Your Guide to Physical Therapy Assisting in Illinois

The career field for physical therapy assistants (PTAs) is growing at an exceptional rate of 29.2 percent across the country. At more than three times the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) average job growth rate of 7 percent, this is an excellent field with lots of job opportunities opening in the future.

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Working directly under the supervision of physical therapists (PTs), Illinois physical therapist assistants perform a variety of duties, including:

  • Monitoring the conditions of patients during physical therapy treatment
  • Performing physical therapy exercises as instructed by a physical therapist
  • Educating patients on home and after-treatment care

While physical therapists must complete a master’s or doctorate degree, PTAs need only complete an associate’s degree before gaining licensure in Illinois.

Steps to a PTA Career

Potential PTAs should first graduate high school or earn their equivalent diploma. Then, two years of study in a physical therapy assistant associate’s degree program is required before graduates can take the National Physical Therapy Examination. This is a national PT and PTA exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). After completing these steps, Illinois PTAs can apply for licensure from the state to begin practice.

Colleges Offering Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

In order for students to be eligible for the NPTE exam and state licensure, they should complete a physical therapy assistant program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Here are a couple of accredited Illinois schools:

  • College of DuPage. Earn your Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree in Physical Therapy Assisting at this school, located in Glen Ellyn, near Chicago. Students complete 26 to 28 general education hours and 43 hours in core physical therapist assistant courses. It takes five semesters (including one summer semester) to complete the program. Application prerequisites include 40 hours of physical therapy clinical experience, four recommendations and an entrance exam.
  • Black Hawk College. The Quad-Cities campus of this school also offers an A.A.S. in PTA. Prerequisites include initial acceptance into Black Hawk College, a ‘C’ average or better in previous college courses and a physical exam. Black Hawk College boasts a 100 percent employment rate for its graduates who complete the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).

Illinois Licenses for Physical Therapy Assistants

Anyone in Illinois who has completed the above requirements and wants to begin practicing as a PTA must apply for licensure through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Licenses are available by endorsement for those who hold a current PTA license from another state.

Potential PTAs may apply for licensure after graduation from school and before they take the NPTE. They are allowed by the state of Illinois to begin practice only under the supervision of an onsite licensed physical therapist.

Salary and Employment Statistics

In 2016, there were 4,910 PTAs working in Illinois, according to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP). That number is expected to increase 20 percent by the year 2026, with an average of 730 physical therapy assistant jobs opening per year within the state.

Illinois PTAs are also paid much higher than their counterparts across the country. In 2017, the BLS reported a median PTA salary of $27.83 per hour compared to the national median of $22.56 per hour.

The Best Place in Illinois to Work as a PTA

By far, the highest number of PTAs in Illinois are employed in Chicago, according to the BLS. These PTAs are also paid the highest in the state, with a 2017 median income ranging from $29.00 to $30.09 per hour. Those in Illinois who wish to become PTAs can look to the Illinois Physical Therapy Association (IPTA) for more information on PTA education and licensing in Illinois.

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How much do physical therapist assistants earn in the state of Illinois?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Illinois made an average of $59,130 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $36,060 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $80,770.

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