The field of physical therapy has become increasingly important in the modern healthcare sector.
In addition to its traditional use in helping to rehabilitate the victims of traumatic accidents, physical therapy has become useful in assisting the elderly to maintain their physical and mental capabilities, assist individuals in recovering from sports related injuries, and promoting general wellness among the American people.
For this reason, physical therapist assistants (PTAs) have found themselves enjoying excellent career and salary opportunities in the United States.
The PTA and America’s Job Market
Furthermore, the BLS projects that the number of PTA job openings will increase by at least 41 percent by 2022.
This rate of job expansion is far higher than the average rate for all American jobs. When combined with attrition due to retirements and other factors, it is plain that new PTAs will continue to enjoy excellent employment opportunities for the foreseeable future.
PTAs in West Virginia
As a state with a wide range of rural and urban population centers, West Virginia currently provides excellent opportunities for new and experienced PTAs alike.
In addition to its local opportunities, West Virginia’s close proximity to the District of Columbia provides abundant government related employment opportunities for licensed PTAs.
Currently, there are over 740 currently employed PTAs in West Virginia. In addition, the state appears likely to match the BLS projections for the overall increase in the number of available PTA jobs between 2012 and 2022.
One factor that must be considered is the number of licensed PTAs who are working outside of the state, for example as part of the Veteran’s Administration or other federal agency.
PTAs and Job Compensation Levels
The national median wage for PTAs was just over $52,000 dollars as of May 2012. However, this wage is likely to continue to increase in order to match the rise of prices due to inflation.
In addition, experienced PTAs can earn a considerably higher sum, with the BLS estimating that the top 10 percent of PTAS earn over $72,000.
In West Virginia, the median annual wage for PTAs is $43,630. While lower than the national median wage, the lower cost of living that most parts of West Virginia enjoy helps to ensure that this wage is competitive with other states’ compensation levels for PTAs. Finally, most West Virginia PTAs also enjoy generous benefits, including health and retirement plans.
Becoming a PTA in West Virginia
Currently, licensure in West Virginia is controlled by the West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy. The
Board has established the following requirements for anyone wishing to be a physical therapy assistant:
- Complete a physical therapy program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
- Take and pass the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE).
- Provide any other documentation required by the board, including any past work history in the field of physical therapy.
PTA programs are generally offered by community colleges or vocational training programs. In most cases, these programs take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete.
A PTA program focuses on the academic and practical training needed to ensure that the student can provide a high level of care to his or her patients. Many programs include clinical training sessions where the students will work with actual patients while being supervised by licensed medical personnel.
Many PTA programs offer part-time and online options for those students who are unable to attend on a regular schedule. This can be especially useful for students who are currently working or who live inconveniently far from the school.
However, some classes may require physical attendance. For this reason, students intending on taking an online program should consult with the administration in order to determine when and if they will need to be physically present at the school.
It is extremely important for the student to ensure that his or her PTA program is accredited by the CAPTE. West Virginia will not accept non-accredited course work in most cases. For students who have completed a foreign program, the Board mandates that they provide proof that their program was substantially equal to a CAPTE accredited program.
The NPTE is a comprehensive examination designed to ensure that the student is capable of providing effective care to his or her patients. For this reason, passing the NPTE is required before the student can obtain a permanent PTA license.
Should the student fail the NPTE he or she will be required to retake the exam, which will substantially delay the licensure process.
It is important to note that while West Virginia places no limit on the number of times the NPTE may be repeated, other states do limit the number of times a student can retake the NPTE. For this reason, failing the NPTE multiple times may adversely impact the student’s eligibility for licensure in other states.
Ultimately, becoming a PTA can be a personally and professionally rewarding career decision. Not only does a PTA enjoy excellent salary options, but he or she also enjoys the satisfaction that comes from playing a vital role in America’s healthcare sector.
Because of this, PTA’s are highly respected by their co-workers and the general public alike, making this a field that can become the cornerstone of an emotionally fulfilling career.
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