How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Virginia
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the supervision of a physical therapist to provide support to patients. It’s PTAs who assist patients with exercises; they’re also the ones who track progress and provide information. This work is done in a variety of environments, such as hospitals, nursing care facilities and rehabilitation clinics. Because it’s a physically demanding job that requires a lot of time standing, you need to be physically fit. However, as challenging as the job can be, it’s rewarding to see your patients’ progress.
Requirements for Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Virginia
In Virginia, everyone who wants to become a PTA must complete an associate’s degree program at a nationally accredited school. Physical therapist assistant programs have strict admission requirements, which include interviews, observation hours and supporting documentation. After graduating from your program, you will be eligible to sit the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE).
There are eight accredited degree programs in Virginia right now, so admission can be very competitive. Check each school’s website to ensure you meet their individual prerequisites. Here a few of the options:
- Jefferson College of Health Sciences. Located in Roanoke, JCHS offers a five-semester Associate of Science degree, with classes three to four days a week. Admission requirements include letters of recommendation, a resumé and an interview, as well as regular college admission requirements. Currently, combined tuition for the fall and spring semesters is $26,416.00, plus books and fees.
- Wytheville Community College. WCC’s Associate of Applied Science program takes two years to complete. In addition to regular admission requirements, prospective students must have completed 12 hours of job shadowing with a physical therapist or PTA. The tuition rate, including fees, is $157.50 per credit at this time.
- East Coast Polytechnic University. This Associate of Applied Science degree is held at two of ECPI’s campuses, in Newport News and Richmond. Because it is run year-round, the program takes one and a half years to complete. Tuition is currently $8,964 per semester. Students can access free textbooks to borrow for the duration of each course.
State PTA Licensing and Certification
All physical therapist assistants in Virginia need to have a license. Graduates of an approved PTA program in Virginia can earn their license by examination, after sitting the NPTE. License-holders from other parts of the US or from Canada can earn their license by endorsement, provided they meet all state requirements. Licenses expire every two years. Renewal requires 30 continuing education contact hours each cycle.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Virginia’s statistics for both salary and employment prospects exceed those of the nation as a whole. In 2017, half of physical therapy assistants on salary made at least $60,940.00. In the same time period, the median hourly wage was $29.30. The national medians at the time were $57,430.00 and $27.61, respectively.
The state’s projected industry growth between 2016 and 2026 is 33.6 percent, which means approximately 220 PTA job openings per year. These positions can be found across the state, but larger cities, including Roanoke, Richmond and Virginia Beach, have a higher number of opportunities.
What to Expect as a Physical Therapist Assistant
Being a physical therapist assistant isn’t always easy. You need to be able to withstand the physical challenges of the job, but you also need to have an eye for detail, excellent interpersonal skills and compassion for your patients. These qualities will help you stand out as a candidate for PTA positions and, ultimately, succeed in your job. You can change people’s lives for the better.