Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Pennsylvania

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) help physical therapists (PTs) with patients to relieve their pain, promote fitness and improve mobility.

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PTAs typically work Monday through Friday with hours varying depending on what type of facility they work in. PTAs work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, home health agencies, rehabilitation centers and fitness facilities. This is a physically demanding job that involves walking, kneeling, stooping and lifting for long periods.

Getting Your PTA License in Pennsylvania

The first step to becoming a PTA is to graduate from an accredited college with a physical therapist assistant degree. Once you have completed that step, you can obtain your PTA license by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs. You can apply to take your test online through the Pennsylvania Department of State. Once you receive approval, you will be able to schedule your test at a Prometric testing center in Pennsylvania. The NPTE-PTA consists of 200 questions. Some of the topics covered are therapeutic modalities, data collection and professional responsibilities. If you fail the exam, you will have to wait six months before you can retest.

Colleges Offering PTA Programs in Pennsylvania

It takes two years to complete a PTA degree from most colleges in Pennsylvania. This will include both classroom time and internships. Some colleges that offer PTA degree programs are:

  • Butler County Community College. To be accepted into the PTA program at Butler, there are a few qualifications that must be met. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.80 from high school or college. They must have malpractice liability insurance and personal health insurance coverage. It is also strongly suggested that potential students have a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer work in two different physical therapy settings.
  • Community College of Allegheny County. The PTA degree from CCAC consists of 450 hours of classroom learning and 715 hours of supervised clinical experience. The program takes four semesters to complete for a total of 67-69 credits.
  • Pennsylvania State University Hazleton. This college admits 55 students per year into their PTA program, which takes two years to complete. In order to apply, students must have a minimum of 10 hours of observation in physical therapy clinics. The deadline to apply each year is November 30th.

Career and Salary Information

PTAs in Pennsylvania make an average of $52,100 a year, which is slightly lower than the national average of $56,850. This salary can change drastically depending on what kind of environment you work in and if you are employed in a specialized area such as pediatrics or women’s health.

Going to school to get a PTA degree in Pennsylvania costs between $5,000 and $114,000 a year. This can be a fantastic career choice as the need for PTAs continues to grow in Pennsylvania. According to data collected by the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), 4,570 PTAs were working in Pennsylvania in 2016. PMP predicts that by 2026 that number will rise 25.6 percent to 5,740.

PTA Employment Outlook

Since PTAs are an essential part of physical therapy, the employment outlook for this position is very positive. It can also be a great stepping stone for people who want to get into other areas of healthcare such as nursing or sports medicine.

The highest paying cities for PTAs to seek work are Philadelphia, Lancaster and Pittsburgh. The lowest paying cities are Coatesville, Dunmore and Greensburg.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Pennsylvania made an average of $55,520 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $33,840 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $76,040.

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