With nearly 1,000 licensed physical therapist assistants practicing in Louisiana as of 2014, and many more expected to enter the field as demand for therapeutic services grows, the Louisiana Workforce Commission designated physical therapist assisting with a “four star rating,” identifying it as a high-demand profession with a strong employment outlook.
In fact, the Louisiana Workforce Commission estimates a job growth rate of 29.03% during the ten-year period from 2012 to 2022. This is expected to create an average of 46 new PTA jobs in the state every year during this timeframe.
Licensed PTAs in Louisiana can expect to enter a job market that is as diverse as it is optimistic. Louisiana’s licensed PTAs are found working in locations that range from nursing homes to home health agencies and school systems, to the state’s 220 nationally ranked hospitals, including Ochsner Medical Center in Harvey, renowned for its innovative back/spine and pediatric physical therapy programs.
Steps to Obtaining a Physical Therapist Assistant License in Louisiana
Your career as a physical therapist assistant in Louisiana starts by qualifying for a PTA license through the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in this simple guide to learn how to become a physical therapist in Louisiana:
Step 1. Earn Your Physical Therapist Assistant Degree
Your first step to becoming a physical therapist assistant in Louisiana is to enroll in a school that offers a two-year associate’s degree in physical therapist assisting. You will need to choose a school that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board.
You can find schools with campus locations that have been accredited by CAPTE in a number of cities:
- New Orleans
- Baton Rouge
- Bossier City
You have a choice of two types of PTA degrees in Louisiana:
- Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assisting (AS)
Admission to these programs can be selective. For instance, one college recommends completing 100 hours of PTA volunteer experience before applying.
Once admitted, your education will involve both academic courses and clinical work.
While the PTA coursework at each school is different, common courses include:
- Health Care Communications
- Functional Anatomy and Kinesiology
- Pathophysiological Conditions
- Development Considerations
- The Health Care System
- Clinical Neurorehabilitation/Motor Control
Your two-year associate’s degree will include about 16 weeks of full-time clinical experience under a supervising PT or PTA. This work will expose you to a variety of clinical settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, and outpatient centers in such facilities as:
- Louisiana Physical Therapy Center – Pineville
- Touro Rehabilitation Center – New Orleans
- Ochsner Health System – Harvey
- The NeuroMedical Center Rehabilitation Hospital – Baton Rouge
Step 2. Submit Your Application for Licensure by Examination
You will need to pass the national PTA exam to qualify for a license to practice in Louisiana. In order to be deemed eligible to sit for the exam, you must first submit your Application for State Licensure to the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board along with the appropriate fees ($200 for a one-year license and $315 for a two-year license). Your application must be notarized and submitted along with a recent passport sized color photograph taken within the past six months
You must meet a number of requirements in order for your application to be considered:
- Be at least 19 years old
- Be of good moral character
- Have graduated from a CAPTE-approved program for PTAs
- Be a US citizen
- Included payment for the application fees along with other specified documents
You may request a provisional license to practice as a physical therapist assistant when submitting your application if there is a waiting period till the next examination date. During the 90-day provisional licensing period, a licensed physical therapist must agree to supervise your work within their clinic. The sponsoring PT must complete the Supervisory Request Affidavit, which is to be submitted along with your application for licensure.
Once your application has been approved, you will be contacted to meet personally with a representative of the Board. The Board will send you an email with the contact information of the person you will meet with. You will be able to select the location of this meeting on your application:
- Baton Rouge
- Lake Charles
- New Orleans
The Board may require you to undergo a background check through the Louisiana State Police and the FBI. If this is required, you will have to submit your fingerprints. If the State Police does not identify any criminal record, the Board will forward your fingerprints to the FBI for a national criminal history record check.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
Your final step to obtaining a PTA license in Louisiana is to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The Louisiana Physical Therapy Board considers you eligible to take this exam if you possess all of the qualifications for licensure and will notify you of your eligibility to schedule your exam after processing your application.
If you do not yet have a degree, but have completed your education or will complete it prior to the exam, you can still be deemed eligible to take the NPTE-PTA. You will have to request that an authorized representative of your school certify:
- You have completed all of your academic education
- You will obtain your degree at the next scheduled convocation
- The date on which your degree will be awarded
You must register for the NPTE online directly through FSBPT and pay the exam registration fee of $400 by credit or debit card. You will then be instructed to schedule the exam at a local Prometric testing site and pay a $70 proctoring fee. Prometric testing sites in Louisiana are located in:
- Baton Rouge
- Lake Charles
- Bossier City
The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) provides a candidate handbook to help you prepare for the exam. After you have reviewed the information, you can take an online practice exam. The content for this computerized exam includes:
- Interventions (30.7%)
- Safety & Protection; Professional Responsibilities; Research (6%)
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
- Equipment & Devices; Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
You will have five and a half hours in which to take the exam. You will need to obtain a score of 600 in order to pass.
Step 4. Establish Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Louisiana
Once you have passed your exam, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Board of Physical Therapy will issue your PTA license within seven days of being notified of your passing score. You can then start your career as a physical therapist assistant in Louisiana.
You may find physical therapist assistant jobs available in Louisiana’s many outpatient clinics, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. Facilities that were hiring physical therapist assistants in Louisiana during October 2015 included (shown for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute a job offer):
- Carrington Place of New Orleans – New Orleans
- Carrington Place of Baton Rouge – Baton Rouge
- Tara Therapy, LLC – Ruston
- MMO Rehabilitation & Wellness Hospital – Baton Rouge
- Ochsner Health System – New Orleans
- Moreau Physical Therapy – Baton Rouge
- Terrebonne General Medical Center – Houma
- Therapy Management Corporation – Baton Rouge
- Lafayette General Medical Center – Lafayette
- Amedisys, Inc. – Larose
You may also find work in the many smaller independent physical therapy clinics located throughout Louisiana.
Step 5. Renew Your Physical Therapist Assistant License Every Two Years
Your physical therapist license will expire at different times depending on your birth year. If your birth year ends in an odd number, you will have to renew by April 30 in odd-numbered years. If your birth year ends in an even number, you will need to renew by April 30 in even-numbered years.
If you send in your renewal application before March 31, you will pay the standard renewal fee of $230. However, if you renew after this date, but before April 30, the fee will be $400. If you do not renew by April 30, you will have to apply to have your license reinstated.
You must take at least 30 hours of continuing education courses or activities approved by the Board during each two-year licensing period. If you graduated and became licensed at some point within the current two-year cycle, you will only need to take 15 hours before your first renewal. Your 30 hours of activities and courses must consist of:
- Jurisprudence – at least 2 contact hours
- Ethics or Professionalism – at least 2 contact hours
- Administrative – a maximum of 8 contact hours
- Clinical/preventative – at least 18 contact hours
- You can earn up to 6 hours by completing a Board-approved self-assessment tool
You can find additional details on continuing education in section 195 of the PT Practice Act and Rules. Excluding the jurisprudence requirement, no more than 15 hours of your continuing education can be in the form of online courses or home study.
Continuing education courses are available from the:
- Louisiana Physical Therapy Association
- Any Louisiana CAPTE accredited program
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- APTA-sponsored courses are acceptable, while APTA-hosted courses are not acceptable
Consult the database of Board-approved CEU courses to find options available near you.
It is important to maintain records of your continuing education activities in the event that the Board conducts a random audit.