There are about a half-dozen physical therapy assistant schools in Connecticut. All of them are public community colleges.
Some of the schools are members of a consortium that crafts curricula to comply with the standards of professional and accreditation organizations. Programs involve general education classes and PTA technical courses.
Working as a PTA is rewarding in the Constitution State, where annual salaries and hourly pay surpass the national median. Jobs are increasing at a pace nearly three times that of the average occupation. About 110 positions will become available each year until 2026, based on projections by federal officials.
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A division of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, this entity licenses physical therapists and their assistants. It establishes rules for licensing examinations, such as test formats, subject matter, and minimum passing scores; and for renewing licenses.
With the consent of the department secretary, the board posts a list of postsecondary schools that provide instruction and training necessary to qualify graduates for licensure.
This panel also is empowered to “hear and decide matters concerning revocation or suspension of licensure, adjudicate complaints against practitioners, and impose sanctions where appropriate.”
The board is made up of one physician, two physical therapists, and two public members. The state governor appoints the officials, with the department secretary’s approval.
A resident wishing to become a physical therapy assistant in Connecticut must start by earning either a high school diploma or a GED. Some schools advise students to take college-prep classes in science and health.
The state board accepts license applications only from graduates of PTA schools that the American Physical Therapy Association has approved and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy has accredited.
Connecticut is different than many states in that it does not mandate continuing education for PTAs as part of the license renewal process.
To apply to the board for licensure to practice in Connecticut, a student has to submit school transcripts and pay a fee of about $200.
Prospective practitioners also must successfully complete the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination (NPTAE). To register for the test, they need to apply online to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. A temporary permit, to work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist, is available while awaiting NPTAE results.
Every year, a PTA must file an online license-renewal application with the board.
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This public school in Winsted offers a PTA degree program with 63 or more credit hours.
Students attend the typical courses, as well as Literature & Composition and Public Speaking. They also must earn 24-25 credits in general education classes; and take electives in mathematics, humanities or arts, and social science. The curriculum features a pair of clinical internships.
Pre-admission classes include chemistry and physics. College placement tests determine whether additional prerequisites are necessary. Program applicants need 10 hours of experience as volunteers or observers at inpatient and outpatient physical therapy facilities.
Another one of Connecticut’s 12 community colleges, TCC serves the Farmington and Bristol-New Britain areas.
The 60-credit, four-semester PTA curriculum covers the basic coursework with these additional required courses: Composition, Interpersonal Communication, and Public Speaking. There are also mandatory electives in literature, arts or humanities, and social sciences; and three internships in clinics.
Incoming students must show evidence of having observed for 10 hours in an inpatient physical therapy setting and 10 hours in an outpatient facility. The school prefers to admit those who complete general education requirements before the application deadline. Prerequisites include chemistry and a math elective.
This school, in the city of the same name, has a 68-credit PTA program designed for two years of full-time study.
A part-time option involves two years of general education classes and two years of technical courses. Three internships, totaling 680 clock hours, must be done full time. Among the courses are Literature & Composition, Introduction to Computer Software, and Public Speaking.
Applicants need 40 hours of volunteer or observer experience in physical therapy clinics, hospitals, or skilled nursing facilities. They must take math and English placement tests, as well as the TEAS admissions exam.
The two-year program on this campus is similar to those at other schools in the state system. It is offered through the consortium, of which six Connecticut community colleges are members.
Sixty-three credits are in science, mathematics, psychology, social sciences, and humanities. There are eight physical therapy courses, held at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury. Non-professional classes take place in Manchester.
The curriculum features all the standard coursework, as well as Composition, Public Speaking, and Introduction to Literature. Three full-time (40 hours per week) internships provide 12 credits.
The program here, on NVCC’s Waterbury campus, takes two years to complete. Classes begin in January and end in December the following year. No more than 30 students are admitted following a selective admissions process.
Curriculum requirements are 23 credits in general education classes and 40 credits in PTA courses. There are the following prerequisites: Social Phenomena, Critical Analysis and Logical Thinking, Quantitative Reasoning, Written Communication, Literature and Composition, Advanced Composition, and Aesthetic Dimensions/Written Communications. Students perform three internships.
In recent years, all of the program’s graduates have passed the licensing exam and found PTA jobs.
Future PTAs in this state are fortunate to have several public community colleges from which to choose. These institutions have lower tuition rates than most private schools and four-year colleges and universities.
Each of the schools awards graduates with associate of science degrees after about two years of full-time study. Students take part in two or three internships in real-world physical therapy facilities. They also hear lectures in classrooms and practice their techniques in labs.
Courses found in every program are anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, physical agents, therapeutic exercise, pathology or pathophysiology, and psychology.
With median yearly salaries and hourly wages of over $67,900 and about $32.65, Connecticut practitioners make more money than the national averages (approximately $58,000 and $28).
The state’s top one-tenth earn about $83,500 or $40.15, better than the nationwide figures of over $79,800 and $38.35. The bottom one-tenth in Connecticut receive more than $42,000 or $20.20, while their peers elsewhere average nearly $33,800 or around $16.25.
After reporting 740 PTAs in 2016, the state was on track to employ 910 within a decade. This would be a 22 percent rise, compared with the 31 percent growth that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop
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