The Iowa Department of Workforce Development named physical therapist assistants on its list of Iowa’s “Hot 50 Jobs,” citing both strong job growth and high-salaries for these healthcare support practitioners.
Even with nearly 1,000 physical therapist assistants licensed in Iowa as of 2013, the number of physical therapist assistants in the state is expected to grow dramatically during the ten-year period leading up to 2022. The projected job growth rate of 38% during this ten-year period will create an average of 50 jobs each year for PTAs in Iowa.
The University of Iowa’s system of Hospitals and Clinics is ranked nationally for its high quality of patient care, with Forbes recognizing it as the state’s number one employer in the health care industry. Among this system’s hospitals, rehabilitation centers, sports medicine clinics, and extended care units, it employs more physical therapist assistants than any other single employer in the state. Based in Iowa City, this hospital offers a variety of rehab services to patients who need such physical therapies as lymphedema, prosthetic, and hemophilia. In addition, its physicians and PT specialists offer rehabilitation for neurological, pulmonary, vestibular, and orthopedic and sports conditioning.
Steps to Obtaining a Physical Therapist Assistant License in Iowa
Pursuing a career as a physical therapist assistant in Iowa starts by qualifying for a license through the Iowa Board of Physical & Occupational Therapy.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in this simple guide to learn how to become a physical therapist in Iowa:
Step 1. Earn Your Physical Therapist Assistant Degree
Your first step to becoming a physical therapist assistant in Iowa is to enroll in a school that offers a two-year Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or Associate of Science (AS) degree. In order to meet the requirements to obtain a PTA license in Iowa, your associate’s degree must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Iowa Board of Physical & Occupational Therapy.
You can find schools accredited by CAPTE with campus locations in a number of cities:
- Des Moines
- Mason City
- Sioux City
Your education in physical therapist assisting will include both classroom coursework and rotations in healthcare settings. While each school has different offerings, you will typically take PTA courses that include:
- Human Anatomy & Physiology lecture and lab
- PTA Patient Assessment
- Functional Motor Development
- Neurology for PTA
- Orthopedic issues
Your two-year associate’s degree will generally include at least 17 weeks of full-time clinical work. Typically, this will be a mix of short-term and long-term clinical rotations. Most schools require that you undergo a background check so that the clinics will accept you into their practice.
Some programs will offer you the opportunity to practice at a variety of healthcare providers throughout Iowa. In other programs, you will perform the majority of your clinical work at specific facilities:
- Linn County Regional Center – Hiawatha
- Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines
Once you have completed your coursework and clinical rotation, you will receive your physical therapist assistant degree.
Step 2. Submit an Application for PTA Licensure by Examination
Now that you have your PTA degree, you need to apply for the national PTA exam to become qualified for your license. Your first step is to submit your licensure application form to the Iowa Board of Physical and Occupation Therapy.
Make sure that you have signed the form in ink. You must pay a non-refundable fee of $120 in the form of a check or money order made out to the Iowa Board of Physical & Occupational Therapy. You will send your application to:
Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy Professional Licensure Division
Lucas State Office Building
Des Moines, IA 50319-0075
You also need to direct your school to send official copies of your academic transcripts to the Board. They will not consider your application until they receive these transcripts.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
Your final step to PTA licensure in Iowa is to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs, which is offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). You will register online and pay a fee of $400 by credit or debit card.
You would be well advised to prepare in advance by reviewing the candidate handbook. You also have the opportunity to take an online practice exam. The content for this computerized exam includes:
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
- Equipment & Devices; Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
- Interventions (30.7%)
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
- Safety & Protection; Professional Responsibilities; Research (6%)
You will need to achieve a score of 600 to pass this exam.
Now you should be ready to schedule your exam with Prometric after you have paid your $70 fee. You may schedule your exam at a number of Prometric test sites throughout Iowa:
- West Des Moines
- Sioux City
Step 4. Establish Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Iowa
Now that you are a licensed PTA, you can start your career. Iowa offers numerous job options for physical therapist assistants in its many hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation clinics, some of which include:
- Aegis Therapies – Ottumwa
- US Physical Therapy – Davenport, Ankeny
- Agility Health – Dubuque
- UnityPoint Health – Waterloo
- Millennium Rehab & Consulting Inc. – Johnston
- Select Rehabilitation – Fairfield
- Reliant Rehabilitation – Rockwell City, Eldora, State Center
- Sanford Health – Sheldon
Another option for you is to work in the independent practice of a licensed physical therapist.
Step 5. Renew Your Physical Therapist License Every Two Years
Your license will be valid for two years and then you will have to apply and pay a $60 fee to get it renewed. You have the option to renew online up to 60 days before your license expires. The Board will mail a new wallet card to you within three working days after your license has been renewed.
You also have the option to renew your license by sending a form to this address:
Iowa Department of Public Health
Attn: Renewal Department
Lucas State Office Building, 5th Floor
321 E. 12th St.
Des Moines, IA 50319-0075
You have up to 30 days after your license has expired to renew it, but you will have to pay a late fee if you let it lapse.
With the exception of first time renewals, you will have to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education that has been approved by the Board. At least 15 hours must be directly related to the clinical application of physical therapy.
The Iowa code for the professional licensure of PTAs provides a complete listing of what qualifies for continuing education in Chapter 203, section 203.3(2). Examples of qualifying activities that directly relate to physical therapy include:
- Attending conferences, workshops, or symposiums
- Accessing online training
- Completing a postprofessional clinical residency approved by the American Physical Therapy Association
- Supervising students for clinical education
- Presenting professional programs
- Completing relevant academic courses
- Teaching in an approved school
- Publishing a research paper
- Participating in professional programs that relate to PT
Additional sources for continuing education for PTAs include the:
- Iowa Physical Therapy Association & Foundation (IPTA)
- Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
The Board conducts random audits to ensure that physical therapist assistants who have renewed their license have completed the appropriate continuing education. If you are chosen, you will have to submit an individual certificate of completion or evidence from the sponsor that you successfully completed the course. You should keep your certificates of completion for four years.