Physical Therapist Assistant with patient using bars

How to Become a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant

Learn About Requirements, Certifications, Duties, and Salary Ranges

Physical Therapist Assistant with patient using bars

There are so many benefits for Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs). Not only do they enjoy fulfilling career paths, but they often receive higher pay, flexible schedules, new settings, exploration, and adventure. If you want to help people but don’t like monotony, then you should consider the path of a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant!

Our career guide will teach you all you need to know about becoming a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant. We’ll cover the required schooling, certifications, and what to expect from your work environment. This guide also details how much you could make and how long it usually takes to launch your career as a Traveling PTA.

(Click here to see our full list of the top Physical Therapist Assistant jobs.)

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant Definition

What Is a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant?

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants are PTAs who like to be on the move. Although they perform the duties you might expect of a PTA, these professionals do so in a range of facilities throughout their state or the country. They aid in the physical recovery of patients under the direction of a physical therapist.

(Click here to learn how to become a Physical Therapist Assistant.)

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant: Job Description

What Does a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

Traveling PTAs perform many of the same tasks as regular PTAs. The main difference is that they do so for shorter periods of time and travel to various locations. In this role, PTAs aim to restore physical function, increase mobility, and improve quality of life. They help patients recover from serious injury or illness. Think of PTAs as vital pillars of support for physical therapists in clinics throughout the country.

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant: Work Environment

Where Do Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants Work?

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants usually work short-to-medium-term contracts, allowing them to change course and potentially gain more experience. These contracts, which often last from two to three months, land them at a variety of medical facilities. Some Traveling PTAs might find themselves at sports-medicine clinics or pediatric facilities. Due to their contracts, these PTAs typically work for healthcare staffing organizations.

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant Duties

Although job duties can vary depending on your location and employer, the daily tasks of a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant will generally include the following:

  • Providing care to people who want to rehabilitate from the effects of serious illness, injury, or a medical event.
  • Helping patients regain the best possible level of functionality, health, and independence.
  • Assisting and working under the supervision of licensed physical therapists.
  • Documenting all services provided to ensure safety, accuracy, and timely billing of therapy services.
  • Ensuring that patient care follows the physical therapist’s established plan of care, the employer’s guidelines, professional standards, and federal and state guidelines.
  • Executing personalized therapy programs designed by the physical therapist to restore, reinforce, and enhance their performance.
  • Completing other responsibilities and activities as needed to support the physical therapist.

Physiotherapy with young woman

Traveling PTA Education Requirements & Certifications

What Degree Do You Need to Become a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant?

It might go without saying at this point, but there are two key requirements for PTAs: Obtain an associate degree from an accredited PTA program and pass the NPTE exam to become licensed. In addition, some Traveling PTAs seek specialized training and advanced certification from organizations such as the American Physical Therapy Association. Check out the PTA Advanced Proficiency Pathways to learn more about specialization in areas like oncology, geriatrics, neurology, and more.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant?

If you’d like to become a Traveling PTA, your journey will probably take about two years to complete. First, aspiring PTAs must complete an associate-degree program. While most programs require two years of school, an accelerated program would allow you to earn a PTA degree in as little as 20 months. In addition, Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants must be licensed PTAs. This means they have graduated from an accredited PTA program and passed the NPTE licensure exam.

Once you have passed your program, you will need to complete several other steps before you seek work as a Traveling PTA. This is to ensure that you are equipped with the necessary skills to help a wide range of patients.

Our guide breaks down what it takes to become a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant:

1. Complete a Physical Therapist Assistant Degree Program

If you’d like to become a PTA in the U.S., you will need to earn an associate degree from a PTA program that’s accredited by CAPTE. Each program will have its own set of admissions requirements. To give you a better idea, the PTA degree program at Unitek College requires a high school diploma or GED, a passing score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam, background checks, drug screenings, and more.

While your PTA education will likely include some general education requirements, most of your program will focus on core classes like anatomy, physical ailments, medical terminology, and patient care. Students also normally learn about kinesiology and equipment operation, not to mention mental health and legal issues.

2. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam

In order to obtain your PTA license and start your career, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). This test demonstrates your mastery of the necessary skills to perform PTA tasks. The NPTE is a multiple-choice test with 200 questions. Keep in mind that you’ll have four hours to complete this exam.

If you’re nervous about taking the test, you might want to speak with graduates who have been in this situation. Talk to your teachers and counselors. Consider practice exams, too. Go to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy website to learn more about these exams. They offer PEAT, or the Practice Exam and Assessment Tool, which can provide you with an idea of what to expect on the exam. However, it’s important to remember that you can only retake the test up to three times in any given 12-month period.

Modern rehabilitation clinic with a man and patient

3. Obtain Your PTA License on a State-By-State Basis

After you’ve successfully completed the NPTE, you’ll be eligible to become licensed in the state(s) where you plan to work. Because the NPTE is a national exam, it’s generally easy to transfer your scores to gain licensure in different states. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy will be your go-to resource for determining each state’s licensing requirements for PTAs.

Although some states have different requirements for maintaining your PTA license, most states will require the completion of ongoing education programs or proof of current employment and relevant work experience.

4.Gain Work Experience and Additional Certifications

The next step is to build your resume and gain work experience. Keep in mind that many employers prefer candidates who have one year or more of experience. If you’d like to stand out from other job candidates, you should also obtain certification in basic life support (BLS). Try to go to any local PTA events or contact physical therapy clinics. In other words, look for as many networking opportunities as you can find.

In addition, you might want to consider advanced specialization or certification. Look into certification with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). They offer a number of PTA certifications depending on your desired specialization.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant?

As a Traveling PTA, you must possess a combination of physical and emotional skills. Since Traveling PTAs work directly with patients, they should have great interpersonal skills, compassionate natures, and diligent tendencies. These Physical Therapist Assistants may also require experience with electrical stimulation or traction and ultrasound equipment. They will likely need to maneuver their patients on a regular basis. In addition, some job postings may include requirements like an AHA CPR certification and experience in an acute setting.

Traveling Physical Therapist Assistant Salary

How Much Do Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants Make?

Physical Therapist Assistants in the United States earn an average annual salary of about $65,000, which is around $31 per hour. Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that the top industries for PTAs include home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, hospitals, and offices of various practitioners.

While the BLS doesn’t offer salary information for Traveling PTAs, Physical Therapist Assistants usually receive a competitive salary that can increase depending on their specializations, location, and experience.

Why Is Traveling a Great Career Path for Physical Therapist Assistants?

This type of career might appeal to medical professionals with a sense of wanderlust. Just like traveling nurses, Traveling PTAs get itchy feet and want to help people in a variety of locations. If you’re looking for job fulfillment as well as new experiences, places, and people, then this pathway could be the ideal solution for you.

Smiling African-American medical professional

Consider Your Educational Journey as a Traveling PTA

For people who love the idea of helping others in a variety of settings, becoming a Traveling PTA could be a wonderful career choice. Physical therapy is a vital service that you can perform in underserved areas and greatly improve the lives of other people. Now and in the future, there will always be a need for healthcare professionals like Traveling Physical Therapist Assistants.

If you’re interested in becoming a PTA, you should check out the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Unitek College. Don’t waste another minute and start your journey to become a PTA today!