How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Tennessee

Physical therapist assistants work while being supervised by physical therapists. Also called PTAs, these healthcare professionals do not make up treatment plans for patients, but they do work with the physical therapist and other allied health professionals to implement treatment plans. They work with patients who have recently had surgery or who are managing long-term injuries. Their goal is to help their patients regain or increase their mobility and to decrease their pain.

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If you want to work in the healthcare field, in a job that is continually growing and in which you help people daily, then a career as a PTA may be right for you. You can complete educational training and become licensed in just two years.

PTA Requirements in Tennessee

As in most states, the educational requirements for Tennessee are as follows: You must have either a high school diploma or its equivalent, and you must complete a post-secondary educational program that has received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

You will then apply for licensure through the Physical Therapy Board at the Tennessee Department of Health. This includes passing a background check and registering for and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE).

Tennessee Physical Therapist Assistant Programs

You must complete an accredited PTA training program to be eligible for licensure as a PTA in Tennessee. Look at some of the available programs below:

  • Chattanooga State Community College. This program can be completed in two years and graduates will receive an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. Students in this program must have a strong background in math and science. Graduates of this program have a 100 percent exam pass rate as well as a 100 percent employment rate.
  • Daymar College — Clarksville campus. Students enrolled in this program will complete 96 credit hours in a two-year period. They must pass a background check. They must also complete three clinical rotations and pass the final exam. Graduates will receive an AAS degree.
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College. The PTA program at Southwest Tennessee is a two-year associate’s degree program. It is a combination of general education courses, lecture, laboratory and clinical education. The 70 credits required for this program can be completed over five to six semesters.

Applying for your PTA License in Tennessee

After you have completed an accredited training program, you will need to apply for licensure as a PTA through the Tennessee Department of Health’s Physical Therapy Board. With your application, you will need to submit a photograph of yourself, a recommendation letter, your school transcripts and an application fee. You will also need to fill out a citizenship form and pass a background check. Finally, you must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. You can register for this exam through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

Once you are licensed, you must renew your license every two years and complete 20 hours of continued education credits. A renewal fee will also apply.

Tennessee Job Outlook and Salaries

The national growth rate for PTAs is 29.2 percent. The growth rate for PTAs in the state of Tennessee is 35.3 percent. There were 1,700 PTAs working in the state in 2016, and approximately 600 more jobs are expected to be added to this field by the year 2026, making the total number of PTAs working in the state 2,300 at that time.

PTA salaries in the state are also strong. They make an average $28.02 hourly, or $58,280 annually. More experienced PTAs in the state make as much as $78,000 per year.

Working as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Tennessee

Most PTAs work at physical therapy practices. These may be private physical therapy centers or centers that are a part of other medical centers. PTAs also can find work in hospitals, surgical centers, nursing homes, rehab centers, sports training facilities and with home health providers.

Tennessee is fourth in the U.S. for the highest concentration of PTA jobs, so jobs should be plentiful throughout the state. You can look for the most employment in cities such as Chattanooga, Clarksville, Jackson, Knoxville, Memphis, Murfreesboro and Nashville. The highest paying areas to work in the state include Cleveland, Morristown and the Western Tennessee non-metro area. If you are ready to make a difference in the healthcare field, at a stable job that pays well, then consider working as a PTA.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Tennessee made an average of $56,470 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $30,640 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $78,520.

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