How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Puerto Rico

Are you interested in having a rewarding career in the healthcare field, but the time or money that you can spend training is limited? If so, you should consider becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA). It takes only two years to earn an associate’s degree as a PTA and become licensed and ready to work.

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PTAs work under the supervision of physical therapists (PTs) and do most of the same work that PTs do aside from creating the actual treatment plan for a patient. PTAs work with the patients who are recovering from injuries or surgeries to minimize their pain and help increase their mobility. They use hands-on therapy techniques like massage therapy, heat and cold therapy and assistive medical equipment to treat their patients.

PTA Requirements in Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, as in most of the United States, you must be licensed to work as a PTA. And in order to become licensed, you must be a high school graduate or have a GED. Then you will be required to complete a post-secondary training program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Upon completion of the program, you will be able to apply for licensure in Puerto Rico, which will include taking the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).

Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Programs in Puerto Rico

There are options available if you are looking for an accredited PTA program in Puerto Rico. Here are a couple of schools and programs to consider:

  • University of Puerto Rico Ponce. This is a two-year Associate in Science degree program that prepares students to work as PTAs. The graduation rate for this program between 2016-2017 was 80 percent. The exam pass rate for those years was about 50 percent, while the employment rate for graduates of this program was 100 percent.
  • University of Puerto Rico Humacao. The PTA program at UPR Humacao also lasts for two years, including two summer semesters. The program includes classroom lectures and clinical experience. Graduates of the program are prepared to sit for the NPTE and apply for licensure.

Licensing Procedures in Puerto Rico

When you have completed one of the programs above, or another accredited program, then you can apply to get your PTA license. The Puerto Rico Office of Regulation and Certification of Health Professionals is the agency that regulates PTA licensing on the island. You will need to follow the application guidelines on their website, which will include paying a fee, passing a background check and passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. An exam fee will also apply. Your PTA license must be renewed every three years.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Many jobs are currently not seeing much growth in Puerto Rico. However, the predicted growth rate for PTAs in Puerto Rico is 29.9 percent, which is consistent with the national growth rate of 29 percent. The Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) reported that there were 670 PTAs working in Puerto Rico in 2016 and predicts that there will be 870 by the year 2026.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2017 that the average hourly wage for PTAs in Puerto Ricoa was $11.07 and the average annual wage was $23,030. However, Puerto Rico has been under austerity restrictions, which has resulted in lower wages in all professions on the island. So, the actual salary of PTAs might be lower, especially for entry-level workers. The minimum wage for Puerto Rico is $7.25 an hour.

Working as Physical Therapist Assistant in Puerto Rico

Physical therapist assistants find most of their work in physical therapy clinics or hospitals or clinics that offer outpatient therapy treatment. Other places that PTAs may work include nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and with home health care agencies. They may work in general physical therapy where they treat a variety of patients, or they may specialize in a specific area of treatment such as sports injuries. In Puerto Rico, San Juan, Bayamón and Ponce are great areas to consider working as a PTA.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Puerto Rico made an average of $23,140 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $17,220 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $30,500.

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