Physical therapist assisting is such a high demand, high growth, and high wage profession in Maryland that it made the state’s 2015 “Hot Jobs Now” list published by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR).
Even with 1,370 PTAs licensed to practice in Maryland as of 2014, this number is expected to grow rapidly to keep pace with the increasing demand for physical therapy services. In fact, the Maryland DLLR expects the number of physical therapist assistants in the state to increase by 19% in the ten-year period from 2012 to 2022. This is expected to result in an average of 62 new PTA jobs being created in the state each year.
From home health agencies and sports clinics to hospitals and nursing homes, physical therapist assistants in Maryland have a range of employment settings to choose from. Among Maryland’s 70 hospitals, one stands out for its world-class physical therapy department. Johns Hopkins in Baltimore offers a wide variety of outpatient rehabilitation services in such areas as spinal cord injuries and neurological conditions through its Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, which has been recognized among the best in the nation.
Steps to Obtaining a Physical Therapist Assistant License in Maryland
Becoming a physical therapist assistant in Maryland starts by qualifying for a license through the Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in this simple guide to learn how to become a physical therapist in Maryland:
Step 1. Earn Your Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Degree
Your first step to becoming a licnesed PTA in Maryland is to enroll in a two-year associate’s degree program in physical therapist assisting through a school that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.
You can find CAPTE-accredited programs in a number of cities in Maryland:
Accredited programs in Maryland confer an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS).
Although admission can be competitive, some schools in Maryland are known to use a lottery system to choose who will be admitted. In some cases you may be expected to spend as many as 50 hours of documented time observing PT treatments in at least two different facilities as a requirement for acceptance into the program. It is also common for schools to require CPR certification.
In all cases, your education will be comprised of didactic courses and clinical experience. While specific PTA coursework may vary somewhat among schools, typical coursework for a physical therapist assistant associate’s degree includes:
- Pathology I
- Modalities I
- Clinical Kinesiology
- Principles of Rehabilitation
- Therapeutic Exercise
Your clinical experience will be critical to mastering the skills to work as a PTA. Your two-year associate’s degree will include 10-14 credits of full-time work in several clinics. You will need to undergo a criminal background check before being allowed to participate in clinical training.
Your clinical experience could take place in a number of different settings throughout Maryland, including physical therapy and sports medicine outpatient clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The following facilities partner with the state’s schools to provide opportunities for clinical experience:
- Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore
- Sinai Rehabilitation Center – Baltimore
- University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute – Baltimore
- HealthSouth Chesapeake Rehabilitation Hospital – Salisbury
- Adventist HealthCare Physical Health & Rehabilitation – Gaithersburg
Step 2. Submit Your Application for Licensure by Examination
Now that you have your PTA degree, you will need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs to practice as a physical therapist assistant in Maryland. Your first step towards doing this is to apply to the Maryland Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, so they can determine that you are qualified to take the exam.
You will have to fill out your Application Licensure Form and have your signature notarized. You will also have to provide a photograph of yourself including just the head and shoulders. In addition, you need to fill out and submit an Exam Questionnaire and include a check or money order for $150 made out to the Maryland Board of Physical Therapy.
The Board also requires that you undergo a state and federal background check when you apply. Their Background Check Application Letter contains a long list of places in Maryland where you can have this done.
The background check fee is $32.75, while the fingerprinting service fee is generally $20.00. It is critical that you keep your receipt after you have your fingerprints taken, since you will include a copy of this with your application.
Your school’s Registrar’s Office must send your post-graduation transcripts directly to the Board Office.
Mail your application packet along with all accompanying documents to:
The Maryland Board of Physical Examiners
4201 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215-2299
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
Your next step in the PTA licensing process in Maryland is to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs. You will schedule the exam online directly through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and pay the $400 exam fee by credit or debit card when you register.
When the Board has determined that your application is complete, they will notify the FSBPT to authorize you to take the exam. Once you have been authorized, you will need to schedule the exam and choose a Prometric testing location in the state. As a third-party exam provider, Prometic requires a $70 scheduling and proctoring fee. Test sites are located in these cities:
- Baltimore (two locations)
The exam will take four hours to complete and consist of 200 questions. You are well advised to prepare in advance by studying the FSBPT candidate handbook and taking a computerized online practice exam. The content for this computerized exam includes:
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
- Safety & Protection; Professional Responsibilities; Research (6%)
- Interventions (30.7%)
- Equipment & Devices; Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
In order to pass the exam, you need to obtain a score of at least 600.
Step 4. Pass Your Maryland Jurisprudence Exam and Get Your PTA License
You must become familiar with the Maryland State Physical Therapy Laws and Regulations and demonstrate this by passing an open book exam. The Board will send the exam to you after they have received your application. The exam will be sent to you as an email attachment after they have received your application. You will need to achieve a score of 90% to pass.
Once you have passed your NPTE-PTA and your Maryland jurisprudence exams, the Board will issue your license number. It can take up to 3 weeks to get your license number once the exam scores have been reported. You must wait to receive your license number before being legally allowed to practice.
Step 5. Establish Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Maryland
With your license number in hand, you are fully authorized to practice as a physical therapist assistant in Maryland. Maryland offers a number of avenues for employment in the state’s 70 hospitals, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes. Facilities that were hiring physical therapist assistants in Maryland as of October 2015 included the following (This list is intended for informational purposes only and does not guarantee the availability of open positions):
- Centra Healthcare Solutions – Clinton
- Flagship Rehabilitation – Sandy Spring
- Aegis Therapies – Frederick
- NovaCare Rehabilitation – Fort Washington
- University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center – Towson
- Greater Baltimore Medical Center – Baltimore
- ATI Physical Therapy – Laurel
- The People Link Corp. – Elkridge
- Western Maryland Health System, Inc. – Cumberland
An additional option for employment is to join one of the many smaller, independent physical therapy practices throughout Maryland.
Step 6. Renew Your Physical Therapist Assistant License Every Two Years
Your physical therapist assistant license will be up for renewal every two years. The renewal time varies depending on whether your license number ends in an odd or even number. If your license number ends in an odd year, you will renew in odd-numbered years. Licenses that end in even years are renewed on even years.
The Board will notify you in early March of the renewal year to inform you of your pending renewal and send instructions on how to do so. Your online renewal must be received no later than May 15. You will lose your right to practice as a PTA in Maryland if you do not renew before the deadline.
To ensure you receive your notification each renewal period, it is critical that you keep the Board apprised of any changes to your address.
You will need to earn 2 continuing education credits (complete 20 contact hours) each renewal period to keep your license current. No continuing education is required during your first licensing period if your license was issued less than 12 months before the first renewal date.
These credits must have been approved by the Board which provides a List of Approved Continuing Education Courses. All courses sponsored (not hosted) by the American Physical Therapy Association are automatically approved.