How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Florida
If you are considering working in healthcare, there is no better time than the present. Jobs in this field are currently experiencing high growth rates. However, if you’re worried about spending a lot of time or money on educational training, there are several healthcare-related careers that require two years or less of training. A physical therapist assistant, or PTA, is one such career. PTAs in Florida work under the direction of physical therapists but do a lot of the same work that physical therapists do.
PTAs help patients recovering from surgeries, injuries or with permanent disabilities with their treatment programs. They use cold, heat and electrical stimulation as forms of therapy. They also use therapeutic exercise to help with strength, mobility and pain relief.
PTA Requirements in Florida
In order to start working as a PTA in Florida, you will need a high school diploma or GED. Then you will need to complete a post-secondary physical assistant program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
After you have completed the educational requirements, you can apply for PTA licensure through the State of Florida. This will include paying an application fee and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) and the Florida Laws and Rules Exam. An exam fee will apply for both.
Florida PTA Programs
There are many colleges in Florida that offer accredited PTA programs. Here are a few of your options:
- Eastern Florida State College. Located in Cocoa, Eastern Florida State College’s PTA program can be completed in five semesters. Students will also complete three clinical practicums that are six weeks long, each at a different clinical facility. This program has a 75 percent graduation rate, a 92 percent exam pass rate and a 100 percent post-graduation employment rate.
- Florida State College at Jacksonville. This program is a combination of general ed courses, technical courses and clinical education. Clinical training will occur at local physical therapy centers. Graduates will receive an Associate in Science (AS) degree. This program consists of 23 credit hours of general ed coursework and 51 credit hours of professional coursework. This program can be completed in approximately four semesters.
- Miami Dade College. Miami Dade College’s PTA program was the first in the nation to graduate a PTA in 1969. This program consists of 74 credit hours that can be completed in five semesters, or two years. Graduates receive an AS degree and are eligible to sit for the licensure exams and begin work upon graduation.
License Requirements in Florida
Licensure for PTAs in the Florida is managed by the Florida Board of Physical Therapy. After you have completed an accredited PTA program and submitted your transcripts, you can apply for licensure through the Board. You will have to pay an application fee. Then, you will need to register and pay exam fees for both the National Physical Therapy Examination and the Florida Law and Rules Exam. You can register for both through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Once your application has been approved and you have passed both exams, you will receive your license. This license must be renewed every two years. You will be notified approximately 90 days before your license expires. You will need to pay a renewal fee and show proof of having completed 24 hours of continued education.
Salary and Job Outlook for Florida PTAs
In 2016, there were 2,560 PTAs working in the state, as reported by the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP). This job field has a predicted growth rate of 31.3 percent in the state, which is slightly higher than the national growth rate of 29.2 percent.
Florida PTAs also make a decent salary. They earn an average of $30.15 an hour, or $62,710 per year. The top 10 percent of earners in the state make more than $80,000 annually.
Working as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Florida
Physical therapist assistants find most of their work in physical therapy facilities. They may also find work in hospitals, residential facilities, sports training centers and home health agencies.
Finding work as a PTA in Florida should not be difficult, considering the state ranks third for highest employment of PTAs in the U.S. and is the fourth top-paying state. High employment cities in the state include Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa and The Villages. High paying regions of the state are Crestview, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Lakeland and Pompano Beach.