Becoming a Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant in Rhode Island

Being a physical therapy assistant (PTA) is a rewarding career choice. A PTA is someone who helps physically rehabilitate people. Their patients might include those who have traumatic brain damage or someone who has experienced a painful surgery. Many people seek physical therapy after an injury that has left them incapacitated in some way. A PTA assists a physical therapist (PT) with helping patients regain mobility. Typically a doctor or PT will instruct a PTA on treatment plans. A physical therapy assistant will have to be an expert in physiology and anatomy, and they should also have excellent communication skills to deal with patients and their families. If you plan on becoming a PTA, understand that your state will have it’s own licensing requirements to practice or assist in physical therapy.

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Rhode Island’s Physical Therapy Assistant Application Process

The first step in becoming a physical therapy assistant is to graduate high school or obtain your GED. This is a requirement to enter PTA programs to further your education. To find the right program, you’ll need to make sure the school is approved and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). There are a host of approved schools that offer the necessary Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assistanting (AAS) or an Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assisting (AS) degrees. Part of the process of becoming a PTA is spending 40 hours a week for six weeks learning with hands-on experience. Once you’ve successfully passed these courses, you’ll have to apply to obtain your PTA license for Rhode Island.

Getting Licensed as a Physical Therapy Assistant in Rhode Island

You must apply for licensure at least 30 days before taking the exam. This application requires several things: birth certificate or naturalization papers, a passport type photo, your PTA program transcripts and a $50 fee.

To schedule your National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), you’ll need to visit Prometric in Warwick. This is the only proctored site in Rhode Island, and it is where you will be required to take the exam. The test has 200 questions that range in topics from safety and protection to diseases and conditions. One of the benefits of taking the test in Rhode Island is that you can pay $99 to access a practice exam for 60 days. This way you can study up to make sure you pass the exam the first time.

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Passing the NPTE can be daunting. If you plan on becoming a physical therapy assistant, you’ll be learning a variety of subjects. PTAs need to pass classes like anatomy, kinesiology and ethics. Students also need to learn things like behavioral sciences. Although a physical therapy assistant primarily works with the body, mental wellbeing will also be part of your responsibility. Fortunately, classes will teach you how to effectively communicate with a patient’s family and other medical staff. As an intern, you’ll learn by experiencing real-world situations while interacting directly with PTs and patients.

According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), there are only a few accredited schools in Rhode Island for future PTAs. These are a couple:

  • Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick. This school has a robust rehabilitative health program. The Physical Therapy Assistant Program is a two-year program that includes on-campus classes and clinical practice. The school requires students to participate in three clinical education experiences in a variety of clinical settings while being monitored and mentored by a PT or PTA. This community college has a strong support network in place for students before and after they’ve taken the NPTE.
  • New England Institute of Technology, East Greenwich. The PTA program goals at this school include preparing students for the NPTE, ensuring a sense of ethics and commitment to the career and meeting the current standards of practice. The school boasts an NPTE pass rate of 98 percent, so they’ve got an excellent record to keep students motivated in finishing the program.

Career and Salaries Overview for PTAs in Rhode Island

The career outlook for PTAs in Rhode Island isn’t that good as compared to other areas of the country. It’s one of the slowest growing states in job growth for physical therapy assistants. The Projections Managing Partnership forecasts an 11.4 percent growth by 2026. This low percentage means that there will only be about 50 new job openings for PTAs each year.

Even though job growth is slow, the salaries are high. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that the average annual wage for a PTA in Rhode Island was $62,100 in 2017. They are the 12th highest earning state for this profession. Some of the highest earning PTAs made as much as $79,260 per year. The average hourly pay held steady at $29.86.

Working as a PTA in Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s largest employer of physical therapy assistants is the Lifespan Hospital Group. This group is a collective of hospitals that are responsible for the majority of healthcare in the state. They have several hospitals in Providence, Riverside, Newport, Warwick and Pawtucket. These facilities, which include nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and children’s hospitals, have a variety of employment opportunities for PTAs

Although job growth is slow for PTAs in Rhode Island, the state is filled with employers who need experts in their field. Becoming a physical therapy assistant is a great way to break into the field of healthcare and serve your community.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Rhode Island made an average of $65,480 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $51,010 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $81,800.

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