The importance of physical therapy in the American healthcare sector cannot be underestimated. From providing vital therapy for those who have suffered traumatic injuries, to assisting the elderly to live a full and independent life, physical therapy has become an indispensable part of most treatment plans.
Because of this, physical therapist assistants are enjoying robust and growing employment opportunities, coupled with excellent professional and salary options.
The Physical Therapist Assistant in Arkansas
Arkansas has a wide range of employment options for the physical therapist assistant (PTA). In addition to a vibrant mixture or urban and rural populations, the state currently is facing dramatic growth in its elderly population.
For these reasons, there is a growing demand for various types of rehabilitative and supportive physical therapy, increasing the need for physical therapist and physical therapist assistants.
Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has estimated that Arkansas employees nearly 700 PTAs. Furthermore, the BLS currently estimates that between 2010 and 2020, the available jobs in this field will increase by about 46 percent.
When combined with the attrition from retiring physical therapist assistants, this rate of increase will create an extremely favorable career outlook for those individuals seeking employment.
Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Arkansas
All physical therapy assistants in Arkansas must be licensed by the state in order to legally practice. The Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy (ARPTB) is in charge of accepting and evaluating license applications, and determines whether a candidate has fulfilled all of his or her responsibilities. The ARPTB has set forth the following requirements for licensure:
- Successfully complete an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
- Take and complete the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
- Take and pass the jurisprudence examination.
In addition, individuals who have obtained their license in another state may apply for licensure by endorsement. If it is found that the requirements of their home state are equal to those of Arkansas, they may be able to obtain a license without having to repeat the NPTE or their physical therapy assistant program. However, candidates for licensure by endorsement must still complete the state jurisprudence examination.
Completing a Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Most physical therapy programs take about two years for a full time student to complete. These programs focus on all aspects of the physical therapy assistant’s duties, and prepare the student to provide the best possible care to his or her patients.
In addition, PTA programs also help prepare their students to effectively function in partnership with other medical professionals.
Many physical therapy programs also have provisions for part-time students. This can be ideal for students who are working or who otherwise cannot attend regularly scheduled classes. Most part-time classes are evening or weekend classes, while some can be offered online, allowing the student to complete his or her studies at home.
The student must ensure that his or her program has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Arkansas will not accept diploma’s from non-accredited programs. For this reason, potential students should ensure that their program is currently in good standing with the CAPTE.
Finally, students who have attended a foreign program will have to provide extra information to the ARPTB. Foreign programs cannot be accredited by the CAPTE and so must be evaluated by the ARPTB to ensure that they are equivalent to an accredited program offered in the United States.
Because the evaluation process can be lengthy, a candidate should make certain to submit his or her material as early as possible in order to avoid delays in the licensure process.
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Taking the NPTE and Jurisprudence Examination
The NPTE is the national examination for all physical therapist assistants. This comprehensive examination covers all of the duties of the physical therapy assistant. In order to pass the exam, the student must have a score of 600 or greater.
Candidates should only take the examination when they are confident of passing it. Arkansas requires that anyone who has failed the exam twice, no matter where they took it, submit a plan of study to the ARPTB before they will be allowed to take the NPTE again. Such a plan may entail extra schooling and will greatly delay the licensure process.
The Jurisprudence Examination
The jurisprudence examination evaluates the student’s understanding of how the duties of a PTA interact with the laws of Arkansas. This test can be retaken as many times as needed, but must be passed before the candidate can be licensed.
Becoming a PTA in Arkansas can be a gateway to a well-compensated and personally rewarding career. Whether the PTA is working in a major hospital or providing in home care to the elderly, the PTA provides a vital service to his or her fellow Americans.