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Is it financially smarter to become a PT Assistant, work, and obtain an undergraduate degree or pursue an undergraduate degree for Physical Therapy, use that degree for a job, and still work your way to become a DPT?

#physical-therapist #athletic-training #career

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Taylor’s Answer

As Sarah mentioned above, being a PTA is a great option if you know that being a PT is what you want to do. You will save money by only completing a 2 year degree as opposed to a traditional 4 year bachelors degree, plus you'll earn money working as a PTA so you can pay for PT school with fewer loans (if any) required. You will need to be prepared to take pre-requisite courses that are required for PT school, but you can complete the majority of these through community college and/or online. In addition, coming from someone who completed a 4 year undergraduate degree and then went straight into DPT school, I could see the advantage in clinical knowledge and skills my classmates who were initially PTAs demonstrated.
Another option you could consider if you aren't sure you're sold on working as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant is trying to find a job as a PT aide (typically in outpatient settings) or a PT tech (more common in the hospital/inpatient setting). They serve similar roles, but their titles just differ based on setting for some reason. This is an hourly paid position, but you will work alongside PTs and PTAs so you can get a firsthand look into what these professions entail.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear Edith,

A Cost-Effective Pathway:

Embarking on a Journey as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) and Earning an Undergraduate Degree:

Opting to initiate your career as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) and subsequently earning an undergraduate degree can be a financially savvy choice for numerous reasons:

Reduced Educational Expenses: The journey to becoming a PTA usually demands less time and financial resources compared to pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. PTAs typically complete a two-year associate degree, which is generally more cost-effective than a four-year undergraduate degree followed by a three-year DPT program.

Swift Entry into the Workforce: Starting as a PTA allows you to join the workforce earlier and commence earning a salary. This not only helps you gather valuable work experience but also generates income to finance further education if you choose to pursue a DPT later.

Job Security and Versatility: PTAs are sought after in various healthcare environments, ensuring job security. Serving as a PTA can provide insights into the world of physical therapy, assisting you in making an educated decision about advancing your education to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Potential Support from Employers: Some employers might offer tuition aid or assistance for employees aiming to advance their education. Starting as a PTA could enable you to avail such benefits, helping to alleviate the costs of pursuing a DPT degree later.

Experience and Networking Prospects: Starting as a PTA before pursuing a DPT can equip you with invaluable clinical experience, exposure to diverse patient demographics, and networking opportunities within the healthcare sector. These experiences can bolster your application for DPT programs and possibly result in superior job opportunities in the future.

In conclusion, opting to start as a PTA and earning an undergraduate degree can be a financially wise choice that allows you to gain hands-on experience, earn a salary, and make informed decisions about your long-term career aspirations in physical therapy.

Top 3 Credible Sources Utilized:

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA): The APTA is a premier professional organization representing physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy. Their resources offer valuable insights into educational routes, career alternatives, and industry trends in physical therapy.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): The BLS provides comprehensive data on occupational forecasts, including information on job growth, median salaries, and educational prerequisites for various professions, including physical therapy and physical therapist assistants.

Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE): CAPTE is the accrediting body for physical therapy education programs in the United States. Their standards guarantee the quality of education provided by PT and PTA programs, offering reliable data on educational prerequisites and routes in the field of physical therapy.

These sources played a crucial role in providing precise and current information on the educational routes, career prospects, and financial considerations related to building a career in physical therapy.

GOD BLESS!
James Constantine Frangos.
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Joshua’s Answer

Hi Edith! Thank you for the question! I am a PT, and based on my experiences with other PT and PTA's I have often found that if you believe strongly that working in the physical therapy field is your calling( have you done shadowing, does the work appeal to many components of your personality; ie- you are an extrovert, you like studying human anatomy, and you pride yourself on your patience, for example), then I highly suggest that you go directly to PT school. A number of PTs who used to be PTAs lament that they had not gone directly into being a PT. This decision impacted them financially, and they also realized that they don't have nearly as much independence in decision-making as PTAs than as PTs. Also there are a number of settings where employers are not looking for PTAs, or that your state has a lot of rules and regulations for PTAs that you would need to abide by, that sometimes can be messy. Also, The courses you take for PTA school would essentially not be relevant for PT school sadly.

I am confused however. When you say that one of your choices would be to get an undergraduate PT, upon graduation, that would not enable you to practice, would it? Everyone who gets a license needs to be a doctorate now. So, if the question becomes, Edith, that upon receiving your undergraduate degree in PT (which wont enable you to practice) then I would want to know if a high percentage of the courses you take at this university are transferable to doctoral PT schools. That is HUGELY important and pragmatic , I believe. Getting a number of classes under your belt in preparation for doctoral school would be a great idea, taking into account your financial situation.

Best wishes!
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Kimberly’s Answer

I would ask yourself if you really want to seek being a PT. Then and volunteer first in SNFs, hospitals, outpatient, etc and truly expose yourself to every possible setting in which both PTAs and PTs can apply their skills.

Also, I would seek out other medical professions such as nursing, MD, x-ray or ultrasound technicians and compare the cost of education to your potential income.

I feel all this would add some really great exposure to everything you may be able to encounter in the medical field. It would allow you to decide if PTA/PT route is the best choice for you.

As for obtaining a skill set, currently, the PTA route is normally a 2 year degree and will give you the ability to apply and earn while you work towards PT or are in PT school. Being a PT will give you a leg up in the job market as you will be able to perform evaluations, progress notes and discharges where a PT can't.
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Ryan’s Answer

If you want to be a PT go straight to it! Don’t waste time with PTA unless maybe you don’t get into PT school on your first go around. Speaking of financially smarter, it isn’t currently “financially smart” to become a PT if you will he taking out loans. The income to debt ratio is extremely unfavorable at this time. However if your money situation is different or you WANT to be a PT, then go straight for DPT first! If anything, work as a PT aide during school.
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