There are six PTA schools in Alabama, including five public colleges and one private university. Each of them is in a different city, which means relatively easy access for residents from throughout the state.
All the institutions have the accreditation that state authorities mandate. Successfully completing required courses and clinical assignments enables a student to apply for a license from the Alabama Board of Physical Therapy.
Employment in this field is expanding by nearly one-third per year in the Yellowhammer State. Federal labor experts project an additional 330 PTA jobs becoming available annually through 2026.
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The Alabama Legislature created this independent state agency “to ensure that the public is protected from the incompetent practice of physical therapy.”
Board duties include:
The Alabama governor names seven board members, who must represent all the state’s congressional districts. Four of the officials are licensed physical therapists, two are licensed PTAs, and one is a public member.
Prospective PTAs need to begin by securing a high school diploma or GED. College-prep courses in science and health are advisable.
Students planning to work in Alabama then must obtain postsecondary education from a school that the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) has approved. Unlike most states, Alabama does not impose curriculum criteria such as the number of clock hours or the subjects taught.
After graduating, the next hurdle is passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and the Alabama Jurisprudence Examination (AJE). The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy administers the tests.
Practicing professionals are required to receive 15 credit hours of continuing education classes each year. Two hours of instruction in Alabama laws is mandated every fifth year. The Physical Therapy Association of Alabama is one board-approved provider of CEUs. Others are core seminars, CAPTE-accredited programs, and CLEAR conference programs.
A graduate of a CAPTE-accredited school applies to the state board for a license. The agency charges a fee and requires the following: two character references, school transcripts, NPTE and AJE test scores, and a passport-style photo. The board decides whether an applicant possesses the “good moral character” necessary for licensure.
Those who have not yet taken the examinations may get temporary licenses. They must work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist or PTA.
Practicing professionals have to renew their licenses annually, which involves a fee and other requirements.
We selected the schools below based on the programs that they offer, accreditation, student population, graduation rate and reputation.
View our Ranking Methodology to learn more about how we rank schools.
This for-profit institution traces its history to 1899. The school awards AS degrees to prospective PTAs. Classes take place in the evenings.
Students take general education classes in composition, math, public speaking, and social science. Other courses include Pathophysiology, Testing & Measurement, Habilitation/Rehabilitation, Therapeutic Exercise and Orthopedic Assessment, and Physical Therapy Through the Lifespan. Students perform two externships that total 640 clock hours.
The school’s Department of Career & Professional Readiness assists with developing job-search strategies, preparing for interviews, and evaluating potential job opportunities. There are workshops, individual planning sessions, and industry guest speakers.
Part of the state’s public system of universities, BSCC offers an AS program with 69 credit hours of instruction and training. Students attend classes on the Baker-Gaines Campus in Mobile for three semesters.
Prerequisite courses include Art Appreciation or Music Appreciation, Intermediate College Algebra or Precalculus, General Psychology, Speech, Fundamentals of Oral Communication, Human Growth and Development, and English Composition.
Students also take Physical Science, PTA Communication, Physical Disabilities, Clinical Education, Neuroscience, and Orthopedics for the PTA. There are 55 clock hours of clinical experience in various settings.
This school’s Shelby-Hoover Campus in Birmingham is home to a PTA program that issues AAS degrees.
The two-year curriculum begins with general education classes in English, biology, psychology, math, speech, and humanities. Next come 69 credit hours in PTA coursework. Among the classes are Communication Skills, Neuroscience, Orthopedics, Physical Disabilities, and Physical Agents and Therapeutic Modalities.
A competitive admissions policy involves a point system that considers grade-point averages and ACT scores. Applicants must show proof of having spent 75 hours observing, working, or volunteering in a physical therapy facility.
The PTA program here is available on campuses in Dothan and Hanceville. Students who complete 76 credits in five semesters earn AAS degrees.
There are general education prerequisites in English Composition, Public Speaking, Intermediate College Algebra, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and General Psychology. Among the other courses are PTA Communication Skills, Orthopedics, Physical Disabilities, and Therapeutic Exercise.
Students work in clinics at hospitals, long-term care facilities, private offices, rehabilitation agencies. The school boasts “outstanding licensure and job placement rates, small class sizes, and an award-winning faculty.”
Our top choice is this public school, which offers AAS degrees to PTA students at its Health Sciences Center in the northern Alabama city of Decatur.
The program consists of 69 credits and takes five semesters to complete. It features three full-time clinical rotations. Required courses include Physical Agents & Therapeutic Modalities, PTA Communication Skills, Physical Disabilities, Orthopedics, Neuroscience, English Composition, General Psychology, Intermediate College Algebra, Human Growth & Development, and a speech elective.
More than 80 percent of the program’s graduates pass the licensing exam, and over 90 percent get jobs in the field within six months.
Schools train PTAs with curricula that entail classroom lectures, lab sessions, and clinical experiences. Graduates spend as long as two years to earn either an associate in applied science (AAS) or an associate of science (AS) degree.
Programs differ in the classes they provide, though there is some common coursework. Students can expect to learn about medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, therapeutic procedures, rehabilitation techniques, and physical therapy issues and trends.
The final semester generally involves hands-on training in on-campus clinics, hospitals, outpatient centers, or nursing homes. Students practice the techniques they have learned on actual patients.
The median income for a PTA in this state is about $57,920 a year or nearly $28 per hour, similar to the national averages of just over $58,000 and around $28.
Those in the upper 10% make approximately $78,000 or $37.50 in Alabama, close to the U.S. medians of about $79,800 and $38.40. The lowest 10% of the state’s practitioners bring in over $41,000 or around $19.75, more than the national averages of nearly $33,800 or about $16.25.
Alabama had 1,950 PTAs in 2016. There will be 2,550 by 2026, according to a federal Bureau of Labor Statistics prediction. That would match the agency’s projected nationwide median job-growth rate of 31 percent.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop
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