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Best Online Degrees in: Physical Therapy Assistant

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Physical Therapy Assisting

Value
The award for most valuable school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting goes to Northern Arizona University. Payscale.com shows that the average return on investment for Northern Arizona graduates is 5.8% for students not receiving financial aid, and 6.9% percent for students receiving financial aid. Northern Arizona has gained institutional accreditation, as well as programmatic accreditation for their physical therapy program. Students and alumni also have access to the university’s career services to improve their professional lives.

Flexibility
Northern Arizona University wins the award for most flexibility in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting. Their online classes consist of reading and writing assignments, exams, and discussions, but they are self-paced, so when work gets done is up to the student as long as everything is completed by the associated deadlines. Their online classrooms can be accessed at any time and from anywhere.

Career Support
Northern Arizona University is being granted the award for best career support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting. Their career services are free to alumni for one year after graduation, after which they must pay $100 a year if they want continued access to the services. This career center helps students write their resumes and cover letters, teaches them strategies for searching for jobs and researching companies, provides interview techniques, conducts mock interviews, and provides career assessment and career counseling.

Financial Support
The award for the best financial support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting is being given to Northern Arizona University. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 85% of Northern Arizona students are receiving financial aid. The Office of Student Financial Aid will work with each student, determine what kind of aid they are eligible for, and make sure they receive the maximum amount of aid available to them.

Technology Support
Northern Arizona University receives the award for best technology support in a physical therapy assisting bachelor’s degree program. According to U.S. News & World Report, Northern Arizona University offers 24/7 live tech support and course compatibility for Apple, PC, Unix, and Linux. Course work at Northern Arizona University online is delivered through several formats, including live streaming audio and video, and recorded audio and video, through the Blackboard learning management system.

Student Engagement
The award for best student engagement in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting goes to Northern Arizona University. MyNAU allows students to access their personal school email account, a campus directory, and campus news and events to keep them abreast of what’s going on at their school. Resource Connect allows students to access financial and academic support services, as well as health and wellness information. PLAID is a blog written by and for Northern Arizona students. There is also a social media directory showing the individual social media outlets used by each college, department, and group at Northern Arizona. NAU-TV is the university’s television channel providing information and entertainment through live streaming video on the Web.

Disability Support
Northern Arizona University wins best disability support in an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting. NAU provides New Assistive Technology for disability support, including Top-Braille, a text-to-Braille reading assistant, SmartView Versa + for electronic magnification, and Tiger Embosser for raised image representation. Northern Arizona University also provides disability support services like volunteer note-taking, sign language interpreting, tutoring referrals, and support groups.

Library and Research Support
The award for the best library and research support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting goes to Northern Arizona University. Their expansive online library features user-friendly tools to help students easily navigate course catalogs and find the e-books, articles, journals, and other information they may need. They also allow students to search using Google Scholar, browse through e-books and information reserved for their specific courses, and consult the librarian for assistance and research advice.

Learning Support
Northern Arizona University wins the award for best learning support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting. They provide a long list of tips and advice for their online students, and their academic advisors are available to answer any questions they may have and provide guidance. Their virtual library provides students with all of the research materials they need, and students have access to free online tutoring.

Faculty Credentials
The award for best faculty credentials in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting goes to Northern Arizona University. Most of the school’s online instructors receive extensive training through the university and teach on-campus courses in addition to their online courses. They also encourage their faculty members to continuing learning and developing through programs such as the E-Learning Center and Faculty Development Program.

Faculty Accessibility
Northern Arizona University win the award for most accessible faculty in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting. Their faculty provides content information to their students and interacts with them through the forums in the virtual classrooms. There is also a faculty search engine that will allow students to look up and contact a faculty member. Also, their instructors also act as advisors for their students, making themselves readily available to help students in any way that they can.

Alumni Engagement
The award for best alumni engagement in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting goes to Northern Arizona Universityy. Their Office of Alumni Relations holds regular events that allow alumni to come together, interact, and expand their professional networks. Alumni can stay up to date on what is happening with the university and other alumni through the alumni newsletter and Pine, the alumni magazine, as well as through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Alumni also receive numerous benefits and perks, such as an alumni credit card, retail discounts, and alumni health insurance.

New Student Orientation
Northern Arizona University is being granted the award for best new student orientation in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy assisting. They provide a detailed guide to walk students through the online learning process and environment. They also have academic advisors and a service center available to answer any questions the students may have and provide whatever assistance is needed.

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy Assisting

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the authority of a licensed physical therapist to provide rehabilitative services and help restore function in people whose health problems keep them from having full mobility or performing daily life functions. In addition, PTAs keep track of their patients’ progress throughout their physical therapy regimen; help them learn to walk with the assistance of a cane, walker or crutches; and educate patients on exercises they can perform to increase their strength, mobility, and coordination, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). An online PTA program is a great fit for someone interested in a rewarding healthcare career, but who does not want to complete four years of school before getting started.

Online physical therapist assistant degrees are designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to perform their jobs through online didactic courses, campus-based labs, and site-based clinical externships. Students in online programs should not expect to complete all of the course material online, since physical therapy procedures must be learned hands-on. However, the online component does provide more flexibility since online students report to a physical campus less often than traditional students.

While program length varies, online physical therapist degrees are typically Associate of Applied Science programs that can be completed in two years of full-time work. However, students may be required to take summer courses to complete the program in the two-year timeframe. Program length may also be extended if a student enrolls in the program part-time, must complete a significant amount of prerequisites, or must delay the completion of their clinical externship.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in an online physical therapist assistant program is designed to provide students a thorough understanding of the structure and functions of the human body, a basic understanding of human disease and disability, and strategies for improving body function in patients undergoing physical therapy. Students typically complete prerequisites in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and psychology, as well as an introductory course in the role of the PTA in healthcare. Other core courses include:

  • Clinical Kinesiology. In this course, students take their knowledge of the structure and function of the human muscular, skeletal, nervous systems to the next level by emphasizing clinical skills and assessment. In the lab associated with this course, students will learn how to perform manual muscle testing and goniometry (measuring a patient’s range of motion in joints).
  • Pathophysiology. This course introduced students to how disease affects certain body parts and body systems (e.g., immune system, musculoskeletal system). Students learn the signs and symptoms associated with such diseases, diagnosis, treatment methods, and methods of prevention.
  • Principles of Rehabilitation. In this course, students gain an understanding of the most effective treatment strategies for patients with various health issues and diagnoses that affect their ability to move, including developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or amputated limbs. Emphasis is often placed on fitting patients with appropriate tools, such as wheelchairs and supportive devices.

The types of homework and projects you receive in an online PTA program will vary depending on the college you attend, but in general, students will draft treatment plans for mock patients, describe the workings of body systems, identify body structures in charts, and demonstrate their knowledge of therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation techniques in labs. In addition, students must attend a full-time clinical internship (40 hours a week) where they work with patients in inpatient and outpatient settings. These internships take place at clinical sites approved by your program under the supervision of licensed physical therapists and other medical professionals.

Building a Career

In most states, physical therapist assistants are required by law to possess an associate degree from a physical therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. In addition, most states require PTAs to be licensed, a process that requires the completion of an appropriate degree program and passing one or more exams, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median yearly wage for physical therapist assistants was $49,690 as of May 2010, the BLS noted, a respectable salary for a healthcare career that only requires an associate degree.

High employment growth and good job prospects are expected for PTAs in the next decade. The BLS projects 46% job growth between 2010 and 2020 for PTAs because of the increased demand the baby boom generation is expected to place on healthcare services as they age. Bear in mind, however, that a degree in physical therapist assisting does not guarantee you a job, and salaries vary depending on where you live, how much experience you have, and the size of your employer.

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