Physical Therapist Assistant Certification Requirements

Achieving recognition of your advanced proficiency in physical therapist assisting through professional certification is an effective way to distinguish yourself as a leader in your profession, earn recognition among your peers and colleagues, and advance in the field.

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Although professional certification is not a requirement for state licensure or working as a physical therapist assistant, it has become widely acknowledged among professionals in the field as being a beneficial addition to any physical therapist assistant’s credentials.

APTA Physical Therapist Assistant Certification Eligibility Requirements

The American Therapy Association (APTA), a professional organization representing more than 90,000 members, both physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, offers the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency Program, a unique program designed to reward physical therapist assistants who have achieved an advanced level of proficiency.

According to the APTA, the Recognition of Advanced Proficiency credential signifies that you have gone above and beyond entry-level education in your selected area of physical therapy and can therefore be set apart from other colleagues in your profession.

You can earn certification in one of two areas: Education or Clinical, each of which has its own eligibility requirements.

To qualify for the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency Program in either of these two areas, you must be a current APTA member and you must have achieved advanced proficiency through education and clinical experience in four categories:

  • Education
  • Continuing Education
  • Job Performance
  • Community Service/Leadership

Education

Clinical: You must possess at least 5 years of work experience (at least 2,000 hours), and at least 500 hours in the past year in one of the following categories of advanced proficiency:

  • Acute care
  • Aquatic
  • Cardiovascular/pulmonary
  • Geriatric
  • Integumentary
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neuromuscular
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric

Education: You must possess at least 5 years of teaching experience that includes at least 900 total contact hours teaching and at least 180 hours teaching physical therapist assisting in the last year.

Continuing Education

Clinical: You must have completed at least 60 contact hours (6 CEUs) of continuing education in physical therapy in the past 5 years; the continuing education must include at least:

  • 6 contact hours per year for the five years prior to the application
  • 75 percent (45 hours) in your selected category of advanced proficiency

All continuing education must be related to physical therapy and within your scope of work as a physical therapist assistant, as defined by APTA standards.

Education: You must complete at least 60 contact hours (6 CEUs) of continuing education in physical therapy within the last 5 years; the continuing education must include at least:

  • 6 contact hours per year for the five years prior to the application
  • 75 percent (45 hours) in your selected category of advanced proficiency

All continuing education must be related to education, and courses taught do not count toward your continuing education requirements.

Job Performance

Clinical: You must show proof of consistent, above-average job performance within a physical therapy team, verified by a letter of reference from a supervising physical therapist.

Education: You must show proof of consistent, above-average job performance teaching in a physical therapist assistant curriculum, verified by a letter of reference from an administrative supervisor, such as a department chair or dean.

Community Service/Leadership

Clinical/Education: You must show evidence of your involvement in at least three activities that demonstrate your leadership abilities and contributions to your community, your profession, and/or your employer.

How to Prepare for APTA Physical Therapist Assistant Recognition

The APTA recommends that you complete the following preparatory activities prior to applying for the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency:

  • Determine the area of proficiency you wish to pursue; APTA-recognized areas include:
    • Acute care
    • Aquatic
    • Cardiovascular/pulmonary
    • Education
    • Geriatric
    • Integumentary
    • Musculoskeletal
    • Neuromuscular
    • Oncology
    • Pediatric
  • Select a work environment in the chosen patient/client population where you can achieve career development; keep records of your work hours and patient experiences
  • Seek a mentor in the clinical or educational environment who can help you achieve success in your area of proficiency and provide opportunities for using your new skills
  • Obtain the necessary continuing education and keep detailed records of your activities
  • Learn about and participate in volunteer opportunities that contribute to your profession, your employer, and/or community
  • Seek out leadership positions that allow you to develop new skills and refine previously obtained leadership skills

 

How to Apply for the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency

Once you have successfully met all of the requirements for eligibility for the PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency, you must submit the following:

  • PTA Recognition Application
  • Forms A-C (included in the application packet)
    • Employment Experience
    • Continuing Education
    • Leadership/Contributions to the Community
  • Form D – Supervising physical therapist/academic administrator reference form
  • Form E – General reference form
  • Nonrefundable application fee of $85 (made payable to APTA)

You may submit your application online or via email to PTARecognition@apta.org. You may also mail your application packet to:

American Physical Therapy Association
P.O. Box 75701
Baltimore, MD 21275-5701

Once the APTA has received and reviewed your application, they will process it and send it to a physical therapist and physical therapist assistant team to ensure you have met eligibility requirements. You will be notified by email of the status of your application, which usually takes 4-6 weeks.

Your PTA Recognition of Advanced Proficiency is valid for a period of 5 years. The application process for renewing your physical therapist assistant designation is the same, meaning that you must be prepared to demonstrate that you have continued to expand your clinical knowledge and skills at the time of renewal.

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