How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Montana

A great choice of career in healthcare is to become a physical therapist assistant, or PTA. It requires less training and education than becoming a physical therapist and will still allow you to work with patients. Some duties of PTAs include:

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  • Guiding patients through exercises
  • Following patient plans designed by physical therapists
  • Observe and report on patient progress and challenges
  • Educate patients and their families and communicate instructions from therapists

In Montana, you must be licensed to work as a PTA, but it takes just two years of schooling to qualify. Demand for licensed PTAs is currently high in the state and salaries are competitive.

Steps to Becoming a PTA in Montana

After finishing high school or earning a GED, your next step in becoming a physical therapist assistant in Montana is to enroll in a post-secondary program. The state requires that PTAs complete an accredited program, and you can find a list of those through the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Upon completing the PTA program, you will be ready to pass the National Physical Therapy Assistants Exam (NPTE). Finally, you must complete a Montana jurisprudence exam and submit an application with the required fee to the Montana Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.

CAPTE-Accredited PTA Programs in Montana

There are two approved physical therapist assistant programs in Montana:

  • Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell. Flathead Valley offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in physical therapy assisting. You must have prerequisite general education courses completed before applying to the program. Once those are done, students can finish the PTA program in just three semesters. It is important to do well in prerequisite courses, as admissions are selective and only 12 students are admitted each year.
  • Great Falls College-Montana State University, Great Falls. The PTA program at Great Falls also requires prerequisite courses. There are 32 credits of these courses that take at least one year to complete. Students can then apply for the three-semester PTA program, which is rigorous and challenging. Program coursework includes clinical experience working with patients.

How to Become Licensed in Montana

You must be licensed by the state Board in Montana in order to practice as a physical therapist assistant. Once you are enrolled in an approved program, you have begun the necessary steps. After graduating you can submit your application, which must include school transcripts, a $100 fee, an official test score for the NPTE and a completed jurisprudence exam, which is attached to the application.

PTA licenses in Montana must be renewed every two years on odd-numbered years. You must complete 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years to be eligible for renewal, although this is waived for the first two-year period after initial licensure.

Career Outlook and PTA Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth in jobs for PTAs is very strong, at 30 percent throughout the country. The growth rate is also 30 percent for Montana. In 2016, the state had 100 employed physical therapist assistants, and is expected to have 130 by 2026.

The national average salary for a PTA is $22.56 per hour and $46,920 per year. The average in Montana is comparable at $22.32 per hour and $46,430 per year. Those PTAs earning the top salaries in the state earn annual salaries of $59,000 and higher. These are PTAs with more experience, working in larger facilities or with specializations.

Finding Work as a PTA in Montana

Most PTAs are hired by physical therapy practices, which may be stand-alone businesses or affiliated with hospitals or surgery centers. You may also look for work at a hospital or surgical center directly, with nursing homes or with home healthcare service companies. You may want to join the Montana Physical Therapy Association for networking, job opportunities and continuing education opportunities.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Montana made an average of $53,870 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $36,850 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $73,790.

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