Aspiring physical therapist assistants can look forward to increased opportunities in Arizona in the coming years. In fact, the Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics projects that the number of jobs for physical therapist assistants will increase by 39.7% during the period spanning 2012-2022, making this one of the fastest growing career fields in the state.
Physical therapist assistants work with patients in Arizona’s physical therapy outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and more, providing therapeutic and rehabilitative services under the supervision of licensed physical therapists. From marathoners and elite track and field athletes experiencing running-induced joint pain, to elderly clients recovering from injuries, Arizona’s physical therapist assistants work to help clients of all ages and abilities regain strength and perform at their peak.
While some physical therapist assistants in Arizona aspire to become fully certified physical therapists, others establish long careers in the assistant position, enjoying the salary increases that come with gaining more experience. According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS), certified physical therapist assistants in Arizona whose income is in the top 10% earned an average annual salary of $66,170 in 2014, demonstrating the strong earning potential that comes with gaining experience as a PTA.
Steps to Earning Physical Therapist Assistant Certification in Arizona
Your path to becoming a certified physical therapist assistant in Arizona begins by meeting certification requirements set by the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy. To learn how, follow the steps in this guide:
Step 1. Graduate from a CAPTE-Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Program
The Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy requires physical therapist assistant certification candidates to complete a degree program that is accredited by an agency approved by the board. The Board approves programs that are accredited by:
- The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
- Other agencies recognized as qualified to accredit physical therapist assistant programs by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation
Accredited physical therapist assistant programs are typically offered at the associate’s degree level. Some common examples include:
- Associate of Science (AS) in Physical Therapist Assistant
- Physical Therapist Assistant – Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Science
Here you can find the complete list of schools with CAPTE-accredited programs in Arizona.
CAPTE-accredited programs can be found at physical therapist assistant schools located in the following cities throughout Arizona:
- Lake Havasu City
Within your program, you must complete the required coursework, an approved internship, and laboratory work. The internship training is designed to give you hands-on experience before applying for professional certification in the field. Coursework will likely cover topics including, but not limited to:
- Professional ethics
- Clinical pathology
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Pediatrics and Gerontology
- Behavioral sciences
- Applied neuroscience
- Anatomy and physiology
- Exercise physiology:
Step 2. Submit an Application for Examination and Certification in Arizona
With your degree in hand, your next step is to begin the application process with the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy.
Start by reviewing and completing the Application for Certification as a Physical Therapist Assistant. As a first time certification candidate, you will apply for certification by examination and request that your school mail your final official transcripts directly to the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy.
Your complete application packet must include a notarized signature.
Along with your application, you must submit the following:
- An application fee of $120 or $160, depending on the month of your application.
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship
- A certified copy of identification such as an Arizona state driver’s license, a United States passport, or a birth certificate
Step 3. Pass National and State Certification Examinations
After reviewing your application, the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy will notify you to take the mandatory exams:
- The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
- The Arizona Physical Therapy Jurisprudence Examination through the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy
You must register for the national exam through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and pay a $400 testing fee.
You must then schedule the exam through the third party exam service provider, Prometric. Tests may be taken at any Prometric testing center in Arizona. Prometric locations in Arizona are found in the following cities:
The FSBPT offers a number of resources to help students prepare for the exam. Students may prepare using the online practice exam & assessment tool (PEAT) and the NPTE Candidate Handbook. Just some of the topics covered on the exam include:
- Safety and Protection
- PT Data Collection
- Professional Responsibilities
- Equipment and Devices
- Therapeutic Modalities
To pass the national exam, you must score a 600 minimum.
Arizona Jurisprudence Exam
In addition to passing the NPTE-PTA, you must also pass the Arizona Physical Therapy Jurisprudence Exam (AZLAW). Arizona’s jurisprudence exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and covers Arizona State statutes regarding physical therapist assistants. The Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy provides a candidate handbook, which includes practice questions that will allow you to study for the exam.
You can register here for the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy Jurisprudence Examination (AZLAW). The examination fee is $50. Like the NPTE, the AZLAW is offered at Prometric testing centers in Arizona.
If you fail the AZLAW exam, the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy will contact you with instructions on how to reschedule the exam. You will have an additional opportunity to pass the exam before having to reapply for licensure.
Step 4. Start Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Arizona
Once you have received your physical therapist assistant certification, you will be able to start your career at one of Arizona’s many physical therapy practices, hospitals, rehab clinics and other outpatient ambulatory care facilities. There are numerous physical therapy centers located throughout the state, giving newly licensed PTAs the opportunity to work close to home.
Just some of places where physical therapist assistant jobs may be available in Arizona include:
- Corebalance Therapy in Flagstaff
- Derosa Physical Therapy in Flagstaff
- Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff
- OSR Physical Therapy in Gilbert
- Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale
- Desert Sky Assisted Living in Glendale
- Kinect Physical Therapy in Glendale
- Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy in Goodyear
- Apex Physical Therapy in Phoenix
- Foothills Sports Medicine in Phoenix
- Strength Training Inc. in Phoenix
- 360 Physical Therapy in Scottsdale
- Desert Institute of Physical Therapy in Scottsdale
- Guidry Physical Therapy in Surprise
- Petersen Physical Therapy in Tempe
- Arizona Physical Therapy in Tucson
Step 5. Renew your Physical Therapist Assistant Certification Every two Years
To maintain your certification as a physical therapist assistant in Arizona, you must submit a renewal packet to the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy by the end of every two-year certification renewal cycle, which ends August 31st of even-numbered years.
To obtain the packet, you must contact the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy in the months preceding the renewal date. You may find complete details on the application renewal packet in Chapter 24 of the State of Arizona’s Administrative Code.
You must include a $55 fee with your application packet.
The Board does NOT require that you complete any continuing competency or continuing education courses in order for to renew your certification.