Below are a few of the questions we receive on a regular basis. If you don’t see the answer to your questions here, call us at 260.399.7700, ext. 6916.

What are the differences in educational preparation, regulation and practice for physical therapist assistants and physical therapists?

Education Preparation: Physical therapist assistants must complete a two-year Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree. Upon completion of the University of Saint Francis program, you will receive an Associate of Science degree in Physical Therapist Assistant Studies. To become a physical therapist, you must obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered to any new students in the United States. To practice as a physical therapist in the US, you must earn a physical therapist degree from a CAPTE- accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam.

Regulation: Physical therapists are required to become licensed to practice in any state. As a physical therapist assistant, you will have to obtain a license, registration or certification to practice in most states.

Practice: The scope of practice for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants is described in each state’s laws. However, licensure regulations, and professional and accreditation literature identify the major responsibilities belonging to physical therapists as:

  • Initial evaluation of the patient
  • Establishment of a plan of care
  • Modification of the treatment plan

Why should I consider becoming a physical therapist assistant rather than a physical therapist?

There are several advantages to becoming a physical therapist assistant. Here a few:

  • It is possible to enroll in the program, take the required courses, graduate, become licensed or certified, and begin working in the field within two years. Meanwhile, due to undergraduate and graduate educational requirements, it takes between six and seven years to become a practicing physical therapist.
  • As a physical therapist assistant, you will work under the supervision of a physical therapist. Your respective roles and responsibilities promote a work environment of support and guidance.
  • You will have many opportunities for advancement and independence; however, the professional and collegial relationship you maintain with your supervising physical therapist remains fundamental in patient care.

What career opportunities will I have as a physical therapist assistant?

As a certified or licensed physical therapist assistant, you can work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, home care settings, school systems and outpatient physical therapy offices. Plus, with the aging American population, including the transition of baby boomers into retirement and older adulthood, the need for physical therapy services is expected to increase. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that the job outlook for physical therapist assistants for 2012 – 2022 is 41%, which is “much faster than average,” and the median annual salary for 2012 as $52,160. As a graduate of USF’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, you will have access to career counseling and assessment; assistance in searching for jobs, including access to the USF’s career search site; and coaching in resume development and interview skills.

Is the USF’s Physical Therapist Assistant program accredited?

Yes, the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

How many students will typically be in my Physical Therapist Assistant classes and labs?

The Physical Therapist Assistant program typically admits 24 students each August, so classes and labs usually have 24 or fewer students.

What is the graduation rate for the USF Physical Therapist Assistant program?

Completion rates are very high for this academically competitive program because only qualified applicants with the tools to succeed are accepted. For further information, go to Program Statistics in the Undergraduate Section for the PTA Program web site.

What is the pass rate on the state certification exam for graduates of the USF Physical Therapist Assistant program?

Since the first class graduated in 1997, USF graduates have consistently passed the state certification exam at a rate higher than the national average. For further information, go to Program Statistics in the Undergraduate Section for the PTA Program web site.

What is certification?

Upon graduation from USF’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, you will be eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for physical therapist assistants to obtain certification to practice in the state of Indiana. Most other states require physical therapist assistants to obtain licensure, certification or registration as well.

Indiana state law requires you to obtain certification to practice as a physical therapist assistant. Physical therapist assistants are identified by the Rules and Regulations for Physical Therapists and Physical Therapists Assistants (844 IAC 6-1-2 (f) Definitions) as persons who assist in the practice of physical therapy. These rules and regulations delineate the roles and responsibilities of the physical therapist assistant. Performing the duties of a physical therapist assistant as an employee of an institution or facility without being certified is unlawful. It may also result in denial of coverage of physical therapy services by third-party payers.

How do the requirements for becoming a physical therapist differ if I do or do not first become a physical therapist assistant?

You can obtain the prerequisite courses to pursue physical therapy education with or without first becoming a physical therapist assistant. If you are currently practicing as a physical therapist assistant, you may choose to enroll in a traditional, full-time physical therapy education program or continue practicing and enroll in a weekend program. USF has articulation agreements with Trine University, Fort Wayne campus and Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Illinois for their Doctor of Physical Therapy programs to facilitate these opportunities. The University of Findlay, located 86 miles from USF, offers a physical therapist assistant to physical therapist weekend program. More information about these opportunities is available upon request.

Who will I learn from in the Physical Therapist Assistant program at USF?

Courses offered by the Department of Physical Therapist Assistant Studies are taught by qualified, dedicated faculty members. Each core faculty member has a unique educational background, may continue to be involved in year-round clinical practice and is committed to continued professional development.

What are Physical Therapist Assistant facilities and laboratories like at USF?

In the Physical Therapist Assistant program at USF, you will have access to the program laboratory, as well as USF’s state-of-the-art Simulation Lab. Both facilities are equipped with teaching models and treatment equipment. The laboratory area and equipment are reviewed on an ongoing basis in order to ensure that the space is used effectively and provides you with a variety of tools and equipment currently used in outpatient, rehabilitation and acute care physical therapy practice settings.

Where will I complete the clinical component of the Physical Therapist Assistant curriculum?

USF’s Physical Therapist Assistant program is affiliated with more than 100 clinical education sites to offer you excellent and varied clinical experience opportunities. Clinical faculty have consistently described our students and graduates as knowledgeable workers with professional behaviors.

Where will most of my Physical Therapist Assistant courses take place on the USF campus?

The Department of Physical Therapist Assistant Studies is housed in the 65,000-square-foot Doermer Family Center for Health Sciences Education. Doermer Family Center opened in May 2000 and includes classrooms, a dedicated Physical Therapist Assistant laboratory, the high-fidelity Simulation Lab, faculty offices and a computer lab.