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Toni Talks about PT Today

No Bridging the Gap

Published May 10, 2011 9:31 AM by Toni Patt

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.


I have been a PTA for 15 years and have been going to school throughout my career to eventually get my DPT. There is a school in Pennsylvania that bridges the PTA to DPT after you meet their criteria. I had to get a bachelors of anything... I graduated magna *** laude with my bachelors in science. They also said you need 2 physics, 2 microbiology's, 2 chemistry's, which I had plus 2 years of experience which I also have. I called them up to find out how to apply and what the cost would be. They had told me that it was 897.00 a credit and I still needed 94 credits to get my DPT. That's not much of a bridge as far as I'm concerned especially when you need 96 credits going full time for your DPT. I love my job and know A LOT more than A LOT of the PTs because of my hands on and my years of experience... would love it if they had a test to take to get my PT. I would do it in a heart beat.

Donna, Physical therapy - PTA, CMT, Home health June 28, 2013 2:01 PM
Eastern shore VA

I so agree, I,ve been researching the transition program from pta to pta, this is very hard to accomplish and their are more then a handle full that want to further their education, its not fair you can be a nursing asst to LPN to RN, its not fair and we deserve the chane, it is america RIGHT and what better patient care then from someone with experience in the field after all the book work is hands on and any PT or PTA will tell u they learned the most from hands on experience, I'm willing to go to the limit backing this up.

constance, pta September 19, 2011 9:48 PM

Not only does that APTA not support the PTA the current proposal to allow PT's to let anyone perform treatment that they so choose that was previously only allowed by a PTA will pretty much eliminate the PTA. Think you can google APTA RC 4-11 through RC 12-11. Unless revised it would take effect in 2012.

Julie Johnson August 11, 2011 10:18 PM

I also agree with those who commented that the APTA doesn't show much of any interest in the PTA profession.  The push for the DPT program changes and the subsequent self congratulations for somehow advancing the profession has not paid off if you honestly examine the pros and cons.  I specifically chose a PTA program because the cost for obtaining a PT degree was too much and the payoff was too little.  I can still treat patients.  I have been a Certified Athletic Trainer since 1996.  I also earned a Master's degree in Biomechanics/Exercise Physiology in 1997.  I can guarantee that I would make a better PT than more than half of the students who are accepted to the DPT programs today because of my experience!!!  Experience is earned in the real world not taught in the classroom.  The APTA should really examine the opportunities for PTA to PT bridge programs so that the future job demands of employers can be met with experienced therapists.

Kevin, , PTA, ATC Skilled Nursing June 9, 2011 12:59 AM
Bloomington IN

First of all the APTA is worthless when it comes to helping PTA. I dont think they are aware that PTAs even exist. They are so focused on DPT that they have lost sight of PTAs. They have done nothing to help PTA programs transition to PT. There are many PTAs with experience and knowledge that would make incredible PTs. Provided we have the opportunity to further our education. Why not provide an educational opportunity to those that want to move on instead of holding us hostage and diminishing our career growth.

Ruben Caban, PTA May 23, 2011 6:08 PM

@Doreen, yes! You're talking about the Mercy College program. I've worked with some excellent graduates of that school. Good Luck,


Dean Metz May 13, 2011 11:42 AM

There is also another program for PTA to DPT, in Dobbs Ferry, NY.  It is a weekend program.  A PTA just needs to have the year of Chemistry & Physics.  The first year you go every weekend and obtain a bachelors degree, the next 2.5 yrs. you go every other weekend and obtain the DPT.  I have considered this program myself.

Joan, in my PTA program, we had Kinesiology as well as Neruology and Gait.

Doreen, SNF - PTA May 12, 2011 5:55 PM

There are a couple of PTA to DPT bridge program. One is the University of Findlay in Ohio and there's another in CA.

Pete , , Research Associate U of Cincy May 12, 2011 1:19 PM

I strongely believe that the current PTA programs should be Bacheler programs. Especially since PT's are DPT's now. I think the curriculum could be so much more comprehensive for a PTA then. I think its good you talked to the tech so they wouldn't be fooled into thinking the transition would be easy.

michelle Hopkins, PT - PTA, Out patient May 12, 2011 12:17 PM
Woodstock IL

This has been discussed at length at conferences and meetings with the APTA.  The APTA view point is that the people, in general, who go into PTA school have no desire to be a PT.  For the handful of people that it would impact, it just doesn't make economic sense.  PTAs do not have the undergraduate classes that PT school requires.  By the time they get those courses under their belt, you are still looking at them taking the full curriculum. You cannot "assume" they know treatment just because they are a PTA.  So they still have to go through the Kineseology, gait clinics, etc. to look at treatment thru the eyes of an evaluating therapist.  I feel badly for PTAs who want to become PTs, but once you discuss the situation with the APTA and academic staff, you realize it's not a simple problem.  It's a lot more involved that going from an LPN to an RN.

Joan, PT - PT, Infinity Rehab May 12, 2011 12:16 PM
Wilsonville OR

I'm glad you told the tech before they plunged into the field thinking a transition would be easy.  I am not sure why more transition programs have not been developed.  Nurses can go from an LPN (LVN) to RN to BSN to MSN and beyond and COTA's can obtain the OT degree.  A review would definitely be in order considering the demand for the profession.  

Jason Marketti May 10, 2011 7:48 PM

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