Physical therapist assistants often have a passion for health and for people, and are vital to the rehabilitation process for those who have endured serious injuries. By educating clients and providing hands-on therapy, physical therapist assistants work to help people reach peak levels of health and get back to their normal lives.
In 2014, Virginia was home to 2,060 licensed physical therapist assistants according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Virginia Beach area had some of the highest employment levels in the state, with 360 licensed physical therapist assistants in that area alone. Next to that, the Richmond area, which encompasses cities like Short Pump and Glen Allen, was home to 330 licensed physical therapist assistants, making it another area with high employment levels.
The Virginia Employment Commission lists physical therapist assistant as one of the state’s fastest-growing jobs. Between 2010 and 2022, the Commission expects more than 800 new jobs to become available to physical therapist assistants in the state.
One of Virginia’s top hospitals is the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in the Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport area. Sentara was nationally ranked in two adult specialties and ranked as the number one hospital in the Virginia Beach metro area in 2014, according to US News & World Report.
Expert physical therapists at Sentara offer various specialty services, such as lymphedema, sports medicine, manual therapy, aquatic therapy, neurological rehabilitation, amputee rehabilitation, and much more. An abundance of expert physical therapists indicates a demand for physical therapist assistants in Virginia.
Steps to Earning A Physical Therapist Assistant License in Virginia
If you’re ready to venture into your career as a physical therapist assistant in Virginia, you’ll start by becoming licensed with the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy.
For guidance on how to become a licensed physical therapist assistant in Virginia, follow these simple steps:
Step 1. Earn an Associate’s Degree from a CAPTE-Accredited School
Your first step toward earning a physical therapist assistant license in Virginia is completing a two-year physical therapist assistant associate’s degree through a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)-accredited program.
Schools that offer CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant programs are located in the following cities:
- Virginia Beach
- Glen Allen
- Newport News
Although some schools offer a physical therapist assistant certificate or bachelor’s degree, most schools will offer one of two associate’s degree options:
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Science (AS)
- Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
The AAS is an occupational degree, meaning that this degree will prepare you to immediately begin your career as a physical therapist assistant. The AS is an academic degree, meaning that—while you can begin your career—you are also prepared to continue your education and go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Both AS and AAS degrees consist of lab work, courses, and clinical rotations. Although each school is different, most CAPTE-accredited physical therapist assistant programs offer courses such as these:
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Orientation to Health Care
- Nutrition and Diet Therapy
- Therapeutic Procedures
- Musculoskeletal Structure and Function
- Medical Reporting
- Kinesiology for the PTA
- Pathological Conditions
- Therapeutic Exercises
- Rehabilitation Procedures
Interspersed throughout your two-year degree, you will complete 2-3 clinical rotations. These rotations add up to a total of 660 hours, or 14-16 weeks of full time clinical work. You can complete these clinical rotations in local hospitals, nursing homes, or sub-acute facilities, such as these:
- Carillion Clinic –Roanoke
- Momentum Physical Therapy – Gainesville
- Virginia Hospital Center – Arlington
- Sentara Leigh Hospital – Virginia Beach
- Children’s Hospital of Richmond – Glen Allen Therapy Center
Step 2. Submit the Online Physical Therapist Assistant License by Examination Application
Once you graduate with your associate’s degree – or when you are within 60 days of graduation – you can apply for a Virginia license by exam.
This application will allow the Board to approve you for two things:
- To take the national, written exam
- To receive your license once you pass the exam
To apply for your license by examination, follow the Board’s application instructions, which includes completing the following steps:
- Submit the Online Physical Therapist Assistant License by Examination Application
- Submit $100.00 Application Fee
- Send in Official Transcripts
- Register for the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs
- If you are applying before you’ve completed your associate’s degree, and if you are within 60 days of graduation, submit the Educational Authorization Form on page 3 of this document.
Once you submit all pieces of your application, the Board will process it within a ten-day period. They will send you an email indicating which pieces of the application they have received and which they are still lacking.
Once they receive and approve your application, they will notify the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) that you are ready to take the national exam.
Step 3. Pass the FSBPT’s National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs
When the Board approves your application, the FSBPT will send you an “Authorization to Test” (ATT) email with instructions on scheduling your exam with the testing vendor—Prometric.
Prometric’s testing centers are located throughout Virginia, in such cities as:
- Glen Allen
- Falls Church
Once you schedule you exam, you will show up ready to complete the 200-question test. The NPTE-PTA includes questions on numerous PTA domains of knowledge, including:
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
- Interventions (30.7%)
- Equipment & Devices & Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
- Safety and Protection; Professional Responsibilities (6.0%)
You will apply your knowledge of these physical therapy domains to all bodily systems, including:
- Cardiovascular/Pulmonary & Lymphatic Systems
- Integumentary System
- Metabolic & Endocrine Systems
- Gastrointestinal System
- Genitourinary System
- Musculoskeletal System
- Neuromuscular & Nervous Systems
To pass your exam, you’ll need to score 600 or higher. You can request an individual score report directly from FSBPT; however, FSBPT will immediately send your scores to the Virginia Board. The Board, when it receives your passing scores, will automatically issue your Virginia physical therapist assistant license.
Step 4. Begin Your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Virginia
Now that you’re a licensed physical therapist assistant, you can start looking for physical therapist assistant jobs in some of Virginia’s top medical centers, outpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers, and more.
Hospital and rehabilitation centers in Virginia that employ physical therapist assistants include, but are not limited to:
- Rehabilitation Associates – Virginia Beach
- Glen Allen Physical Therapy – Glen Allen
- Virginia Healthcare Services – Richmond
- Sentara Healthcare – Virginia Beach
- HealthSouth – Richmond
- Princess Anne Health & Rehab Center – Virginia Beach
- Intrepid USA – CHESTER
- Norfolk Healthcare Center – Norfolk
- Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center – Richmond
- Genesis Rehabilitation Services – Virginia Beach
- Inova Fairfax Hospital – Falls Church
- Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital – Richmond
Some PTAs who are not interested in looking for jobs in large organizations opt, instead, to work with independent, licensed physical therapists in independent practices.
Step 5. Earn 20 Hours of Continuing Competency to Renew Your Virginia PTA License
You will need to renew your license by December 31st of each even numbered year. During your very first renewal cycle, you will not need to complete continuing competency (CC) requirements. However, after that first cycle, you will need to complete a minimum of 30 hours of CC.
You will need to complete a minimum of 15 hours of type 1 courses, which include organized courses, workshops, or seminars offered by any of the following organizations:
- The Virginia Physical Therapy Association
- The American Physical Therapy Association
- Local, state or federal government agencies
- Regionally accredited colleges and universities
- Health care organizations accredited by a national accrediting organization granted authority by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- The American Medical Association
- The National Athletic Trainers Association
- The FSBPT
No more than 15 hours can be earned through type 2 activities, which include activities such as:
- Consultation with colleagues
- Independent study
- Research or writing on subjects related to practice
Because the Board can randomly audit your CC requirements, you should keep all documentation of your CC courses for at least four years. Once you complete your CC hours, you can renew your license online.