How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Oregon
Physical therapist assistants, also known as PTAs, are an important part of physical rehabilitation teams. Once a patient’s plan is developed by a physical therapist, PTAs assist patients with exercises, record progress and provide education to patients and families. They can also be responsible for supervising physical therapy aides.
As a physical therapist assistant, you may find yourself working in occupational or physical therapy offices, hospitals or nursing care facilities. Regardless of your work environment, a certain level fitness is necessary: you will spend a significant amount of time on your feet and must be able to physically support your patients. You also need excellent interpersonal skills to facilitate your interactions with patients and their families.
Requirements for Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant
All aspiring physical therapist assistants need to complete an accredited training program. In Oregon, this is a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. Each school has its own prerequisites, which include college courses, interviews and work experience or observation hours. Once the program is completed, PTAs are eligible to sit the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE).
Oregon has two accredited physical therapist assistant programs. It is important to consider housing costs, as neither school has on-campus residences.
- Mount Hood Community College. Mount Hood offers PTA students an Associate of Applied Science degree at their campus in Gresham. This is a competitive, restricted-entry program, open to only 24 students per intake period. The cost for tuition, fees and books is currently $14,275.50.
- Lane Community College. This school offers a two-year physical therapist assistant program in two locations: their campus in Eugene and Rogue Community College’s Table Rock campus in White City. Up to 20 students are accepted in Eugene and eight in White City, so this is also a competitive program. Tuition, materials and fees are estimated to cost $20,659.00 at this time.
Licensing and Certification
Oregon PTAs must hold a valid physical therapist assistant license, which is issued after the applicant sits and passes the NPTE. If you are a practicing physical therapist assistant from another state and meet Oregon’s PTA requirements, the licensing board can issue you an Oregon license by endorsement.
Licenses expire every two years. In order to renew, you need to have completed 24 hours of continuing education.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
As of 2017, physical therapist assistants in Oregon made a median hourly wage of $28.48, or, for those paid annually, $59,230.00. These are higher than the national median wages during the same period. Projected industry growth is also higher than the national rate: between 2016 and 2026, there are expected to be 110 job openings a year-an increase of 37.7 percent.
What to Expect as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Oregon
The most likely cities to find physical therapist assistant jobs in are Portland and Hillsboro, but you can also find openings in Eugene, Salem and other areas. However, you need more than your PTA degree to be the best-qualified candidate. You also need to be compassionate, detail-oriented and committed to your patients. If you can take on the challenges in this job, the reward is being part of your patients’ success.