Florida-based schools boast the unique distinction of being the first in the nation to offer physical therapist assistant programs, starting back in 1967. From that legacy, the state’s schools also boast of being home to world-renowned physical therapists, such as Dr. Stanley Paris. After receiving his physical therapy degree in New Zealand, Paris moved to Boston, Atlanta, and finally, St. Augustine, Florida, where he founded a school to train physical therapists. Paris published a book titled, “The Spinal Lesion,” which solidified him as one of the world’s top experts in manual therapy.
In 2014, Florida was one of the top 5 states in the nation with the highest number of licensed physical therapist assistants. That year, Florida was home to a total of 4,940 licensed PTAs, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Areas with the highest number of PTAs in the state included Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, all of which had between 300 and 500 licensed PTAs in their specific metropolitan areas alone. Florida’s PTAs have some of the highest salaries in the nation, as well. For instance, Lakeland was the second highest-paying area in the US for PTAs, where they made an average annual salary of $80,160 in 2014.
The demand for physical therapist assistants is not expected to slow down. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity expects the number of physical therapist assistant jobs to grow by 29.6 percent between 2012 and 2022, which translates to almost 2,000 PTA job openings during that time period.
Steps to Earning a Physical Therapist Assistant License in Florida
If you’re ready to begin your career as a physical therapist assistant in Florida, you’ll start by meeting the requirements for licensure through the Florida Board of Physical Therapy.
For step-by-step guidance on how to become licensed as a physical therapist assistant in Florida, follow this guide:
Step 1. Graduate with a Physical Therapist Assistant Degree
The Florida Board requires that you earn a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree from a school that has received accreditation from one of these agencies:
- The Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation
- The US Department of Education
- The Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
CAPTE-accredited PTA programs are offered at schools with campus locations throughout Florida, including those located in:
- Fort Lauderdale
- Royal Palm Beach
These schools offer PTA education programs that include:
- Associate of Science for the Physical Therapist Assistant (AS)
- Associate of Applied Science for the Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
These programs typically require 70-80 credit hours of course and clinical work. Courses include, but are not limited to, those with titles such as these:
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Human Anatomy and Physiology Lab
- Introduction to Physical Therapy
- Introduction to Physical Therapy Lab
- Disabilities and Therapeutic Procedures
- Anatomy for the Physical Therapist Assistant
- Applied Kinesiology
- Disabilities and Therapeutic Procedures
- Medical Terminology
- Rehabilitation Procedures
Along with these courses, the Florida Board requires that all applicants for a physical therapist assistant license take a Prevention of Medical Errors course.
You will then complete 500-600 hours of clinical rotations at local hospitals, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers, such as these:
- Jackson Memorial Hospital – Miami
- Fort Lauderdale Hospital – Fort Lauderdale
- Baptist Medical Center – Jacksonville
- Lakeland Regional Rehabilitation and Sports Clinic – Lakeland
- Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital – Sarasota
- Tampa Hospital: Sports Medicine – Tampa
Once you pass all of your courses and clinical rotations, you’ll be ready to receive your physical therapist assistant associate’s degree.
Step 2. Submit the Florida Application for Licensure by Examination
Once you’ve earned your physical therapist assistant associate’s degree, you will be eligible to submit the application for Florida examination and licensure. Once you submit this application, the Board will approve you to take your licensing examinations and, upon passing those exams, to receive your Florida physical therapist assistant license.
To complete the full application, follow these steps:
- Submit the Online Application and $180.00 application fee
- Have your school send your official transcripts
- Indicate that you have taken a Prevention of Medical Errors course
- Register for the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs and submit $400 exam fee
- Register for the Florida Jurisprudence Exam and submit $50.00 exam fee
Once your online application is complete and the Board has received your transcripts, the Board will approve or deny your application within 15 days.
Step 3. Pass the Florida State and National Licensing Exams
Once the Board approves your application, you will be emailed two Authorization to Test (ATT) letters from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) which will indicate that you can take the NPTE-PTA and the Florida Jurisprudence Exam.
The ATT letters will give you instructions on scheduling your examinations, which can be scheduled at any Prometric testing center in Florida. Prometric testing centers are located in the following Florida cities:
- Temple Terrace
- Fort Meyers
- West Palm Beach
- Boca Raton
- Fort Lauderdale
National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs
For this national written examination, you will want to review the Candidate Handbook, which includes information on topics such as:
- Examination Security
- Preparing for the Exam
- Exam Content
- Exam Results and Scoring
- Retaking the Exam
- Sample Questions
This exam will consist of 200 questions focused on physical therapist assistant concepts, such as:
- Physical Therapy Data Collections
- Safety and Protections
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Diseases and Conditions that Affect Effective Treatment
On a scale of 200-800, you will need to earn a score of 600 to pass this exam. Within 5 days of taking the exam, FSBPT will send your scores to the Florida Board.
Florida Jurisprudence Exam
The Florida jurisprudence exam will cover the state’s laws, statutes, and administrative codes, including:
- Florida Statute Chapter 456: Health Professions and Occupations
- Florida Statute Chapter 486: Physical Therapy
- Florida Administrative Code Rules: Chapter 64B17: Board of Physical Therapy Practice
When you complete this exam, FSBPT will score it and send the results to the Florida Board. Once the Board receives your passing exam scores, the Board will issue your Florida physical therapist assistant license.
Step 4. Begin a Career as a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in Florida
As a licensed physical therapist assistant, you can look for jobs in local hospitals, VA centers, rehabilitation centers, and more. Some of Florida’s top rehabilitation centers and hospitals that support physical therapist assistant jobs include:
- Florida Hospital Sports Medicine and Rehab – Oviedo
- Heart of Florida Therapy Center – Davenport
- Kissimmee Physical Therapy Center – Kissimmee
- Health First Medical Rehab – Palm Bay
- UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital – Gainesville
- Holy Cross Hospital Orthopedic Institute – Fort Lauderdale
- Wolfson Children’s Hospital – Jacksonville
- Lakeland Health – Lakeland
- Physical Therapy University of Miami Hospital – Miami
- Miami Valley Hospital Physical Therapy – Miami
- Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center – Royal Palm Beach
- Sarasota Memorial Health Care Center – Sarasota
- Florida Hospital Tampa – Tampa
- Tampa General Hospital – Tampa
If you are not looking for a physical therapist job in a local hospital or rehabilitation center, you can also join a licensed physical therapist in an independent practice.
Step 5. Complete 24 Hours of Continuing Education to Renew Your License Every Two Years
About 90 days before your license expires, the Florida Board will send you a renewal notice. You will need to renew your license by the date posted on your notification. You can renew your license online or by mail. You will only need to renew by mail if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You need to change the status of your license
- You need to pay using a cashier’s check or money order
- You do not have a credit/debit card
- You need to request a name change
- Your license is in “Military, Active” status
Otherwise, you can renew by completing these steps:
- Submit online renewal application
- Submit $80.00 renewal fee
- Submit proof of 24 hours of continuing education
Continuing education hours must include 2 hours of medical error courses, 1 hour of HIV/AIDS courses, and 22 hours of general hours.
To earn these hours, you can engage in various activities, including:
- Attending a Florida Board meeting
- Serving on the Probably Cause Panel
- Passing the Florida Las and Rules exam
- Teaching a Course on Physical Therapist Assistance
- Taking a Course or Workshop
The Florida Board has approved continuing education providers, which include:
- Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA)
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- Colleges or Universities Accredited by the Department of Education