According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 1,084 physical therapist assistants licensed to practice in Arkansas as of May 2014. That number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, with the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services projecting that the number of job openings for PTAs will increase by 26.5% in the period spanning 2012-2022.
While many physical therapist assistants aspire to become fully licensed physical therapists, others establish their careers exclusively in the assistant role. The BLS reports that the most experienced PTAs in Arkansas with salaries that fall within the top 10% earned an average of $72,510 annually as of 2014, demonstrating the salary potential that comes with experience, specialization and a good reputation.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Arkansas
In order to work as a physical therapist assistant in Arkansas, you must meet all licensing requirements set by the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy. Follow the steps in this guide to learn how to become a physical therapist assistant in Arkansas:
Step 1. Graduate from a CAPTE-Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Program
The first step on your path towards a career as a physical therapist assistant in Arkansas is to earn an associate’s degree from a PTA program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy.
Board-approved and CAPTE-accredited programs are available at physical therapist assistant schools located in these cities:
- State University
- El Dorado
You may find the complete list of CAPTE-accredited programs in Arkansas on the CAPTE website.
Board-approved and CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant programs are most often designed as two-year associate’s degrees:
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant Studies (AS)
- Associate of Science Degree, Physical Therapy Assistance (AS)
- Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant
- Associate of Applied Science Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Science
Physical Therapist Assistant programs traditionally include courses that delve into the science of movement and the human body. In addition, these programs prepare students for the physical therapy work environment by offering courses on patient interaction, and including a significant clinical training component that accounts for about half the total program.
Just some of the topics that will be covered in your physical therapist assistant program include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Pediatrics and Gerontology
- Professional ethics
- Applied neuroscience
- Behavioral sciences
- Exercise physiology
- Clinical pathology
Step 2. Submit an Application for Examination and Licensure in Arkansas
Once you have obtained your degree, your next step is to begin the application process through the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy. This one application will serve as both your application to take the required exams (National Physical Therapy Examination for PTAs and Arkansas Jurisprudence Examination) and your initial application for licensure.
The application, along with detailed instructions on the application process and required supporting documents, can be found in the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy Application Packet.
Among the information and materials you must include with your application:
- Your past education experience
- Your past work information
- A desired date to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
- Passport sized photo of yourself
- $50 application fee
You will also be required to contact your school to have them forward a sealed copy of your transcripts to the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy.
You will send your application with notarized signature along with all supporting documents and payment for the fee to:
9 Shackleford Plaza, Suite 3 Little Rock, AR 72211
Step 3. Pass National and Arkansas State Licensing Examinations
Once you have submitted your application to the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy, you may begin the process of seeking approval to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
First, you must register with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to take the exam. The registration fee is $400.00.
Finally, you must pass the Arkansas jurisprudence examination. Prior to taking the exam, the Board encourages you to download and print the Practice Act and the Rules and Regulations so you can reference them during the exam.
You will register through the Arkansas Board of Physical Therapy online portal and submit a $10 fee. Once you have registered, you will have 30 days to complete the exam.
Once you have completed the above steps, the Board will contact the FSBT indicating your eligibility to take the NPTE-PTA. You will then receive an email from the FSBT with instructions on how to schedule your exam. The NPTE-PTA is offered at Prometric testing centers across the country. In Arkansas, Prometric testing centers are found at the following locations:
- 2049 S 56th Street, Fort Smith Arkansas, 72903
- 8114 Cantrell Road #150, Little Rock, Arkansas, 72227
You must submit a $70 fee to Prometric to take the exam.
To prepare for the exam, you may use the online practice exam & assessment tool (PEAT) and study directly from the NPTE Candidate Handbook. Just some of the topics the exam will cover include:
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Equipment and Devices
- Safety and Protection
- Professional Responsibilities
- PT Data Collection
A passing score on the exam is a 600 or above on a scale ranging from 200-800. If you fail the exam, you will have one additional opportunity to achieve a passing a score. After two failures, you must reapply with the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy.
Step 4. Start Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Arkansas
When you pass the NPTE-PTA, you will receive your physical therapist assistant license from the Arkansas Board of Physical Therapy. At that point, you may begin actively pursuing physical therapist assistant jobs at any one of Arkansas’ many physical therapy practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, sports medicine clinics and more.
Just some of Arkansas’ top employers of physical therapist assistants include:
- Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock
- Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould
- Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home
- Carson Physical Therapy in Bryant
- Clinton Physical Therapy Services in Clinton
- Heartland Rehabilitation and Care Center in Benton
- Malvern Physical Therapy in Malvern
- OrthoSurgeons Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation in Little Rock
- Physical Therapy Center for South Arkansas in El Dorado
- Solutions Physical Therapy in Jonesboro
- Wellspring Physical Therapy in Fayetteville
Step 5. Complete Continuing Competency Hours to Renew Your License Every Two Years
To maintain your license as a physical therapist assistant in Arkansas, you must renew your license with the Board every two years. In addition to completing the license renewal form found on the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy website, you must submit a $50 fee with each renewal. License renewals take place on January 1 of every odd-numbered year.
To renew your license, you must complete either one Continuing Education Unit (CEU) or 10 contact hours every two-year period prior to license renewals. The Board or a board-approved entity must approve your CEU contact hours. The Board uses the following criteria to determine if your CEUs are acceptable:
- Your courses must be in the areas of clinical management, behavioral science, clinical application, science or scientific research.
- If you publish an article related to physical therapy, the article must be published within the two-year cycle and be submitted to the Board for consideration. The article may make up no more than half of your total CEU.
To properly meet Arkansas’ continuing education guidelines, you must:
- Complete no more than 50% (five hours) of your continuing education online
- Submit the Continuing Education Units (CEU) form to the Board within 60 days of your course completion.
- Obtain proof of your CEU, consisting of either copies of the original completion certificate or a transcript or grade report
In addition to your CEU, you must pass the Arkansas jurisprudence exam before the start of the new license renewal period and submit a $10 fee.