Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in North Carolina
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the supervision of physical therapists (PTs), helping people with rehabilitation exercises to aid their recover from surgery or injury. Becoming a PTA is an excellent option for anyone who has thought about becoming a PT but was put off by needing to earn a four-year degree right away. PTAs can become licensed after only two years in college, although some use their PTA degree as a stepping stone to eventually become a fully licensed physical therapist.
The types of works environments where PTAs are usually employed include rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Regardless of where they work, the same kind of duties will be required. These include things like lifting patients and moving equipment.
Getting Your PTA License in North Carolina
You will need to attend an accredited PTA educational program, which takes about two years to complete. All programs in North Carolina include a combination of clinical instruction and classroom work. Most curriculums include learning first aid, CPR, and anatomy and physiology.
After graduation, you will need to submit the Application for Certification as a Physical Therapist Assistant to the North Carolina State Board of Physical Therapy. Once they review your application, they will send you testing dates for the National Physical Therapy Examination and the North Carolina Physical Therapy Jurisprudence Examination. If you pass the exams and obtain your license, you will need to renew every two years. North Carolina does not require that PTAs complete any kind of continuing education to renew their licenses.
Colleges Offering PTA Programs in North Carolina
It takes two years to complete a PTA degree in North Carolina. This will include both classroom time and internships. Some colleges that offer PTA degree programs are:
- Martin Community College. The PTA program at Martin is determined using a scoring system. You get points based on experience, observation hours (with a minimum of 41 needed) and reference letters. The last two semesters of the program consist of clinical externships at hospitals, private physical therapy centers and public healthcare facilities.
- Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. The courses needed to receive a PTA degree at CCCTI must be taken in a specific order, as they are designed to go from easiest to hardest. The second year of the program focuses on more difficult subjects and includes internships. It’s recommended that students not work outside jobs during this time.
PTA Career and Salary Information
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical offices employ a third of all PTAs, with hospitals coming in as the second largest employer. If a PTA doesn’t work in one of those types of environments, they probably work in a rehabilitation center, fitness center or nursing home. Because of the growing demand for PTAs, it’s fairly easy to switch between environments, as these professionals are needed in all areas. According to data collected by the Projections Managing Partnership, 810 PTAs were employed in North Carolina in 2016. That number is expected to rise 25.9 percent by 2026.
The average annual salary for a PTA in North Carolina is $59,030. This is slighter higher than the national average for this field. The cost of schooling for a PTA program is between $5,000 and $18,000 a year, which makes the average salary even better, because it will allow students to earn enough money to pay off loans while still making a living wage.
PTA Employment Outlook
The employment outlook for PTAs is excellent. Part of this is because as generations age, there is a need for more people to help them with therapy. Diabetes, arthritis and hypertension are all common ailments in older people that oftentimes require some kind of physical therapy in order to deal with the side effects. Physical therapists need PTAs to help them handle the increased patient numbers they will continue to experience.
Due to the need for PTAs, many places are offering hiring incentives such as bonuses and extra paid time off. This is especially true in rural areas where it can be harder to find PTAs. The highest paying cities for PTAs to seek work in North Carolina are Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh. The lowest paying cities are Salisbury, Goldsboro and Monroe.