How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in South Dakota

A physical therapist assistant, or PTA, is a trained and licensed professional who works with patients under the supervision of a physical therapist. In South Dakota, licensed PTAs are in demand. Physical therapy practices, hospitals, nursing homes and other employers need more qualified healthcare workers to guide patients in their exercises. If you’re interested in a healthcare career that doesn’t require a four-year degree, consider training to become a physical therapist assistant.

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What You Need to Work as a PTA in South Dakota

In order to achieve your career dream as a PTA, you will need to be licensed by the state in which you work. In South Dakota, the first thing you’ll need to qualify is a high school diploma or GED. After high school you can enroll in a post-secondary program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Completion of the program will prepare you to take and pass the National Physical Therapy Assistants Exam. With a passing score you can apply to the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners to be licensed and ready to land a job as a PTA.

Accredited PTA Programs

There is just one CAPTE-accredited PTA program in South Dakota, at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. Lake Area’s program takes 20 months to complete and includes classroom work as well as clinical work experience with real patients. Students here earn an associate’s degree and are prepared to pass the national exam for licensing as a PTA.

The program is fairly selective and the only one in the state, so be ready to meet the requirements before applying by the annual deadline in December. For instance, to be accepted you must watch an online video about physical therapy and answer questions about it. You must show that you understand the career and are interested in pursuing it.

PTA Licensing Process in South Dakota

Once you have enrolled in and completed an approved and accredited PTA program, which does not have to be in South Dakota, you can apply for licensing in the state. You will need to submit a $60 fee with the application and be registered to take the national PTA exam. A passing score is required before you will be granted a license.

South Dakota PTA licenses must be renewed each year. To qualify for renewal, you must complete 15 continuing education credits within that year. Check with the South Dakota Physical Therapy Association for access to approved courses.

Salary and Outlook for South Dakota

In South Dakota, as in other states, there is demand for qualified and licensed PTAs. The growth rate for this career in the state is projected to be 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. There will be many new positions available in the next few years for newly licensed PTAs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in South Dakota earned an average of $19.75 per hour and $41,080 per year in May of 2017. That same month, the top PTAs in the state were earning more than $52,000 per year.

Working as a PTA in South Dakota

PTAs work on their feet all day. They must be fit and strong and able to be physically active and to assist patients in exercises and while using equipment. Most are hired by physical therapists and private practices. You can also look for your first job with a hospital, a surgery center, a nursing home or other residential facility, or with a home healthcare service provider. With South Dakota’s sparse population, you’ll find the most opportunities in the state’s bigger cities, including Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of South Dakota made an average of $43,180 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $32,910 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $53,610.

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