How to Become a Wisconsin Physical Therapist Assistant
Patients who suffer physical ailments from injury and illnesses rely on the help of physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) to help them regain movement and reduce pain. While PTs assess and create plans of care for patients, trained PTAs assist them by providing physical treatments (like stretching and massage), monitoring patient status and educating patients about home care and after-treatment care.
Physical therapist assistants in Wisconsin always work under the supervision of physical therapists and generally require two years of education before beginning their careers. Hospitals, physical therapy clinics and government agencies employ PTAs, while some may work in smaller settings like doctors’ offices.
The Road to a Physical Therapist Assistant Career
All physical therapist assistants must obtain licensure within the state they will practice. Before doing that, you must generally:
- Complete your high school education or equivalent diploma
- Successfully complete an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (AAS) in physical therapy
- Pass the national physical therapy exam (NPTE)
Wisconsin’s Accredited PTA Schools
In order to be eligible to take the NPTE, you should complete your education at a physical therapy school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Accredited physical therapy schools in Wisconsin include:
- Gateway Technical College. In Kenosha, this school offers a two-year AAS in physical therapist assisting. Classes consist of lecture and lab experiences and are held during the day. The second portion of the program includes hands-on experience helping patients in local hospital and clinical settings.
- Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). The downtown Milwaukee Campus at this school offers an AAS in physical therapy assisting. Before applying to the program, students must complete at least one year of high school algebra, biology, and chemistry or physics.
Types of Wisconsin Physical Therapist Assistant Licenses
Both permanent and temporary physical therapy assistant licenses may be secured by applicants in Wisconsin. The State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) issues temporary PTA licenses to those who have completed their education and are currently registered to take the NPTE or are waiting for their exam results. Permanent licenses are available to those who have provided successful NPTE scores to the DSPS and must be renewed every odd-numbered year.
A criminal background check, physical exam and proof of immunizations will be required of all PTA applicants.
Job Statistics for Physical Therapist Assistants
In 2016, 1,310 physical therapist assistants were employed in the state of Wisconsin, according to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP). An average of 190 PTA jobs open each year within the state, and the employment rate is expected to increase 16 percent by the year 2026.
Wisconsin physical therapist assistants are paid higher than average, with a median hourly income of $25.42 reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2017. Meanwhile, the median income rate for PTAs across the country that year was $22.56 per hour.
The Future of PTAs in Wisconsin
The highest number of Wisconsin PTAs were employed in the Milwaukee and Northeastern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan areas as of 2017. However, the highest rates of employment per 1,000 jobs for physical therapist assistants were in Eau Claire and La Crosse. You’ll find the highest paid PTAs in Appleton, Fond du Lac and Green Bay, where they made a median income around $27 per hour.
There are tons of job opportunities for physical therapist assistants throughout the state of Wisconsin, and these professionals are paid very well for their skills. If you’re looking for a career in the healthcare field that requires just two years of school yet allows you to care directly for patients, a career in physical therapist assisting may be the right choice for you.