This rising demand for physical therapy services can be partly attributed to the more advanced healthcare needs of a growing aging population that is staying active later in life. According to a West Virginia University study conducted in 2014, West Virginia’s population is expected to age faster than the national average. As this large portion of the state’s populace takes advantage of therapeutic and rehabilitative services to deal with everything from mobility issues resulting from arthritis to neurological problems like stroke, newly licensed PTAs are finding more opportunities as they enter the job market.
As of May 2014, there were 840 licensed physical therapist assistants in West Virginia. In keeping with the national growth rate, the state expects to add an average of 34 new PTA jobs annually between 2015 and 2022.
Physical therapist assistants in West Virginia also enjoy great salaries. The average PTA salary in West Virginia was $45,830 in 2015, while top-earners made $70,680 or more.
Steps to Becoming a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in West Virginia
When you’re ready to begin your career as a physical therapist assistant, you’ll begin by earning your license through the West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy (WVBPOT).
The simple guide below will walk you through the steps required by the Board to earn your license and begin practicing as a PTA in West Virginia.
Step 1. Earn your PTA Associate’s Degree through an Accredited Program
The first step towards becoming a licensed physical therapist assistant in West Virginia is to enroll in an accredited PTA associate’s degree program. There are currently four schools in West Virginia that are accredited by the Commission for Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the West Virginia PTA board.
Accredited PTA programs are structured as:
- Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AS)
Physical Therapist Assistant schools in West Virginia are located in the following cities:
The first year of these programs will mainly consist of general education courses, while the second half consists of more technical coursework and will take place in classroom, instructional laboratory, and clinical environments.
Curriculum can vary between the programs, but you can expect to take courses such as these:
- Intro to Patient Care
- Clinical Education I – IV
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Medical Terminology
Your program will also consist of a clinical internship that will take place at the inpatient and outpatient locations of partner organizations in West Virginia
Step 2. Apply for a PTA License through the West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy
Once you’ve earned your associate’s degree, the next step is to apply for your PTA license through the West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy (WVBOPT). The application and other applicable forms can be found on the WVBOPT website.
In order for your application to be considered, you’ll need to submit the following:
- Non-refundable fees totaling $185
- Application for the National Physical Therapy Exam
- Registrar’s letter and official transcripts sent directly from the school you graduated from
- Special Accommodations Request Form (if needed)
A temporary license is available in the interim period between the time your application is approved and you take the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTAs. In order to be eligible, you’ll need to submit all of the above-named documents as well as an additional $20 fee. The Board does not accept cash or personal checks, so all fees must be paid via money order, business check, or cashier’s check. Applications and fees must be mailed to:
West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy
101 Dee Drive
Charleston, WV 25311
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs
After you have sent in all applicable forms and fees, the Board will grant you eligibility to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs. The exam is offered four times per year, and candidates must register at least 30 days prior to their chosen date. You can register directly through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) website, and pay the registration fee of $400.
Your next step is to schedule the exam through the test administrator Prometric. There are two test centers in West Virginia, located in Morgantown and Charleston. Instructions on scheduling are available through the FSBPT link above
The exam features 200 questions designed to assess your competency in basic physical therapy concepts. You will have 4 hours to complete the exam, and you’ll need to earn a score of 600 or higher to pass. The FSBPT will report the results directly to the West Virginia Board within 5 days of your exam, and you will receive your scores within 10 days.
In the event that you don’t pass the exam, the Board will allow you to take it again up to two additional times within 12 months of your initial attempt. However, you will need to pay a $25 retest fee before you will be eligible to attempt the exam again.
Step 4. Start your PTA Career in West Virginia
Within 1-7 days after passing the NPTE, the Board will grant you a license to begin your career. All results will be delivered by mail and cannot be given over the phone or through e-mail.
After you receive your license, you are qualified to practice as a PTA in West Virginia and may begin applying for available jobs. PTAs have a lot of variety in choosing workplace environments, with many choosing to work in hospitals, schools, private practice, and sports medicine clinics.
The demand for PTAs in West Virginia is growing, and several facilities were hiring as of November 2015 (shown here for example only and does not guarantee the position will be open):
- Premiere Physical Therapy – Martinsburg
- Genesis Rehabilitation Services – Charleston
- Amedisys – Fayetteville
- Wetzel County Homecare – New Martinsville
- Trinity Rehab Services – Ona, WV
- Aureus Medical Group – Charleston
Step 5. Continue your Education to Maintain Licensure
The West Virginia Board requires you to renew your license every two years in order to remain a practicing PTA. To remain eligible for your license, you will need to accrue 24 hours of continuing education (CE) through Board approved programs during each two-year licensure period.
These hours can be earned through completing a variety of activities, including:
The West Virginia Board also recognizes clinical instruction as a valid form of continuing education for physical therapist assistants. You can earn up to 8 hours of CE by providing clinical instruction for physical therapy or physical therapist assistant students through any CAPTE-approved program.
You can also qualify for all 24 CE hours at once by completing the following:
- Passing a specialty examination administered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS)
- Passing the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC) certification examination
- Completing a residency or fellowship program credentialed by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
A complete list of Board-approved CE activities can be found here. It is important that you retain all documentation of your continuing education, as the Board will audit 5 percent of all licensed PTAs every March.