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Life of a PTA

PTA: The Right Fit for You?

Published June 3, 2011 2:32 PM by Allison Young

Having very nearly completed my journey as a SPTA (I just took my licensing exam this week), I've thought hard about the advice I would give to a new PTA student or person thinking about the field of physical therapist assisting. Initially, I would suggest that if someone was looking for an "easy" two-year degree that can yield a living wage and allow for hours of "down time" - this might not be the right profession. However, if that someone loved working with people of all ages, had an abundance of patience and thrived in an environment that promoted self learning - then PTA is the perfect fit.

Secondly (but just as important), a potential candidate would have to be a team player. Whether working skilled nursing or outpatient orthopedic, a PTA will not only be working side-by-side with PTs and other PTAs, but potentially OT, COTAs, nursing and speech therapists. Collaborating and assisting with this team of professionals is paramount in helping patients reach their goals. If communicating with people isn't your strong suit, neither would be the field of physical therapy. Connecting with patients and teaching correct technique can be the key in facilitating recovery.

Finally, if you're considering becoming a PTA, you'll have to be prepared to reach out and touch someone - literally. Germaphobes, "personal-space" respecters and the soft touches need not apply. There's a reason it's called "physical" therapy after all - "hands-on" is in the job description. You'll be touching people, including many who are in pain and would prefer not to be touched. To provide a close guard assist on a 92-year-old with balance deficits, there's not much room between her body and yours.

As a disclaimer: I'm the last person in the PT "expertise" line. Heck, I'm not technically a PTA - yet (I'll find out if I passed the exam in a few days). I do, however, have the unique perspective of surviving my SPTA experience and imparting a few unsolicited observations to someone who might be considering PTA as a career. In the end, I feel remarkably lucky I finally found a rewarding profession where I can help people, challenge myself and constantly learn.


I am applying to the PTA program for this upcoming August, and I was wondering if you could tell me the demands and how challenging the program is. I do not think that it will be "over my head", I just want to get the gist and see what I am getting myself into. On average, how much did you study? What do you study? and I have the class schedule, but it's not very specific as to what the classes are, they are named PTA 134, PTA 122, etc etc.

Thanks for any information you have, and this blog post helped me understand, I have job shadowed and feel that I would very much enjoy this career and it will be rewarding to me.

Mariah, Receptionist - SNF December 5, 2014 4:45 PM
Wilkes NC

Thanks, Allison, for this post and this blog in general. It has really proved helpful for me. I have worked really hard to get myself into a PTA program (of which is very competitive right now in South Florida) and am proud to say I made it and will start my first day in the program next week. I've been searching the internet a long time for a well detailed experience of the program and work field from an SPTA and I'm glad to have found your blog. Reading your experiences have helped me to prepare for what's to come. Although I'm nervous and anxious to start this new journey in my life, I know I'll do fine as long as I stay optomistic and continue to work hard at achieving my goals. Once again thanks for your motivational blog to current/future PTAs.

Daphne August 13, 2012 11:32 AM

Very well said.  You really make some great points.  I'm looking for a PTA if you are considering outpatient private practice in Brookings, OR. Congrats on your completion of PTA program.

Brad, Physical Therapist - Owner, Coastal Physical Therapy, LLC June 21, 2011 1:49 PM
Brookings OR

I agree completely, it is very hard and time consuming but worth it in the long run, haven't even gotten licensed and I've had multiple job offers!!

Tyler Campbell June 10, 2011 11:37 PM
Middleburgh NY

Good luck in your career as a PTA! I'm submitting my application to get into a PTA program and I hope I get picked. Angie

Angie Nevarez Nevarez June 10, 2011 10:42 AM
Waterford MI

Allison, congrats on your success, which I have no doubt that you passed and are on your way to starting the next chapter of your life.  Our program too has been very tough but is very rewarding as well.  Nothing good comes easy.  As a student PTA, I too appreciate all your hard work!  Great thoughts for future students in your article.  I enjoyed reading it very much.

patty goldammer, SPTA June 9, 2011 7:29 PM

Allison, from a fellow PTA, thank you for stating that our 2 year degree was no walk in the park!!  Now if only some/alot of the PT's out there would realize that PTAs' do indeed have brains and had to work very hard to get through the curriculum!!

Doreen, , PTA SNF June 9, 2011 5:42 PM

Allison, I agree with you! It's definitely not an easy 2 year degree. Our class started with 20 and ended with 16. But, for me, all of the hard work was well worth it. I hope you get good news on passing your exam.

Mary June 7, 2011 8:12 PM

Great perspective, Allison.  From reading your posts, I have no doubt you passed your test.  Patients are fortunate to have you in the PT world!  

Jane Goude June 6, 2011 2:38 PM

Allison, Very well written.  Out of 16 of my original classmates 13 of us "survived" the whole program.  One left because of all the touching required.  

Jason Marketti June 6, 2011 1:16 AM

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