Whether helping clients recover from sports injuries, surgery, and accidents or helping maximize functional mobility for people with neurological issues, working as a physical therapist assistant can be a very fulfilling experience. Even beyond this, the career field offers strong employment prospects and great earning potential, with experienced PTAs in Vermont earning an average of $61,780 (US Department of Labor, 2014).
With a shortage of qualified physical therapist assistants in Vermont, the rate of job growth for licensed PTAs in the state is even faster than what is expected for supervising physical therapists. Adding to this is the current trend that’s being seen in inpatient rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics, in which more PTAs are being hired in an effort to keep costs down and serve more clients. The Vermont Department of Labor estimates that the number of jobs for physical therapist assistants in the state will increase by 2.6 percent per year between 2012 and 2022.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Vermont
If you’d like to become a PTA in Vermont, your first step is to gain licensure through the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation (VOPR) after meeting education and exam requirements set by the Physical Therapy Advisory Committee.
The steps below offer a simple guide to becoming a licensed physical therapist assistant in Vermont:
Step 1. Earn your Degree from an Accredited Program
To become a licensed PTA, the Vermont Physical Therapy Advisory Committee requires you to complete an accredited physical therapist assistant associate’s degree program.
There are currently no schools in Vermont offering programs that meet the requirements set by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This means students will need to enroll in a program outside of the state. Nearby physical therapist assistant schools offering CAPTE-accredited programs include those with campus locations in:
- Claremont, NH
- Manchester, NH
- Canton, NY
- Syracuse, NY
- Herkimer, NY
There are two types of qualifying degrees available through these schools:
- Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assisting (AS)
AS degrees are typically best suited to students who plan to continue their education by going on to earn a bachelor’s degree, while AAS programs are designed to prepare students to work under a physical therapist immediately after graduating.
Your education will take place in classroom, laboratory and clinical environments. You can expect your PTA associate’s degree program to include the following courses and components:
- Pre-Calculus Math
- Introduction to Rehabilitation
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Pathophysiological Conditions
- Clinical Kinesiology for PTA
- Abnormal Psychology
- Clinical Fieldwork I – IV
Your program will involve approximately six weeks spent in a clinical internship where you’ll get a chance to interact with patients and get further hands-on instruction under the close supervision of licensed physical therapists.
Step 2. Submit your Application for a Vermont PTA license
Upon completion of your classroom and clinical education, you will be eligible to register for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs and apply for licensure through the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation (VOPR).
You will start by completing and submitting your license application. You can apply for your license in one of two ways: by examination or by endorsement.
Application on the basis of examination is for those who have never been licensed in any state. To be considered, you must submit the application along with the following:
- Non-refundable $100 fee
- Verification of Education form (submitted directly from your school)
Those seeking a license in Vermont who are also licensed in another jurisdiction must apply by endorsement. Along with the license application form and applicable fees, candidates must provide a Verification of Education Form and Verification of Employment Form which contains PT referrals and clinical hours from the other states they’ve practiced in.
Temporary PTA licenses are only available for those applying by endorsement. This allows an applicant to practice in Vermont while their application is being considered. You will need to provide a photo copy of your license in the state you’re currently licensed in as well as an additional $50 fee to apply for a temporary license.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
The final step to becoming a licensed PTA is to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs. The NPTE-PTA is a comprehensive examination intended to evaluate the professional qualifications of licensure candidates. Your eligibility to sit for the exam will be determined by the following criteria:
- Must not have previously attempted and failed the exam more than twice
- Candidates who have failed more than twice will be required to complete remedial coursework in order to qualify for further attempts
- Paid all the appropriate fees
- Submitted an application to the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation (VOPR)
You can register for the exam at any point during the application process, though you will only be able to take once the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation has approved your application. To register for the exam, you will need to visit the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) website. There is a $400 registration fee for the physical therapist assistant exam.
Third-party exam provider Prometric will administer the test. You must schedule it through their website. There is currently just one test center in Vermont, located in Williston.
There will be 200 questions covering a broad spectrum of topics. You can expect to be tested on:
- Physical Therapy Data Collection
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment
- Non-System Domains
The VOPR requires a passing score of at least 600 in order for you to qualify for your license.
Step 4. Begin your Career as a PTA in Vermont
On average, it takes between 2-5 days after passing the test to receive your credentials from the state board. Once your license has been verified, you may begin your career as a physical therapist assistant.
Physical therapist assistants in Vermont enjoy opportunities in a wide variety of work settings. Hospital inpatient rehabilitation centers in Vermont always have a need for skilled PTAs, and many physical therapist practices look to hire assistants to work in outpatient clinics, assisted living facilities, and home health agencies.
As of November 2015, facilities in Vermont hiring PTAs included but were not limited to (These examples are shown for illustrative purposes only and should not be interpreted as job offers or as a guarantee of employment.)
- Ruthland Area Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice – Ruthland
- Therapynow – Lyndonville
- Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of VT and NH – Brattleboro
- Mount Ascutney Hospital & Health Center – Windsor
- Suplemental Health Care – Morrisville
- Genesis HealthCare – Newport
- North Country Hospital – Newport
Step 5. Continue your Education to Maintain Licensure in Vermont
Your PTA license remains valid for two years at a time, and at the end of this period you are required to renew it. Licenses expire on September 30th of every even-numbered year.
To renew your license, you must accomplish the following:
- Complete the Physical Therapist Assistant Renewal/Reinstatement Application
- Submit a non-refundable fee of $100 payable to the Vermont Secretary of State
Along with these requirements, the VOPR also requires licensees to complete 16 hours of continuing education throughout each licensure period. Continuing Education (CE) credits can be earned through programs and courses approved by the Vermont American Physical Therapy Association (VTAPTA).
If you renew your license before the expiration date, you will not be required to send in any documentation of these hours. However, the VOPR reserves the right to perform random audits at any time. You must retain documentation for seven years after completing a course or program. If you renew your license more than 30 days after the expiration date, you will be required to submit all CE documentation to the office.