Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Colorado
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) help physical therapists (PTs) with patients who need therapy to strengthen injured muscles, regain full range of motion or prevent the degradation of muscles. They are in charge of keeping notes about each patient’s progress, providing therapeutic massage and rehabilitating people who have new prosthetic devices, among other possible responsibilities.
PTAs typically work weekdays with hours varying depending on what type of facility they work in. Common places of employment for PTAs are nursing facilities, hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
Getting Your PTA License in Colorado
The first step to becoming a PTA is to graduate from an accredited college with a physical therapist assistant degree. Once you have completed that step, you can obtain your PTA license by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTAs. You can take this exam up to three months before you graduate from college. If you wish to take the exam before graduation, there is a special application you will need to fill out. After your application has been submitted, you have to create a profile on Colorado’s Healthcare Professional’s Profile website. This is mandatory for all healthcare professionals in the state.
Colleges Offering PTA Programs in Colorado
It takes two years to complete a PTA degree from most colleges. This will include both classroom time and internships. Some colleges that offer PTA degree programs are:
- Arapahoe Community College. The two-year degree at Arapahoe consists of 16 hours of general education classes and 59 credit hours of PTA courses. Students have to be able to dedicate 40 hours per week in the summer, fall and spring semesters of their second year for internships. They have a job placement rate of 100 percent.
- Concorde Career College. The PTA degree from Concorde focuses on helping students learn the skills needed to have a successful career as a PTA. This includes teaching students about understanding cultural and individual differences so they can provide care in an appropriate way. The program takes 19 months to complete and involves a combination of classroom learning and internships. Concorde has a graduation rate of 75 percent.
- Pueblo Community College. This college offers a two-year program with an average class size of 20 students. Classes are offered two days per week, not including clinical observations. The clinical experiences take place in the third and fifth semesters and are scheduled for 40 hours per week.
Career and Salary Information
PTAs in Colorado make an average of $52,780 per year, which is slightly lower than the national average of $56,850 for this field. This salary can change drastically depending on the kind of environment in which you work in and if you are employed in a specialized area such as sports or women’s health.
Earning a PTA degree in Colorado can cost between $3,500 and $16,000 a year. This can be a great investment, as the need for PTAs continues to grow in Colorado. According to data collected by the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), 460 PTAs were working in Colorado in 2016. PMP predicts that by 2026 that number will rise 45.7 percent to 670.
PTA Employment Outlook
Although PTAs are always in need due to people injuring themselves, this demand becomes even higher as the population of the state ages. Problems such as diabetic neuropathy and arthritis, which are common in the senior population, often require people to seek help from PTs. Because of this demand, the need for skilled PTAs is not projected to subside any time soon.
The highest paying cities for PTAs to seek work in Colorado are Colorado Springs, Denver and Aurora. The lowest paying cities are reportedly Sterling, Fruita and Lafayette.
How much do physical therapist assistants earn in the state of Colorado?
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Colorado made an average of $53,770 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $29,660 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $72,410.