How to Start Your Career as a Missouri Physical Therapist Assistant
When patients suffer pain or have trouble moving independently because of joint or other musculoskeletal problems, physical therapy may be needed. While physical therapists (PTs) diagnose, assign treatment and coordinate care for patients, physical therapist assistants (PTAs) monitor patient conditions, fill out charts and carry out stretching, massage and exercise procedures.
Elderly patients in nursing homes, surgery patients in hospitals and arthritis patients at clinics are all patients who might need the help of physical therapy assistants. These professionals are in high demand across the country, especially because of the growing need for eldercare. If you’re a Missouri resident searching for a rewarding career in healthcare, you might consider a job in physical therapy assisting.
PTA Requirements for Licensure
In Missouri and every other state, general requirements to become a physical therapist assistant include:
- Having a high school diploma or GED
- Earning an Associate Degree of Applied Science (AAS) in physical therapy
- Passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
- Application for licensure through your home state
Also, criminal background checks, proof of immunizations and health insurance are usually required for PTA applicants.
Accreditation of Physical Therapist Education Programs
Whichever PTA program of study you choose should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) so that your credentials can be transferred between states. CAPTE accreditation also ensures that you receive the standard PTA training.
Schools offering physical therapy assistant educations in Missouri include:
- Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC). This school, based in Springfield, has a physical therapist assistance program that takes just 17 months to complete. OTC’s PTA program follows a full-time schedule on weekdays. Prerequisites for this program include 20 hours of physical therapy observation (10 hours in two separate settings).
- Metropolitan Community College. Kansas City is home to this school, which offers an AAS in physical therapy. The program lasts four semesters, with some limited class hours available online. However, all formats of learning require students to perform clinical training.
Where to Get Your PTA License and Where You Can Practice
Physical therapist assistant licenses in Missouri are granted by the Board of Registration of the Healing Arts. Missouri participates in the Physical Therapy Compact, which means PTAs may apply for a license to practice in multiple states. Surrounding states where Missouri PTAs may practice are Iowa and Tennessee. Other states, such as Kentucky, Nebraska and Arizona, have Compact legislation pending and will be part of the compact soon.
Job Outlook and Income for Missouri PTAs
PTAs are highly employed in Missouri, with an employment growth rate of 25 percent predicted by the year 2026. Their median income of $26.01 per hour in 2017 was also well-above the national median of $22.56 per hour.
Physical Therapist Assistants by Area
The highest numbers of physical therapist assistants in Missouri worked in St. Louis and Kansas City in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, the highest PTA employment per 1,000 jobs that year was in the Southeast Missouri nonmetropolitan area.
Physical therapist assistants in Columbia, the Southeast Missouri nonmetropolitan area and Springfield were paid median incomes of more than $27 per hour in 2017, among the highest paid in the state. With strong incomes and speedy job growth rates, it’s safe to say that the future for PTAs in Missouri shows promise in employment and income opportunities.