Hawaii’s licensed physical therapist assistants work under the supervision of PTs with a variety of patient population groups in diverse settings, from in-house rehab centers in pediatric units of major hospital complexes located in Honolulu, to the many outpatient clinics found throughout the islands specializing in physical therapy, sports medicine or orthopedics. Under this supervision, the duties as a physical therapist assistant may include:
- Helping patients through therapeutic exercise
- Providing patients with functional training in self care
- Teaching patients various airway clearance techniques
- Handling patient documentation
The presence of a large number of physical therapy practices and integrated health systems on O’ahu, Hawai’i, and Maui help support jobs as the demand for physical therapeutic services continues to grow statewide. In fact, the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations expects a 21.8% increase in the number of physical therapist assistant jobs available in the state during the period spanning 2012-2022.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Hawaii
To be eligible for a physical therapist assistant license that will allow you to practice legally in Hawaii, you must meet the requirements of the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Board of Physical Therapy. Follow these five steps to learn how to obtain and renew your Hawaii PTA license:
Step 1. Graduate from a CAPTE-Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Program
In order to be considered for licensure as a physical therapist assistant in Hawaii, you must graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The only CAPTE-accredited program in the state is located in Honolulu.
Students may additionally attend a CAPTE-accredited program outside of the state before applying for licensure in Hawaii.
In any state, accredited programs for physical therapist assistants are most often structured as associate’s degrees:
- Physical Therapist Assistant – Associate of Science (AS)
- Physical Therapist Assistant – Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
Your physical therapist assistant program will consist of courses designed to prepare you for the diverse responsibilities of the PTA career field. Among the topics that may be covered in your program:
- Behavioral sciences
- Therapeutic exercise
- Fitness and personal training
- Clinical pathology
- Exercise physiology
- Professional ethics
- Medical terminology
Much of your program will consist of clinical training in an actual inpatient rehabilitation center, outpatient clinic or both. Your school will assist in placing you in a facility at a convenient location near you for your clinical training.
Step 2. Submit an Application for Licensure in Hawaii by Examination
With your physical therapist assistant degree in hand, you may begin the license application process with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Board of Physical Therapy. The department will determine your eligibility to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs, offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). To receive full licensure in Hawaii, you must pass the NPTE-PTA.
To begin the application process, you must print and fill out the Physical Therapist Assistant Application on the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website. You must also see to it that the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs receives the following:
- A $50 check made payable to “Commerce and Consumer Affairs”
- Your proof of education, which must be submitted within one year of graduating
The school from which you received your physical therapist assistant degree must send your certified transcript to the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The transcript must show your date of graduation.
Payment, transcripts, the completed application and all supporting documents must be sent to the following address:
Board of Physical Therapy
DCCA, PVL Licensing Branch
P.O. Box 3469
Honolulu, HI 9680
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs
To take the NPTE-PTA, you must register with the FSBPT. You will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter within 15 working days of recieving approval from the Hawaii Board of Physical Therapy. Your ATT form will include a testing eligibility period. You must sit for your test during this period or you will have to re-register for the exam.
After receiving the ATT, you must then schedule to take the NPTE-PTA through the third-party exam administration company, Prometric. Hawaii’s one Prometric exam center is found in Honolulu, located at:
1130 N Nimitz Hwy
Honolulu, HI 96817
The FSBPT charges $400 for the exam, which you will pay online by credit/debit card when registering. You must also pay an additional $70 testing fee to Prometric when scheduling the exam.
The NPTE will test you on professional physical therapist assistant practices, covering topics including, but not limited to:
- Therapeutic Modalities
- PT Data Collection
- Safety and Protection
- Equipment and Devices
- Professional Responsibilities
The FSBPT has posted an online practice exam & assessment tool (PEAT) to help you prepare for the exam. You may also study directly from the NPTE Candidate Handbook.
The NPTE-PTA is graded on a scale ranging from 200-800. You must score the scaled equivalent of a 600 to pass the exam.
Step 4. Get your Career Started as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Hawaii
Once you have passed the NPTE-PTA, you will be mailed your license from the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Board of Physical Therapy. At that point, you may begin pursuing jobs that may be available to the many inpatient rehab centers and outpatient physical therapy practices throughout the state.
One of the largest employers of physical therapist assistants in Hawaii is Fukuji & Lum Physical Therapy Associates, an independently-owned practice with locations in Kailua, Kaneohe, and Honolulu. The practice’s therapy specialties include, but are not limited to, aquatic physical therapy, massage therapy, and conditioning.
Just some of the other employers of physical therapist assistants in Hawaii include:
- Club Rehab in Kailua Kona and Mauka
- Kona Community Hospital in Kealakekua
- Life Care Center of Kona in Kailua-Kona
- Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku
- North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea
- Oceanside Hawaii Assisted Living & Memory Care in Hauula
- OrthoSport Hawaii Physical Therapy & Aquatic Rehabilitation in Honolulu
- Physical Therapy Hawaii in Kapolei
- PT Hawaii in Waipahu
- Rebound Hawaii – Physical Therapy & Massage Therapy in Kapolei
- Shriners Hospitals for Children in Honolulu
- South Kona Physical Therapy & Functional Fitness in Captain Cook
Step 5. Keep your Physical Therapist Assistant License Current
Physical therapist assistant licenses in Hawaii expire on December 31 of even-numbered years. To maintain your license, you must understand and comply with the Hawaii laws and rules of physical therapist assistant practice.
Complete information on license renewal can be found under the “renewal” section on the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website.
You will receive notification each year prior to the expiration of your current license, which will include detailed instructions on what steps to take to proceed with renewal.