No Bridging the Gap
One of our rehab techs is planning to apply to PTA school. He wants to eventually go to PT school and thought this would help him get accepted when the time came. He also thought it would cut down on the time it takes to get his DPT. He was more than a little shocked when I told him it wouldn't make any difference. There are no PTA-to-DPT bridge programs.
That wasn't the first time I've had that conversation. Bridge programs were available a few years ago when PT was a master's-level degree. I am acquainted with a PT who did it. The program did not require a bachelor's degree for acceptance but was intensive. I'm not sure what the program consisted of but she graduated with a master's degree in physical therapy.
That is similar to the process for obtaining a transitional DPT. The courses aren't designed to teach someone how to be a physical therapist. They're designed to fill the gaps between a PT and a DPT. Some are open to both PTs and MSPTs and some only accept MSPTs. Even without the degree requirement, a PTA wouldn't be able to complete the work because it presumes the knowledge necessary to complete evaluations.
That doesn't mean a PTA degree won't be helpful once someone has been accepted to PT school. It just won't help with the admissions process. I know many PTAs who have an undergraduate degree as well as their PTA degree. Technically they could apply to PT school but unless they meet all the other requirements such as GPA and prerequisite courses, they aren't likely to be accepted.
I'm not sure what a PTA-to-DPT bridge program would look like. If one of the requirements is an undergraduate degree, it probably wouldn't be much different from a current DPT curriculum. Making special circumstances for a PTA would probably generate too many headaches. If a PTA already has an undergraduate degree, he probably wouldn't need the bridge program anyway.
Another problem would be developing a methodology of how to teach PTAs to become PTs. They already have the fundamental knowledge so wouldn't need the same curriculum as first-year DPT students who lack all basic knowledge of physical therapy. In essence, an entirely new degree program will have to be developed and accredited. That is not likely to happen.
It might be simpler to change PTA programs to bachelor's degrees instead of associate degrees. Graduates would then have the option of obtaining a tDPT via an already existing program. I've seen what is required of the PTA students at one community college in Houston. They are currently doing the equivalent of what I did back in the day to earn my bachelor's degree. This topic has been tossed back and forth before. It might be time to revisit it.
No matter what finally happens, it won't make things any easier for PTAs who want to become PTs or those whose ultimate goal is PT school via a PTA degree.