As a physical therapist assistant, you play a vital role in helping people recuperate after serious injuries—helping them return to their lives, families, and careers.
In 2014, the two areas with the highest concentration of licensed physical therapist assistants in Missouri were St. Louis, which was home to 1,130 licensed PTAs, and Kansas City, which had 520 licensed PTAs.
Not only is Kansas City home to the second largest number of PTAs in the state, it is also one of the highest paying areas for PTAs statewide. In 2014, the annual average salary for PTAs here was $51,340, which was much higher than the statewide average for all occupations.
The demand for physical therapist assistants in Missouri has been growing steadily, and is not expected to slow down any time soon. Between 2012 and 2022, the Missouri Department of Economic Development expects the number of physical therapist assistant jobs to grow by 24.05%. This translates to more than 850 new jobs in the field during this ten-year period, making it one of the state’s fastest-growing occupations.
Physical therapist assistants in Missouri often find jobs with the state’s hospitals, medical centers, and rehabilitation centers. Missouri is home to nearly 160 hospitals—two of which are nationally ranked, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Best Hospitals in America.”
One of these nationally ranked hospitals, St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, is home to expert physical therapists that provide outpatient services in 9 different metro and regional locations. The physical therapists here are dedicated to developing individualized plans to treat ACL pain, back pain, cervicogenic headaches, fracture fixation, radiculopathy, and more.
Steps to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Missouri
If you’re ready to begin your career as a physical therapist assistant in Missouri, you’ll start by becoming licensed through the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts.
For detailed guidance on how to become a licensed physical therapist assistant in Missouri, follow these simple steps:
Step 1. Earn a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree from an Accredited School
The Missouri Board requires you to enroll in a school that offers a two-year physical therapist assistant associate’s degree program at minimum. Your associate’s degree program must have received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Schools that offer CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant degree programs have campus locations in various cities, including:
- Kansas City
- Cape Girardeau
- St. Joseph
- St. Louis
- Jefferson City
Although you can choose to earn either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, most schools offer these two options at the associate’s level:
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Science (AS)
While the AS degree is designed to prepare you for further schooling, such as a bachelor’s degree program in health science, the AAS is designed to prepare you to seek a job as a physical therapist assistant immediately upon graduation.
Your PTA degree program will be a mixture of coursework, laboratory experiences, and clinical experiences. Although each school is different, most PTA programs consists of coursework and interspersed clinical work, including courses such as these:
- Medical Diseases
- Basic Emergency Patient Care
- Applied Neurology
- Orthopedic Pathology
- Physical Therapy Fundamentals
- Medical Terminology
- Clinical Experience I (2 weeks)
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Pediatrics and Gerontology
- Clinical Seminar
- Clinical Experience II (2 weeks)
- Clinical Experience III (14 weeks)
Overall, your clinical experiences will consist of between 16 and 18 weeks spent in local hospitals, outpatient centers, nursing homes, or sub-acute facilities.
Step 2. Submit the Application for Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure Based on Examination
After you earn your physical therapist assistant associate’s degree, you will be able to submit your application for a license based on examination.
Your application will serve two functions: it will allow you to sit for the national written exam, and upon passing that exam, it will allow you to be issued your physical therapist assistant license.
To complete the full application process, submit the Physical Therapist Assistant License Based on Examination Application, which includes:
- Examination application
- Activities statement form
- Verification of licensure form (if necessary)
- Certificate of professional education form
- Temporary licensure agreement to supervise form
- Authorization for release of medical records
- Jurisprudence examination
Along with this application, you will want to include these secondary documents, fees, and materials:
- $50.00 examination fee
- $10.00 temporary license fee (if applicable)
- Official transcripts
- Original 3×5 photograph
Once you’ve completed and compiled all necessary portions of the application packet—including the 20-question, open-book jurisprudence examination—you can send the application to the Missouri Board mailing address:
State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts
3605 Missouri Boulevard
P.O. Box 4
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0004
At this time, you will also want to register with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to take your National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE) for PTAs.
The Board will have 30 days to approve or deny your application. During that time, you can check your application status online.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
Once the Board receives and approves your application, the Board will notify the FSBPT that you are ready to take the NPTE-PTA. The FSBPT will send you an Authorization to Test (ATT) email. Your ATT will have instructions on scheduling and taking the examination.
You will schedule your exam directly with Prometric, and you will take the exam at a Prometric testing center. Prometric centers are located throughout Missouri:
- Jefferson City
- St. Louis
- Kansas City
This is a 200-question exam, which includes questions on physical therapist assistant domains of practice, such as:
- Physical Therapy Data Collection
- Diseases and Conditions
- Equipment and Devices
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Safety and Protection
These questions will concern how these domains of practice relate to various bodily systems, such as:
- Metabolic & Endocrine Systems
- Gastrointestinal System
- Genitourinary System
- Musculoskeletal System
- Neuromuscular & Nervous Systems
To pass this exam, you must attain a score of 600 or higher. Within five business days of taking the exam, FSBPT will send your score to the Missouri Board. If you’ve passed the exam, then the Missouri Board will issue you your physical therapist assistant license.
Step 4. Begin your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Missouri
Once you’ve earned your license, you can begin exploring physical therapist assistant jobs in Missouri’s top medical centers, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, which include:
- Aegis Therapies – Fulton
- Glennon Place Nursing and Rehabilitation – Kansas City
- Mercy Hospital – St. Louis
- St. Luke’s Hospital – Kansas City, Chesterfield
- Cox Medical Center Branson – Springfield
- Gentiva Health Services – Kansas City
- Advanced Training and Rehab – St. Louis
- Providence Medical Center – Kansas City
In addition to Missouri’s top hospitals and medical centers, some PTAs choose to work with licensed physical therapists in independent practices.
Step 5. Earn 30 Hours of Continuing Education to Renew your License Every Two Years
Your license will expire by January 31st of ever even-numbered years. The Board will mail you a renewal application on or before December 1st of each odd-numbered year. With your paper renewal application (or using the online renewal form), you will also need to submit the renewal fee and verification that you have earned 30 hours of continuing education.
The Missouri Board will accept continuing education courses, workshops, or seminars provided by recognized organizations like these:
- Missouri Physical Therapy Association
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- American Osteopathic Association (AOA)
- Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
Other ways to earn continuing education hours include, but are not limited to, engaging in these activities:
- Presenting a workshop
- Delivering a presentation
- Participating in research activities
- Publishing an article
- Home study courses