How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Wisconsin

Even with 1,393 licensed physical therapist assistants practicing in Wisconsin as of May 2014, the state’s Department of Workforce Development expects the number to increase considerably in the coming years just to keep up with the growing demand for the services these skilled support professionals provide. In fact, the Department released projections showing a 16.7 percent increase in the number of licensed PTAs in the state is expected during the ten-year period leading up to 2022. This translates to roughly 54 new PTA jobs being created in the state each year.

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As home to eight schools with accredited physical therapist assistant programs, Wisconsin offers more education opportunities for aspiring PTAs than many other states. In addition to strong job growth projections and conveniently located training programs, PTAs in Wisconsin can also expect to earn great salaries. As of 2014, Wisconsin’s PTAs earned an average of $49,429, while top earners in the field earned $54,738 on average.

Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Wisconsin

Your career as a physical therapist assistant in Wisconsin starts by meeting licensing qualifications set by the Wisconsin Physical Therapy Examining Board so as to be issued a PTA license through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Follow the steps below for step-by-step instruction on how to become a licensed PTA in Wisconsin:

Complete your Education and Clinical Training through an Accredited Program
Apply for your Wisconsin PTA License
Pass the Required State and National Exams
Begin your Career as a PTA in Wisconsin
Renew your Wisconsin PTA License Every Two Years



Step 1. Complete your Education and Clinical Training through an Accredited Program

Your first step to earning a license will be to complete a PTA associate’s degree program at a school that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Wisconsin Board.

Eight physical therapist assistant schools with campus locations throughout Wisconsin offer approved associate’s degree programs:

  • Janesville
  • Eau Claire
  • Kenosha
  • Milwaukee
  • Green Bay
  • Fennimore
  • LaCrosse
  • Madison

There are two types of associate degrees you can earn in Wisconsin:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
  • Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assisting (AS)

AS degrees are common among students who wish to continue their education immediately after finishing the program, while AAS degrees are designed to prepare students to enter the workforce as soon as they finish. Seven of the approved schools offer AAS degrees, while the state’s one AS program is available in Madison.

The first year of the program will mainly consist of general undergraduate courses and prerequisites needed to move on to PTA-specific coursework in the second year of the program. These include, but are not limited to

  • PTA Therapeutic Modalities
  • Principles of Muscular Rehab
  • Pathophysiological Conditions
  • PTA Kinesiology
  • Cardio and Integumentary Management
  • PTA Clinical Practice

Your program will consist of a combination of class-based coursework, laboratory courses, and will culminate in a clinical practicum at a local facility. The clinical practicum component of the program will provide you with real-world exposure to physical therapy in practice and hands-on training under the close supervision of a licensed physical therapist.



Step 2. Apply for your Wisconsin PTA License

After earning your associate’s degree, you may now submit your application for licensure to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (WDSPS). Begin by printing out the application found on the WDSPS website.

If you have never practiced as a physical therapist assistant in another state, you will be applying on the basis of examination. For your application to be considered, you must submit your application along with the following:

  • $315 for various fees
  • Certificate of Professional Education (submitted directly from your school)
  • National Physical Therapy Examination Form and fee filed with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy

You may also apply for a temporary license if you intend on practicing as a PTA in the interim period between the time you apply for your license and the time you take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs. The WDSPS will grant a temporary license provided that you are registered for the NPTE-PTA and are practicing under direct supervision of a physical therapist with a valid regular license. Along with the regular application requirements, you’ll need to pay an additional $10 temporary license fee.



Step 3. Pass the Required State and National Exams

Once the WDSPS has received your application and determined you to be eligible, you will be able to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs and take the state jurisprudence exam.

National Exam

Registering for the NPTE-PTA is done on the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) website. You will need to pay a $400 registration fee for the exam. It’s important that you register with FSBT at the same time as you submit your application to the WDSPS.

After registering, you are responsible for scheduling your test directly through the test administrator Prometric at one of their two exam locations in Wisconsin:

  • Madison
  • Brookfield

You must achieve a score of 600 in order to pass.

State Exam

You will also need to pass the Wisconsin State Statutes and Rules Examination. This test covers the statutes and administrative code that regulates the practice of physical therapist assisting, which you can familiarize yourself with here. You will receive your state exam credentials upon submitting your license application. When you’re ready to take the exam, follow the instructions on the WDSPS website.

The minimum score to pass is 85 percent. If you need to retake the exam, you’ll have to pay a $75 retake fee.

The WDSPS may also require you to complete an oral examination through the Physical Therapy Examining Board if you meet any of the criteria for additional screening listed on the application. The Board will then determine whether or not you are eligible for licensure.



Step 4. Begin your Career as a PTA in Wisconsin

From application to WDSPS approval, the expected timeframe for receiving your license is typically 8-12 weeks. After all of the requirements have been met, the WDSPS will notify you by e-mail that your license has been granted. They will not mail you a hard copy of your license.

Popular employment settings for physical therapist assistants in Wisconsin include hospitals, schools, outpatient facilities, and private practice in the urban centers of Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay. Many also choose to work in private practice and rehab facilities.

A list of facilities that were hiring in November 2015 is listed below as an example of the diverse employment settings available to PTAs in Wisconsin (These examples are shown for illustrative purposes only and should not be interpreted as job offers or as a guarantee of employment.)

  • Communication Innovations Pediatric Therapy – Appleton
  • ATI Physical Therapy – Manitowoc
  • Allied Health Group – Milwaukee
  • Recover Health – Wisconsin Rapids
  • Concept Rehab, Inc. – Milwaukee
  • Select Specialty Hospital – Madison



Step 5. Renew your PTA License Every Two Years

You’ll need to renew your license every other year to continue practicing as a PTA in Wisconsin. Your license will expire on February 28 of every odd-numbered year. You have the option of renewing your license directly through the WDSPS website, or you can request a paper form by calling their offices. To renew your license, you’ll need to complete the following:

  • Pay a $75 renewal fee to the WDSPS
  • Submit your signature regarding completion of continuing education

The Wisconsin Board requires you to complete 20 hours of continuing education during each two year period of active licensure. These hours must be completed through board-approved programs. Additionally, four hours of your continuing education must be in ethics and jurisprudence. The board does not require continuing education during your first licensure period.

A Wisconsin Act passed in 2012 grants leniency to members of the military if they are on active duty during the time period that their license expires. Their licenses will be extended anywhere from 90 to 180 days after their date of discharge. Licensed spouses of military members are also afforded this same opportunity if they are unable to practice as a PTA while the service member is on duty.

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