as a PTA in Alabama
Most PTAs work in physical therapy centers or private practices. But they may also find work in other clinical settings, hospitals, nursing homes, home health settings, rehabilitation centers and sports training facilities. Some PTAs may work to treat a variety of patients with different situations, while others may specialize in one area such as pediatrics or sports injury.
Alabama ranks third in the U.S. for the highest concentration of PTA jobs. Therefore, finding work in the state as a PTA should not be difficult. However, you may want to start with some of the bigger cities that are known for higher employment rates. These include Decatur, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa.