In 2014, Georgia was home to more than 1,200 physical therapist assistants, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics; and this number is expected to grow. In fact, between 2008 and 2018, the Georgia Department of Labor expects the number of PTA jobs to increase by 35.8 percent.
This dramatic increase in the number of licensed physical therapists translates to a dire need for experienced, licensed physical therapist assistants in some of Georgia’s top medical centers, healthcare systems, and rehabilitation centers.
The Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes the Memorial University Medical Center and the St. Joseph’s / Candler Health System as nationally recognized providers of top-quality physical therapy care.
Memorial University Medical Center is a 654-bed hospital that serves 35 counties in southeast Georgia and South Carolina. It is home to more than 4,700 team members and 675 physicians, making it the largest healthcare provider in southeast Georgia.
Memorial is known for its specialty physical therapists, who offer unique services such as neuromuscular re-education, spinal cord rehabilitation, pre- and post-prosthetic training, trigger point therapy, lymphedema therapy, myofascial treatment, and more.
Savannah’s other top healthcare provider, St. Joseph’s / Candler Hospital, has more physical therapy facilities, equipment, and experienced staff than any other hospital in the region.
Here, physical therapy specialists offer services in advanced physical therapy specializations, such as aquatic physical therapy, children’s place physical therapy, foot & ankle physical therapy, industrial medicine therapy, and occupational therapy.
The Steps to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Georgia
If you’re ready to join one of Georgia’s nationally recognized healthcare systems as a physical therapist assistant, you’ll start by meeting the qualifications to become licensed through the Georgia State Board of Physical Therapy.
For simple, step-by-step instruction on how to become a licensed physical therapist in Georgia, follow this guide:
Step 1. Earn a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree
The Georgia Board requires that you earn an associate’s or higher degree from a school that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
CAPTE-accredited schools offering physical therapist assistant programs have campus locations throughout Georgia:
Although you can earn a physical therapist assistant certificate or bachelor’s degree, the most common degrees offered by these schools include:
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Science (AS)
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
In these degree programs, you will get to engage in lectures, labs, and clinical work where you will learn the fundamental concepts and theories that are foundational to the practice of physical therapy.
Even though each school is different, coursework in physical therapist assistant programs generally includes:
- Medical Terminology
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Introduction to Physical Therapist Assistant
- Testing & Measurement for the Physical Therapist Assistant
- Therapeutic Exercises
- Physical Therapy through the Lifespan
- Current Issues in Rehabilitation
You will also complete at least two clinical externships, which will add up to between 630 and 700 hours of clinical experience. You can conduct your clinical externship in any hospital, nursing home, or outpatient center with which your school has a clinical agreement.
Step 2. Submit Georgia Physical Therapist Assistant Application for Licensure
Once you’ve earned a physical therapist assistant degree, you’ll be ready to submit your application for a PTA license and register for your licensing examinations.
To apply and register, complete these steps:
- Online Physical Therapist Assistant License Application
- Paper Physical Therapist Assistant License Application
- Affidavit Regarding Citizenship Form
- Background Investigation Consent Form
- Submit official transcripts
- $40.00 application fee
- Register for the Georgia PTA Jurisprudence Exam ($35.00 fee)
- Register for the National Physical Therapist Exam ($400.00 fee)
If you’re submitting a paper application, you will mail your application materials to the Board’s address, which is:
Georgia State Board of Physical Therapy
237 Coliseum Drive
Macon, Georgia 31217
Step 3. Pass the National Written and Georgia State Law Examinations
Once the Board receives your application and sees that you have registered for your examinations, the Board will grant you approval to take the exams.
When the Board sends official approval to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), the FSBPT will email you Authorization to Test (ATT) letters, signifying that you are eligible to take both exams.
This letter will have instructions on scheduling your examinations at a local Prometric testing center. These centers are located in various cities throughout Georgia:
National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
Your ATT letter will give you instructions on scheduling the date and time of your examination. The NPTE-PTA is usually offered four times a year, in January, April, July, and October.
To prepare for the NPTE-PTA, complete preparation steps, such as:
- Studying the exam content areas
- Taking online practice tests
- Reading the Candidate Handbook
- Reviewing helpful hints
For the NPTE-PTA, you will want to understand how to clinically apply physical therapist assistant concepts, knowledge, and principals across all bodily systems, including the lymphatic system, the musculoskeletal system, the neuromuscular system, the endocrine system, and more.
Physical Therapist Assistant concepts that you will be tested on include concepts such as:
- PTA equipment and devices
- Therapeutic modalities
- Safety and protection
- Professional responsibilities
- Research-based practice
- Data collection for the PTA
Once you complete this exam, the FSBPT will send your scores to the Georgia Board. If you have scored above a score of 600, then you have passed this exam.
Physical Therapist Assistant Jurisprudence Examination
To prepare for this exam, study the Candidate Information Bulletin thoroughly. This bulletin will indicate the Georgia State Board of Physical Therapy Laws and Rules that you will need to study.
In particular, you will want to study these documents provided by the Georgia Board:
If you score an 80% or higher, you will have passed this exam. The FSBPT will send your scores to the Board within 5-10 days after you complete the exam, and when the Board receives your scores, you will be issued a Georgia physical therapist assistant license.
Step 4. Begin Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Georgia
PTAs generally find jobs in rehabilitation centers, physical therapy centers, hospitals, and VA medical centers, which in Georgia include:
- Coastal Therapy – Savannah
- Northside Hospital – Atlanta
- Spine & Sport – Savannah
- Centra Healthcare Solutions – Decatur
- West Rehab & Sports Clinic – Savannah
- Columbus Regional Healthcare – Columbus
- Candler Outpatient Rehab Center – Savannah
- PROCO – Atlanta
- North Fulton Hospital – Rosewell
- Southcoast Physical Therapy – Savannah
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Fort Gordon
- Georgialina Physical Therapy- South Augusta
Outside of Georgia’s nationally recognized healthcare systems, physical therapist assistants can find jobs with independent practices owned by licensed physical therapists.
Step 5. Complete 30 Continuing Education Hours to Renew Your License Every Two Years
In order to keep practicing as a licensed physical therapist assistant, you will need to renew your license every two years. To renew, you need to have earned 30 hours of continuing education within the two-year cycle.
Of your 30 hours, you must have at least 4 hours of ethics and jurisprudence education. To earn your continuing education credits, you can complete any of the following activities:
- Undergo a peer review (15 hours maximum)
- Conduct a peer review (10 hours maximum)
- Present a continuing education workshop, seminar, symposium, or course (10 hours maximum)
- Author a scientific poster or publish an article (20 hours maximum)
- Teach as a physical therapist assistant adjunct (20 hours maximum)
- Earn specialty certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (up to
- 30 hours)
- Self-instruction (3 hours maximum)
As you’re completing your hours, you will want to keep a continuous record of them. To log your continuing education hours, the Georgia Board requires that you register with aPTitude—the FSBPT’s continuing education recording system.
The Georgia board has approved continuing education providers, which include, but are not limited to, providers such as:
- American Physical Therapy Association
- Physical Therapy Association of Georgia
- Federation of State boards of Physical Therapy
- Programs provided at CAPTE-Accredited colleges and universities
Once you complete and log your continuing education, you can submit the online renewal application and pay $45.00 renewal fee to renew your Georgia physical therapist assistant license.