Being a physical therapist assistant means working in a field that is in high demand and one that offers many career options.
If you live in Illinois and were wondering what do you need to do to become a physical therapist assistant, this is the guide for you!
Your job will have you take care of others and your duties will include:
- Helping patients through therapeutic exercise
- Providing patients with functional training in self-care
- Teaching patients various airway clearance techniques
- Handling patient documentation
Earning Your License as a Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical therapist assistants are under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), the Division of Professional Regulation.
IDFPR mandates that individuals who want to become a physical therapist assistant will need to first earn at least an associate’s degree in the field, from a school with accreditation from CAPTE.
The next step for these professionals is to become licensed and only after they can start working.
One of the most common degrees you can obtain is the Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS), though others are also accepted.
The CAPTE website maintains a list of all the schools they accredited.
Each school will have a different curriculum, but the program will have a similar format, with classroom education and an internship.
The subjects you’re expected to study are:
- Professional ethics
- Exercise physiology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical Terminology
- Rehabilitative agents
- Therapeutic Documentation for the PTA
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Behavioral sciences
- Clinical pathology
The internship lasts generally between 14 and 16 weeks, depending on the program.
Once you are done with your education and have your degree, you can apply for the license exam.
The exam you must take and pass is the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs.
This exam is offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) who charges $400 for this test.
To take the exam you’ll need:
- Proof you graduated
- This includes the Certification of Education (ED-PT) form with the seal of the school and the signature of the program’s official
- School transcripts
- The application form found on the IDFPR’s website
- You’ll need to download, print, and fill it out
- A $98 testing fee
- To register with the Federation
The documents must be sent to Continental Testing Services Inc. in LaGrange.
Those who are approved to take the test will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter.
This letter will contain further details related to how to schedule the exam.
Keep in mind that when you schedule the test, Continental Testing Services will expect another fee of $50.
You can’t schedule the exam later than 60 days from receiving the ATT letter.
The NPTE has 200 questions, lasts for 4 hours, can be taken online as well, and the passing score is 600.
The topics will include:
- Safety and Protection
- Professional Responsibilities
- Therapeutic Modalities
- PT Data Collection
- Equipment and Devices
If you don’t feel confident you’ll pass, you can use the tools below, to help you pass the exam:
- The online practice exam & assessment tool (PEAT) offered by the Federation
- The NPTE Candidate Handbook
Those who pass the exam will have to pay another $100 for the license itself.
Physical Therapist Assistant Employment and Salary Information
Some individuals start working under supervision, as soon as they receive their ATTs before they take the NPTE.
Between 2012 and 2022, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Economic Information & Analysis Division predicted job growth of 32.5% for physical therapist assistants.
These professionals are needed in many medical fields, such as:
- Sports rehabilitation,
- Clinical electrophysiology
Some of the best employers in Illinois are:
- SSM Physical Therapy
- ACR Physical Therapy in locations throughout Illinois
- Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest
- Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge
- Athletico Physical Therapy in locations throughout Illinois
- GlenLake Terrace Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Waukegan
- Memorial Hospital in Belleville
- Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Bellville
- Salem Village Nursing & Rehab in Joliet
- Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham
- University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago
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Physical Therapist Assistant License Renewal Information
In Illinois, physical therapist assistants must renew their licenses by September 30th of every odd year.
There is a fee associated with the renewal process that the IDFPR decides.
All physical therapist assistants will have to complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE), during each renewal period.
There are no CEs to complete for the first renewal.
The IDFPR offers complete details related to the renewal process, on its website.