The need for physical therapist assistants is increasing so rapidly in Massachusetts that it made the list of “fastest growing jobs” published by the Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development in 2015. Although more than 2,200 physical therapist assistants were licensed to practice in Massachusetts as of 2014, the number is expected to grow much higher in the coming years as an aging population drives an unprecedented demand for physical therapeutic and rehabilitative services.
Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development expects the number of physical therapist assistants practicing in the state to increase by 30.46% between 2012 and 2022, resulting in an average of 111 new PTA jobs each year during this ten-year period.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Massachusetts
To begin your career as a physical therapist assistant in Massachusetts, you will start by qualifying for a PTA license through the Massachusetts Board of Allied Health Professions, Division of Professional Licensure.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in this simple guide to learn how to become a physical therapist assistant in Massachusetts:
Step 1. Earn an Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapist Assisting
Your first step to becoming a PTA in Massachusetts is to enroll in an associate’s degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Massachusetts Board of Allied Health Professions, Division of Professional Licensure. Approved and accredited associate’s degree programs in Massachusetts can be found here.
CAPTE-accredited PTA programs are available in a number of cities:
Your degree options in Massachusetts include:
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Science (AS)
You may have to meet a number of requirements to be able to apply to a PTA program:
- Proof of current immunizations
- Liability insurance
- CPR certification
- Criminal background check
Your education will involve a combination of lecture and lab coursework along with clinical rotations later in your program. While your coursework will vary depending on which school you enroll in, typical courses include:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Soft Tissue Techniques and Modalities
- Kinesiology lecture and lab
- Clinical Pathologies
- PT Assessment and Measurement
- Musculoskeletal PT Intervention
- Cardiopulmonary PT Intervention
- Neuromuscular PT Intervention
Your clinical work is a vital part of mastering the skills necessary to become a fully competent PTA. Your two-year associate’s degree will include three clinical rotations that will involve about 240 hours of hands-on experience. The clinical rotations will take part in a variety of settings throughout Massachusetts in such facilities as hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient centers.
Among the institutions that support clinical training rotations for PTA students in Massachusetts are:
- Braintree Rehabilitation – Braintree
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital – Boston
- Cambridge Health Alliance
- Falmouth Sports Therapy – Falmouth
- Genesis Rehabilitation
- Jump Start Physical Therapy – Natick
- New England Sinai Hospital – Stoughton
- Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital – Haverhill and Westborough
- Spaulding Rehabilitation Center – Boston
Step 2. Submit an Application for Licensure by Examination and Schedule the National Examination
While the Massachusetts Board of Allied Health Professions, Division of Professional Licensure will be the agency that grants you your PTA license; they have contracted a third-party organization know as the Professional Credentialing Services, Inc. (PCS) to manage the process.
Your application for licensure in Massachusetts will also serve as your application to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs, which you must pass in order to qualify for a PTA license in Massachusetts.
Download and submit your Licensure Application for Physical therapist assistants. You must also complete and submit a Criminal Offender Record Information Request Form. Both items must be notarized. You will also pay a $225 fee by credit card or certified check or money order made out to the PCS.
You will also need to provide PCS with official transcripts. If you have not received your transcripts yet, you must submit the Certification of Completion of Education Requirements that is contained in your application packet. Submit your completed application packet to this address:
Professional Credential Services, Inc.
Attn: PT/PTA Coordinator
PO Box 198689
Nashville, TN 37219-8689
Once your transcript is available, you must forward it in an envelope sealed by your school to this address within seven days of getting your degree:
MA Board of Allied Health Professionals
c/o PSC PT/PTA Coordinator
PO Box 198689
Nashville, TN 37219-8689
The PCS will review your application for completeness and will grant you approval to take the exam once they have determined that it is complete. They will notify the FSBPT that you are qualified to take the exam. The FSBPT will then send you an Authorization to Test Notice, which will allow you to schedule the exam.
You will register for your exam online at the website of the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and pay the $400 fee by credit or debit card when you register. You will also have to select your location to take the exam through the third-party testing agency Prometric and pay a $70 proctoring fee. Test sites are located in these cities:
- Boston (two locations)
- North Andover
- West Springfield
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs and Obtain your License
The FSBPT provides a candidate handbook and offers an online computerized practice exam that will help you prepare for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs.
The exam will take four hours and consist of 200 questions. The content for this computerized exam includes:
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
- Safety & Protection; Professional Responsibilities; Research (6%)
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
- Interventions (30.7%)
- Equipment & Devices; Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
You need to obtain a score of at least 600 to pass this exam. Once you have completed it, the FSBPT will report your score to the PCS within a week. You will receive notification that you passed 7-10 days later.
Then it will take 3-4 weeks for the PCS to approve you for licensure. When you receive notification by mail, you can then go to the online license verification portal to get your license information.
You have the option of getting an embossed wall certificate by sending a copy of your license to PCS and specifying how you would like your name listed. You must also send a check or money for $25 made out to PCS to this address:
Professional Credential Services
Attn: PT Coordinator
P.O. Box 198689
Nashville, TN 37219
Step 4. Begin your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’s physical therapist assistants have a range of employment options ranging from hospitals and nursing homes to home health agencies and sports clinics.
The state is home to the most highly ranked hospital in the country. U.S. News and World Reports rated Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as the country’s best hospital. It offers state of the art physical rehabilitation options to its patients including treatment for spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
Now that you have your PTA license, you are eligible to practice in Massachusetts. The state offers a variety of avenues for employment in its 110 hospitals, many nursing homes, and outpatient clinics.
You may get a job offer from one of the facilities that hosted your clinical training. The following are among the many institutions that were offering jobs to licensed PTAs in Massachusetts during November 2015 (Taken from a survey of job vacancy announcements and show as examples only. This does not imply the assurance of employment or the availability of jobs):
- Upham’s Corner Community Health Center – Boston
- VIP Physical Therapy – Springfield
- VNA Care Network, Inc. – Needham
- South Shore Hospital – South Weymouth
- Paragon Rehabilitation – Cambridge
- Visiting Nurse Association of Boston & Affiliates – Charlestown
- HomeCare Hospice – Westwood
- Morton Hospital – Taunton
- Heritage/Health PRO – Easton
- Caretenders Home Health – Newton
- Preferred Therapy Solutions – Natick
Step 5. Renew your Physical Therapist Assistant License Every Two Years
You will have to renew your license every two years on your birthday. The Board will send you a renewal application along with instructions on how to renew your license. You will have to pay a $100 renewal fee each time you renew.
You should do this promptly after receiving notification from the Board, since it takes about four weeks for the Board to send you your new wallet license.
Massachusetts does not require any continuing education credits for your renewal, although the Board recommends that you do your best to stay current in the field of physical therapy.