Philadelphia is home to the fifth highest number of physical therapist assistants of any metropolitan area in the U.S. according to a 2014 report published by the US Department of Labor. Altoona also had the unique distinction of having the seventh highest concentration of PTAs of any metropolitan area in the U.S. that year. Even so, Pennsylvania is expecting very strong job growth for these vital healthcare support professionals as demand for physical therapy continues to rise.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Center for Workforce Information & Analysis projects that some 1,160 new physical therapist assistant jobs will become available in the state during the period spanning 2012-2022. That figure would represent a 27.6% increase in the total number of licensed physical therapist assistants in the state, making Pennsylvania one of the best places in the nation in terms of employment opportunities for newly licensed PTAs.
Steps to Becoming a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in Pennsylvania
To become a licensed physical therapist assistant in Pennsylvania, you must meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania State Board of Physical Therapy. Follow these steps to learn how to qualify for your PTA license:
Step 1. Graduate from a CAPTE-Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Program
In order to receive your license as a physical therapist assistant in Pennsylvania, you must graduate from an associate’s degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Pennsylvania’s CAPTE-accredited schools can be found in the following cities:
- Bryn Mawr
- Lemont Furnace
- Mont Alto
- North East
You can find a complete list of CAPTE-accredited PTA programs in Pennsylvania on the CAPTE website.
Physical therapist assistant programs combine classroom and laboratory learning with clinical experience, giving students a comprehensive education that prepares them for success on the national exam and throughout their careers.
Your coursework may cover topics such as:
- Professional ethics
- Fitness and personal training
- Rehabilitative agents
- Therapeutic exercise
- Medical terminology
- Behavioral sciences
- Clinical pathology
- Exercise physiology
Your clinical internship will allow you to apply the knowledge you acquire in your courses while you gain real-world exposure to working with patients. Under the supervision of a physical therapist, students typically work 14-16 weeks, full-time, at nearby physical therapy outpatient clinics and inpatient rehabilitation centers. You may find a list of physical therapy clinics at Pennsylvania hospitals, private practices, and nursing homes that support clinical internships in Step 4 of this guide.
Successful completion of your program will lead to one of the following specialized associate’s degrees:
- Associate in Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AS)
Step 2. Submit an Application for Licensure in Pennsylvania by Examination
Once you have graduated from a CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant associate’s degree program, you may begin the licensure process with the Pennsylvania State Board of Physical Therapy.
To start, you must print and complete the physical therapist assistant application from the Board’s website. Along with your application, you must submit a $30 fee in the form of check or money order made out to “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” All materials are to be sent to the following address:
State Board of Physical Therapy
P.O. Box 2649, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649 OR
(for courier delivery)
2601 North Third St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110
You may also apply online with the Pennsylvania Department of State and submit payment and supporting documents through the online portal.
Upon receipt of your application, the Board will determine your approval to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs, offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
While the department reviews your eligibility to take the exam, you must also register for the NPTE-PTA with the FSBPT. Once you have been approved for examination, you may schedule your testing time at a Prometric center in Pennsylvania. To find a complete list of Prometric centers in the state, visit the Prometric website.
You must pay a $400 fee to the FSBPT and a $70 fee to Prometric to take the NPTE-PTA.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs
The NPTE-PTA is a 200-question test will cover the material you learned in your physical therapist assistant program. Among the topics on the exam are:
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Safety and Protection
- Equipment and Devices
- PT Data Collection
- Professional Responsibilities
The FSBPT offers an online practice exam & assessment tool (PEAT) to help candidates prepare for the exam. You may also access the NPTE Candidate Handbook on the FSBPT site as a study tool.
A passing score on the NPTE-PTA is the equivalent of a 600 on scale ranging from 200-800. If you fail the exam, you must submit a new application to the Pennsylvania State Board of Physical Therapy, along with an additional $30 application fee, and wait six months to retest.
Step 4. Begin your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Pennsylvania
Passing the NPTE-PTA will qualify you to practice as a physical therapist assistant in Pennsylvania. With your license in hand, you may begin applying for available jobs at the many inpatient rehabilitation centers and specialized outpatient clinics located throughout Pennsylvania.
Top employers of physical therapist assistants in Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to:
- Advance Physical & Aquatic Therapy in Springfield
- Artman Lutheran Home in Ambler
- Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville
- Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital in Malvern
- Chester County Hospital in Westchester
- Grand View Health in Sellersville
- Highlands Hospital in Connellsville
- Kearsley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Philadelphia
- ManorCare Health Services in Lancaster and Bedford
- Penn Highlands DuBois in DuBois
- Robbins Rehabilitation in Allentown and Bethlehem
- Wise Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine in Grove City
Step 5. Complete Continuing Competency Hours and Keep your License Current
Once you have received your license, you must renew your certification with the Pennsylvania State Board of Physical Therapy by December 31 of every even-numbered year. You will receive your renewal forms in the mail from the Board. You must submit a $45 fee to the Board along with your completed forms. You may also renew your license online.
Pennsylvania physical therapist assistants must complete a minimum of 30 contact hours of continuing physical therapy education during each biennial renewal period. You may find a list of approved Continuing Education courses in Pennsylvania on the Board website. To view the complete Continuing Education requirements for physical therapist assistants in Pennsylvania, visit section § 40.192 of Pennsylvania Code.