University of Wisconsin–Madison

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Work Activities/Work Locations

  • Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) work under the direction and supervision of Physical Therapists to assist in providing therapy treatment to patients.
  • Are trained to conduct therapeutic exercises, provide therapeutic massage, observe patients, evaluate data on a patient’s progress, and assist patients during rehabilitation. They may fit or adjust supportive devices such as leg braces or crutches. Assistants may also perform clerical duties such as answering phones, ordering supplies, and completing forms.
  • PTAs implement treatment programs; teach patients to perform exercises; conduct treatments using special equipment; assist patients with back and neck injuries, sprains/strains and fractures, arthritis, burns, amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, birth defects, injuries related to work and sports, and others.
  • Work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, home care agencies, private health and fitness centers, industrial health clinics, community health centers, schools, colleges and universities, or other health care facilities.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Physical Therapist Assistant opportunities will continue to grow due to the increased need for support personnel in health care, number of individuals with disabilities, and the increase of the elderly population.
  • The Physical Therapist Assistant program can be challenging, physically demanding and rigorous.
  • One important quality is good people skills – ability to listen, understand, and communicate.

 

Getting Started

  • High School Courses
    • High school students should study biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, health, art, and social sciences.
    • Perform some volunteer work at a local nursing home or with a physical therapist. Perhaps take the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certification and work at a nursing home.
  • Education and Training
    • Physical Therapy Assistant program is a 2-year Associate Degree.
    • At Western Technical College (WTC) the PTA program consists of taking 72 credits over 5 semesters (including summer). Courses typically involve both a lecture and laboratory component. Throughout the curriculum, students will be spending time working with patients at various clinical sites.
    • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) has a two-year, one summer, five semesters, 70 -credit program. Courses include anatomy & physiology, kinesiology, Therapeutic Exercise, psychology, sociology, PTA Pediatrics, Muscoloskeletal Rehab, Neuro Rehab, and communications.
    • PTA Programs also consist of many clinical, hands-on experiences. At Gateway Technical College, students spend semesters two and three in clinics and hospitals, working with patients. During semester four, there is a full-time, eight-week internship just before graduation.

    Educational Institutions

    Blackhawk Technical College
    Chippewa Valley Technical College
    Gateway Technical College
    Herzing University – Brookfield
    Madison Area Technical College
    Milwaukee Area Technical College
    Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
    Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
    Waukesha County Technical College 
    Western Technical College

  • Method of Entry
    • The State of Wisconsin does require a license to practice as a Physical Therapist Assistant.
    • For licensing they must have completed a required number of hours in the clinical field.
    • An Associate Degree is required from an accredited community college or technical school. Physical Therapy Assistants are required to be licensed or certified by passing the Physical Therapist Assistant Examination through the National Physical Therapy Examination Service. (NPTE)
    • During training they are also required to be certified in CPR and First Aid.
  • Professional Organizations

    American Physical Therapy Association
    1111 N. Fairfax St.
    Alexandria, VA, 22314-1488
    703/684-2782 or 800/999-2782
    www.apta.org

    Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
    1111 North Fairfax Street
    Alexandria, VA, 22314-1488
    703/706-3245
    www.capteonline.org/

    Sports Physical Therapy Section
    PO Box 431
    Zionsville, IN, 46077-0431
    877/732-5009
    www.spts.org/

    Wisconsin Physical Therapy Association
    3510 E. Washington Ave.
    Madison, WI, 53704
    608/221-9191 or 866/367-6978
    www.wpta.org

     

Career Outlook

Number Employed in 2014 (Wisconsin): 1,260
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 17%
Expected Annual Openings: 50
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $49,863

Salary information is located at Career One Stop

Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.

  • Physical Therapy Assistants usually work 40 hours a week.
  • They can work weekends, shifts, and/or holidays.
  • They can work full-time or part-time.
  • Some Physical Therapy Assistants advance by specializing in a clinical area. They gain expertise in treating a certain type of patient, such as geriatric or pediatric, or a type of ailment, such as sports injuries.
  • Many Physical Therapy Assistants advance to administration positions. These positions might include organizing all the assistants in a large physical therapy organization or acting as the director for a specific department such as sports medicine.
  • Other Assistants go on to teach in an accredited Physical Therapist Assistant academic program, lead health risk reduction classes for the elderly, or organize community activities related to fitness and risk reduction.