How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Washington

Becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) is an increasingly popular choice for people who want a career in the healthcare industry. It takes an average of just two years to complete a PTA degree, which makes it an attainable goal for many people. PTAs work under the supervision of physical therapists (PTs) and have a very hands-on role with patients. While this type of work doesn’t typically provide a lot of flexibility with a work schedule, the hours are stable, and most of the time you will be given weekends off. Since being a PTA requires a lot of strenuous work, it is essential to be healthy enough to do the job.

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Getting Your PTA License in Washington

Obtaining your PTA license requires that you follow a specific educational path. After receiving your high school diploma or GED equivalent, you will need to enroll in an accredited college. This accreditation is given by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. After you have completed your degree, it’s time to take your exams. The first exam is the Washington Physical Therapist Assistant Jurisprudence Exam. This is a 16-question exam that tests your knowledge of physical therapy laws in Washington State. Once you have passed that exam, you can register to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). Registration requires a $100 application fee, your college transcripts and a letter from your college’s program director verifying that you graduated.

Licenses are valid for one year, and you’ll have to renew them by your birthday each year. If it is within three months of your birthday when you first receive your license you will not have to renew for another year. To be approved for renewal, you must have worked a minimum of 200 hours and completed 40 hours of continuing education every two years.

Colleges Offering PTA Programs in Washington

PTA programs in Washington generally take two years to complete. These programs are offered by technical and community colleges, including two highly rated schools in Washington.

  • Green River College. The PTA program at Green River provides hands-on clinical experiences in a variety of settings. To get accepted into the program, you must complete five prerequisite courses with a minimum GPA of 2.5. You will also need to write a one-page essay and complete a minimum of 20 hours of job shadowing in two different settings. On average, 95 percent of students are employed within six months of graduation.
  • Spokane Falls Community College. This is the only college in Eastern Washington that offers a physical therapist assistant degree. In order to apply, you must have taken an anatomy and physiology course and passed with a GPA of 2.0 or better. You also must provide documentation of volunteer experience or paid work in a medical setting. Although a physical therapy setting is preferred, it is not required. This course is not designed for students who wish to transfer to a four-year college.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

One of the things that draw people to a career as a PTA is the salary. The average annual pay for a PTA in Washington is $57,420, which is higher than the national average. While the cost of earning a PTA degree is between $4,000 and $15,000 per year, this kind of salary can provide financial stability and give graduates enough income to pay back student loans without too much of a burden.

The stability of a PTA position is also great in Washington. According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), there were 1,360 PTAs employed in Washington in 2016. This number is expected to go up to 1,740 by the year 2026. The need for PTAs is expected to increase all across the country as well, so if you decide to get your degree, you should still have job stability regardless of what state you move to.

Where to Find Work

If you decide to practice in Washington after graduation, you will make the most money working in the cities of Seattle, Tacoma or Spokane. People who work as PTAs in SeaTac, Maple Valley and Walla Walla make the least amount on average, but since those areas have a lower cost of living the pay differential can even out. The majority of PTAs work in hospitals and nursing homes, but PTAs are also needed at rehabilitation centers, sports centers and for home healthcare.

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

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants in the state of Washington made an average of $59,730 per year in 2019. Entry-level physical therapist assistants earned around $40,750 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $79,540.

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