Physical therapist assistants licensed to practice in Alaska are often well compensated. In fact, the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Alaska’s PTAs earned an average salary of $61,520 as of 2014, significantly higher than the national average of $52,160 that year.
In addition so enjoying some of the best salaries in the nation, part of what makes the physical therapist assisting profession so attractive in Alaska is the expanding job market, which helps ensure higher starting salary offers as employers compete for talent. Alaska’s favorable job market for PTAs also helps create an environment that supports upward career mobility. While many PTAs go on to become fully licensed physical therapists, others establish long-term careers as assistants, using their experience to earn great salaries. The BLS reports that Alaska’s most experienced physical therapist assistants whose salaries fall within the top 10% earned an average of $87,710 per year in 2014.
Steps to Earning a Physical Therapist Assistant License in Alaska
Becoming a physical therapist assistant in Alaska starts by meeting the licensing qualifications set by the Alaska Board of Physical Therapy & Occupational Therapy. To become a licensed physical therapist assistant in Alaska, follow the steps in this guide:
Step 1. Graduate from an Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Program
As an aspiring physical therapist assistant, the Alaska Board of Physical Therapy requires you to complete a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) before beginning your professional practice. There are no accredited PTA programs in Alaska, and the APTA does not accredit online programs due to the hands-on nature of physical therapy. This means you must attend an approved program outside of the state before returning to Alaska to pursue a career.
Degrees designed to prepare physical therapist assistant students for licensure include:
- Associate of Science (AS) in Physical Therapist Assistant
- Physical Therapist Assistant – Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Science
Coursework within these programs often contain courses covering topics such as:
- Clinical pathology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Professional ethics
- Exercise physiology
- Behavioral sciences
In addition to coursework, you will complete clinical education at a local physical therapy practice. Typically, this clinical work takes place at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or independent physical therapy centers.
Step 2. Submit an Application for Examination and Licensure in Alaska
With a degree approved by APTA or the American Medical Association, you will be able to begin the Alaska Board of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy’s license application process.
Download and complete the Physical Therapist Assistant License Application Packet.
To apply for your first physical therapist assistant license, when submitting the application you will complete the Licensure by Examination section. If you currently hold a PTA license in good standing in another jurisdiction, you must complete the Licensure by Credentials section, which will require you to submit school transcripts, proof of current licensure, proof of passing scores on the NPTE-PTA and proof of work experience within 24 months of applying to practice in Alaska.
Applying for your initial physical therapist assistant license by examination will involve successfully passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs. This application will serve as both your license application and your application to take the NPTE-PTA.
You must submit the following along with your license application packet:
- An official college transcript, demonstrating completion of an accredited physical therapy program
- A letter of recommendation from your program’s department head, an instructor, or a past supervisor who is currently licensed in physical therapy
- The jurisprudence questionnaire, which is found on the official application form
- A $70 application fee and a $175 fee for initial license to practice
- Head and shoulders photo of yourself
- Notarized signature on the application
The completed application and all supporting documents are to be sent to:
Alaska Board of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
State Office Building, 333 Willoughby Avenue, 9th Floor
PO Box 110806, Juneau, AK 99811-0806
Allow 4-6 weeks for your license to be processed and for the Board to notify you that you may schedule to take the required licensing exams.
You may also choose to apply for a temporary permit using the same license application packet if you would like to begin practicing during the period between the time your application is deemed acceptable and the time you take and pass the licensing exams. Since the exam is only administered at certain times of the year, a temporary permit may be prudent if you find there is a significant wait to take the exam. A temporary permit requires an agreement addendum from the licensed physical therapist that will be supervising your work. You will be required to include an additional $65 for the Temporary Permit.
Step 3. Pass National and Alaska State Licensing Examinations
Once you have submitted your application form and the answers to your jurisprudence questions, the Alaska Board of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy will inform you when your license has been processed and you’ve been approved to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs offered by the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
To take the National Physical Therapy Examination for PTAs, you must first register with the FSBPT and pay a $400 registration fee.
After registering for the exam, you will then schedule to take it through Prometric’s Test Center in Anchorage or any other Prometric Test Center in the United States. At this time you will pay Prometric an exam proctoring fee of $70.
The exam is based on topics covered in your prior coursework such as:
- Conditions and Diseases that Impact Effective Treatment
- Safety and Protection
- PT Data Collection
- Patient Interaction
- Professional Responsibilities
- Equipment and Devices
- Therapeutic Modalities
Students may use the NPTE Candidate Handbook to prepare for the exam.
To pass the national exam, you must score the scaled equivalent of 600 on a scale ranging from 200-800. If you fail the exam, you will have two additional chances to achieve the passing score in the 12-month period from your initial approval date. After two failures, you must complete additional coursework as outlined in Alaska state law and then reapply with the Alaska Board of Physical Therapy to take the exam again.
Step 4. Start Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Alaska
Physical therapist assistants are crucial to physical therapy practices at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes throughout Alaska. Once you have received your license to practice, you may begin your career as a physical therapist assistant.
One of the largest physical therapy establishments in Alaska is Health Quest Therapy, which has locations in Eagle River, Talkeetna, and Wasilla. Specializing in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, Health Quest Therapy caters to a variety of patients ranging from athletes to car accident victims.
Alaska is home to a number of physical therapy practices that can be found in cities throughout the state. Just some of the top practices that support physical therapist assistant jobs in Alaska include:
- A Joint Effort Physical Therapy in Anchorage
- Denali Physical Therapy in Anchorage
- Wise Physical Therapy in Anchorage
- United Physical Therapy in Anchorage
- Eagle Center Physical Therapy in Eagle River
- Health Quest Therapy in Eagle River, Talkeetna, and Wasilla
- Arctic Physical Therapy and Pain Management in Fairbanks
- Homer Physical Therapy in Homer
- North Pole Physical Therapy in North Pole
- Alaska Physical Therapy in Soldotna
- Sitka Physical Therapy in Sitka
- Excel Physical Therapy in Palmer and Wasilla
- First Choice Physical Therapy in West Blondell
Step 5. Complete Continuing Competency Hours to Renew Your License Every Two years
To maintain your license as a physical therapist assistant in Alaska, you must renew your license every two years by completing and submitting the Biennial Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant License Renewal. Your license expires on June 30th of even-numbered years; there is no grace period. It takes 3-4 weeks for your renewal to be processed, so allow yourself plenty of time to ensure it is processed before the June 30th expiration date.
You will include a license renewal fee of $175 along with the renewal form, all of which should be sent by mail to the address on the form. If this is your first renewal after initial licensure and you have not been practicing for a full two years, the licensing fee will be prorated as described on the renewal form.
You must complete 12 continuing competency contact hours within the first 12 months of receiving your license. After your first year of practice, you will be required to complete 24 contact hours of continuing education during each two-year renewal period. These hours must be directly applicable to your practice as a physical therapist assistant and be approved by one of the following organizations:
- The Alaska Physical Therapy Association
- The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
- The American Medical Association
- Other Recognized State Boards and Associations
You will use the Physical Therapy and Physical Therapist Assistant Continuing Education Worksheet to keep detailed documentation of your continuing education hours in the event that you are audited and required to produce proof that you have completed the mandatory continuing education.