Physical therapist assistants play a key role in promoting optimum health. They prevent, identify, correct, and alleviate bodily dysfunction, which helps people who have suffered major injuries get back to their daily lives.
In 2014, North Carolina was one of the top 13 states in the nation with the highest number of licensed physical therapist assistants, having a total of 2,430, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was also one of the top paying states in the nation for PTAs that year, with the average annual salary for licensed physical therapist assistants being $57,550.
One of the “Best Hospitals in North Carolina,” according to the U.S. News and World Report, is Mission Hospital in Asheville. With 744 beds and 644 doctors, this hospital has seen up to 38,000 patients in a single year.
This hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services provided by outstanding physical therapists. Physical therapists offer unique, advanced programs such as occupational therapy, fall prevention therapy, pelvic floor dysfunction therapy, lymphedema therapy, a bike fit program, a runner’s clinic, and more.
The hospital’s outpatient centers are located in various cities throughout North Carolina, including Asheville, Woodfin, Reuter, Swannanoa and Village at Biltmore.
With nationally recognized physical therapists comes a demand for first-rate physical therapist assistants to help patients recover from everything from moderate injuries to life-changing accidents.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in North Carolina
If you’re ready to start a career as a physical therapist assistant, you’ll begin by meeting the requirements for a license through the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.
For a simple reference guide on how to become a licensed physical therapist assistant in North Carolina, follow these steps:
Step 1. Earn a Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree from an Accredited School
To earn a physical therapist assistant license in North Carolina, you will first need to earn, at minimum, a physical therapist assistant associate’s degree. Through this degree, you will learn the concepts that are foundational to physical therapy, and you will learn how to apply them to physical therapy rehabilitation procedures.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) must have accredited the associate’s degree program you choose in order for you to qualify for licensure.
Schools that offer CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant programs have campus locations in various cities throughout North Carolina, including:
- High Point
- New Bern
- Rocky Mount
Most CAPTE-accredited programs result in two-year physical therapist assistant associate’s degrees. You can choose between an academic degree – an associate of science (AS), or an occupational degree – an associate of applied science (AAS).
While AS degrees prepare you for future education, AAS degrees prepare you to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation, beginning your physical therapist assistant career.
Physical therapist assistant degree programs consist of coursework, lab work, and clinical experiences. For instance, a typical program will consist of a course sequence such as this:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Anatomy and Physiology Lab
- Medical Terminology
- Introduction to PTA
- Pathology for the PTA
- Functional Anatomy
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Principles of Rehabilitation
- Clinical Experience (4 weeks)
- Advanced Rehabilitation Principles
- Clinical Internship I (200 clinical hours)
- Clinical Internship II (240 clinical hours)
Overall, your clinical experience is interspersed throughout your coursework. This lets you integrate theory and practice at an optimum level.
Although each school is different, most require that you complete anywhere between 14–20 weeks of clinical experience, which will be conducted in local hospitals, outpatient centers, medical centers, or nursing homes that your school has a professional, clinical relationship with.
Step 2. Submit an Application for Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure
The North Carolina Board allows you to begin the application process while you are finalizing your associate’s degree in order to minimize the delay time between when you graduate and when you take the national licensing exam.
This application serves two purposes: it allows the Board to approve you both for examination and licensure.
To start the application process, complete these steps:
- Submit Application for Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure
- Submit $150.00 Application Fee
You can mail your application and fee to the North Carolina Board at the following address:
NC Board of PT Examiners
18 West Colony Place, Suite 140
Durham, NC 27705
Along with submitting your application, you will need to register with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) for the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE) for PTAs.
To register, complete the following steps:
- Read the Candidate Handbook
- Register online for the exam
- Pay the $400.00 exam fee
Once the Board approves your application and you have registered for the NPTE-PTA, you will be approved to sit for the national examination. Upon passing the exam, you will be approved to receive your North Carolina physical therapist assistant license.
Step 3. Complete the North Carolina Jurisprudence Exercises
When the Board approves of your application, you will receive an applicant ID number. Use this ID number to log into the North Carolina Board’s online services.
Your password for logging in will be the last four letters of your first name and the last four numbers of your Social Security Number. The Board gives the following password example: Betty B. Smith, SSN# 555-666-1234 – etty1234.
Once you log in, you will be able to complete the jurisprudence exercises. These are based on the Board’s laws and rules, which you can access here.
You do not need to complete these exercises before you take the NPTE-PTA, but it is wise to complete them as soon as possible, so that the Board can approve you for licensure.
Step 4. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
When the Board approves your application, the Board will notify FSBPT that you are approved to sit for the examination. FSBPT will then send you an Authorization to Test letter, which will have instructions on scheduling the date and time for your exam.
You will schedule your exam with the exam vendor, Prometric. Prometric has testing locations throughout North Carolina:
The NPTE-PTA consists of 200 questions concerning various physical therapy domain areas, such as:
- Diseases and conditions
- Therapeutic modalities
- Safety and protection
- Research and evidence-based practice
- Professional responsibilities
You will need to apply your knowledge of these PT domains to various content areas, such as:
- Cardiovascular/pulmonary & lymphatic systems
- Musculoskeletal system
- Integumentary system
- Metabolic and endocrine system
After you take the exam, FSBTP will send your scores to the North Carolina Board. If you passed the exam with a score of 600 or higher, you will be issued your physical therapist assistant license.
If you are concerned about your score, and you want to receive a personal report, you can submit a score verification request form.
Step 5. Begin your Career by Finding a Physical Therapist Assistant Job in North Carolina
Now that you’re licensed as a physical therapist assistant, you can start looking for jobs in one of North Carolina’s many hospitals, VA medical centers, outpatient centers, rehabilitation centers, and more.
Organizations and agencies in North Carolina that may have physical therapist assistant job openings include, but are not limited to, organizations such as:
- Physio Physical Therapy and Wellness – Asheville
- Novant Health – Salisbury
- Southeastern Fitness and Rehab – Asheville
- Learning Services Inc. – Raleigh
- Therapy Management Corporation- Asheville
- Carolinas Healthcare System – Concord
- Aegis Therapies – Asheville
- Signature HealthCARE LLC – Kinston
- PruittHealth – High Point
- Mission Hospitals – Asheville
Some physical therapist assistants, instead, opt to join a licensed physical therapist in an independent practice.
Step 6. Accumulate 20 Points of Continuing Competency to Renew Your License
The North Carolina Board requires you to renew your license each year by January 31st in order to continue working as a physical therapist assistant. To be eligible to renew your license, you will need to earn 20 continuing competency points within the 25-month reporting period prior to renewal.
You can earn points through engaging in any of the following activities (which are outlined by the Board):
- An academic course
- An online course
- A group study
- A self-designed home study
- A residency program
- A national convention/conference
Continuing competency providers that are approved by the Board include:
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- North Carolina Physical Therapy Association
- Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
- International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET)
- North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
- North Carolina Division of Public Health
- North Carolina Area Health Education Centers
Once you’ve completed your continuing competency requirements, you can report them, renew your license, and pay the $90.00 renewal fee online.