There is one physical therapy assistant school in Alaska with a program that qualifies graduates to apply for state licenses. It is a public university in the state’s biggest city.
Students have to earn diplomas and then get satisfactory grades on a competency examination to be considered for licensure. They must successfully complete specified coursework and training.
Alaska PTAs receive higher incomes than the United States average. This field is expanding at a rapid rate, with additional jobs becoming available every year.
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Staffed by the state Division of Corporation and Professional Licensing, this board has seven members: one physician, three physical therapists or PTAs, two occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants, and one public representative. They are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.
The board adopts regulations to carry out laws governing the practice of physical therapy. It approves schools with curricula that meet certain standards, and makes licensing decisions based on applicants’ educational accomplishments and national certification exam scores.
These officials take disciplinary actions against PTAs who violate state statutes or professional ethics. Actions include the revocation and suspension of licenses. The board also sets rules regarding continuing education, sanctioning courses and providers.
To become a physical therapy assistant in Alaska, a student needs a high school diploma or a general education development (GED) degree.
The following step is to win admission to a nationally accredited postsecondary school that the state board has accepted. The institution must be recognized by either the American Medical Association’s Council on Medical Education and Hospitals or the American Physical Therapy Association.
The curriculum has to meet stipulations established by the AMA’s Committee of Allied Health Education and Accreditation or the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Twenty-four hours of continuing education courses directly related to patient care must be completed every year to maintain a practitioner’s license. The board approves the classes and the institutions that provide them.
PTA school graduates have one more hurdle to clear before looking for employment. They must submit their transcripts and other information to the state board, which decides whether they possess the qualifications to practice in the state.
The board mandates that applicants pass the National Physical Therapy Assistant Examination (NPTE), which tests students’ grasp of human body systems, equipment and technologies, therapeutic modalities, safety and protection, professional responsibilities and research and evidence-based practice.
An alternative is to obtain a license by credentials, based on experience in the field. These applicants do not have to take the NPTE. Temporary permits, valid for as long as eight months, are available for those waiting for the results of their exams.
The board mandates that professionals receive annual license renewals.
We selected the schools below based on the programs that they offer, accreditation, student population, graduation rate and reputation.
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The state’s largest institution of higher learning, UAA offers a program which the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education has approved.
The 72-credit curriculum requires five semesters of full-time study. Courses address the standard topics, as well as oral communication or public speaking, critical thinking, writing, and psychology. Enrollees must complete three practicums in a variety of clinical settings.
In recent years, all of the program’s graduates have posted acceptable scores on the licensing exam and found employment as PTAs. The admission process is competitive because each class has a limited number of positions.
Prospective PTAs must commit about two years to postsecondary education to earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees. They attend lectures in classrooms, receive hands-on instruction in laboratories, and get real-world experience in public physical therapy clinics.
These programs feature classes in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, human diseases, physical therapy interventions, orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation, and therapeutic exercises. Some curricula surpass state requirements by teaching additional subject matter or providing more extensive clinical training.
Practitioners here make an average of nearly $60,000 a year or $29 per hour—a little more than the approximately $58,000 or $28 that the typical U.S. PTA earns.
In Alaska, the most highly paid 10% receive either $80,550-plus annually or about $38.75 hourly—which barely exceeds the national medians of over $79,800 or $38.35. The state’s worst-paid 10% get more than $36,100 or $17.35, while PTAs nationwide bring in almost $33,800 or $16.25.
The availability of Alaska jobs in this field is expected to rise from 80 in 2016 to 100 in 2026, with about 10 positions opening each year. This would amount to a 24% rate of growth, a bit short of the 27% median that the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nationally.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop
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