How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant in South Carolina
A physical therapist assistant, or PTA, works under the direction of a physical therapist and helps patients who are recovering from sports injuries, traumatic injuries and surgeries. They help patients follow the therapy plan devised by the physical therapist. They may help patients regain mobility or function through massage, heat and cold therapy, electronic stimulation and exercise. A physical therapist assistant must be licensed, so it’s important to know the educational and licensure requirements for the state in which you would like to work as a PTA.
South Carolina PTA Requirements
To work as a PTA in any state, you must be a high school graduate or have a GED. Next, you will need to enroll in and complete an educational program that is approved by the South Carolina Board of Physical Therapy and has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy EducatHYPERLINK "http://www.capteonline.org/Home.aspx"ionHYPERLINK "http://www.capteonline.org/Home.aspx" (CAPTE). Then you can apply for state licensure through the South Carolina Board of Physical Therapy. You will need to pay an application fee as well as an exam fee to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), on which you must make a passing score.
South Carolina Physical Therapist Assistant Programs
Completing a Board-approved and CAPTE-accredited educational program is one of the most important steps to becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA). There are a few programs available in South Carolina, including:
- Horry-Georgetown Technical College. This college is in Conway and offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program. This program can be completed in four semesters (two years) and includes general and professional courses as well as clinical practice. A background check and drug screen must be passed before beginning clinical practice.
- Technical College of the Lowcountry. Located in Beaufort, TCL also offers a PTA AAS degree. This program is full-time and can be completed in 69 credit hours taken over five semesters, or two years. General education and PTA courses are taken on campus and clinical practice is done at off-campus hospitals.
Becoming Licensed in South Carolina The South Carolina Board of Physical Therapy, a division of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, sets the guidelines for PTA licensing in the state. After you have completed your educational requirements you must submit your transcripts to the Board. You will also need to complete an application and pay an application fee. Additionally, you will need to submit a copy of your ID and social security card, a signature form and photo, and notarized verification for lawful presence. Then you must pay the exam fee to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination, which is given by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Once you pass the exam, you will become licensed. This license must be renewed every two years before December 31st. You will need to pay a renewal fee, fill out a questionnaire and show proof of having completed 30 credit hours of continued education.
Career Outlook and Salary Overview
According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), 660 physical therapist assistants were working in the state in 2016. The growth rate for this job field in the state is strong, with a predicted rate of 30.3 percent. The national growth rate for this profession is 29.2 percent.
PTAs in South Carolina are paid well too. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that they make an hourly average of $26.87, or $55,900 annually. More experienced PTAs in the state make as much as $76,610 per year.
Working in South Carolina as a PTA
There are more than 90 hospitals in the state that have inpatient rehabilitation clinics that employ physical therapist assistants. PTAs may also find work in sports medicine centers, nursing homes, physical therapy outpatient centers and home health settings. A couple of the largest employers of PTAs in the state are the Medical University of South Carolina and CORA Health Services.
The areas in the state that employ the most PTAs include Charleston, Columbia, Spartanburg, Summerville and Sumter. There are several areas that are known to be higher paying for PTAs. Among these areas are Charlotte, Conway, Florence, Myrtle Beach and the Low Country nonmetropolitan area.