Educational Requirements, Certifications, Daily Responsibilities, and Salary
From peri- and post-natal issues to other painful problems in the pelvic area, there are several medical conditions that exclusively or disproportionately affect women. In the growing field of women’s health physical therapy, physical therapist assistants help countless people find relief and enable them to go about their daily lives comfortably and confidently. Because they earn a great living performing fulfilling work, we recently featured women’s health physical therapist assistants on our top PTA jobs list.
This career guide will give you all the details about how to become a women’s health physical therapist assistant. We’ll cover the required schooling, certifications, and what to expect during most days on the job. You’ll also learn how much you could make as a women’s health PTA and how long it usually takes to launch your new career.
If you’re interested in becoming a PTA but still curious about other jobs, you can explore the other options on our list of the top physical therapist assistant careers.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant Definition
What Is a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
Women’s health physical therapist assistants specialize in treating reproductive health issues and other conditions related to the bladder, bowels, and pelvic floor. They may work with recent or expectant mothers, women who suffer from chronic health issues, or recovering cancer patients. Because they’re experts in pelvic health, some women’s health PTAs may also treat male patients experiencing pelvic or rectal health problems.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant: Job Description
What Does a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant Do?
Under the supervision of physical therapists, women’s health physical therapist assistants help their patients learn to control their pelvic muscles better and provide hands-on therapy to relieve chronic pain. Women’s health PTAs show their patients specific stretches and routines to perform at home as part of their recovery and instruct them how to use specialized exercise and recovery equipment properly.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant: Work Environment
Where Do Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistants Work?
Women’s health PTAs usually work in outpatient settings, though they may also work in physical therapy clinics within larger hospitals. They may work at dedicated women’s health clinics or as pelvic-floor specialists within a general physical therapy facility. Depending on their workplace, some women’s health physical therapist assistants will also treat other types of PT patients.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant Duties
Some of the daily responsibilities of women’s health physical therapist assistants include:
- Consulting with patients to discuss their progress and any issues
- Guiding patients through warm-up and cool-down routines
- Performing stretching, massage, and manual therapy to relieve pain
- Using specialized equipment to help patients train their pelvic floor muscles
- Teaching patients stretches and exercises to perform on their own at home
Other physical therapist assistant duties may include preparing and maintaining equipment and light administrative work like scheduling appointments or responding to emails.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant Hours & Schedule
Most women’s health PTAs usually work full-time, 40-hour workweeks, though part-time jobs are also available with many clinics. Physical therapy facilities sometimes operate outside standard business hours, but they’re not open 24 hours a day like emergency rooms need to be. As a result, women’s health physical therapist assistants rarely work late nights, though some jobs may require occasional weekend shifts.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
Women’s health PTAs must be highly professional and focused. Pelvic floor therapy deals with intimate areas requiring gentle, attentive care during treatment. It also helps to have a calming presence and excellent communication skills. Some patients may be nervous about a healthcare provider seeing or touching their private areas, so being able to explain what you’re doing (and why) can put people’s minds at ease. Finally, physical therapist assistants also need to have solid physical stamina. You’ll be on your feet for much of the day and need the strength and dexterity to perform hands-on therapeutic techniques.
Why is Women’s Health a Great Career Path for Physical Therapist Assistants?
For far too long, many women have been inadequately served by the medical system—and careers like women’s health PTAs are essential to changing that. Some patients you’ll treat may suffer from painful, life-altering, and sometimes embarrassing issues. Helping your patients recover and seeing their smiles as they describe how much better they’re feeling is an enriching experience.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant Schooling, Training, & Certifications
What Degree Do You Need to be a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
To become a women’s health PTA, you’ll need to complete a physical therapist assistant associates degree program from an accredited college or university. Most associate degree programs require two full years in school, but by enrolling in an accelerated degree program, you could earn your PTA degree in as little as 21 months.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
Like any other long-term goal, becoming a women’s health PTA is more manageable when broken down into a series of smaller steps. People who work full-time jobs while taking PTA classes part-time may take longer to complete their degree than PTA students taking a full course load.
Our step-by-step guide breaks down what it takes to become a women’s health physical therapist assistant:
1. Enroll in a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Degree Program
The first step toward becoming a women’s health physical therapist assistant is enrolling in a PTA program at an accredited college or university. Almost anyone willing to work hard can qualify for PTA school and build a skill set that’s highly in demand.
To qualify for the PTA degree program at Provo College, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED, a passing score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam, and a reliable Internet connection. Some PTA programs may also require completing background checks or drug screenings.
2. Earn Your Physical Therapist Assistant Associates Degree
Like any associates degree program, your physical therapist assistant education will include general-education requirements like math, English, science, and psychology. While not directly related to physical therapy, all these courses help you become a better problem-solver, critical thinker, and communicator.
The bulk of your PTA degree program will focus on building the fundamentals of physical therapy and patient care. You’ll learn about the human body and how it moves, heals, and recovers. You’ll take courses covering kinesiology, pharmacology, orthopedics, and human anatomy, all of which will be useful for a career as a women’s health PTA. You’ll also participate in plenty of hands-on training, learning to guide patients through exercise and recovery routines.
During the final stage of your physical therapist assistant education, you’ll perform supervised therapy work in an actual PT clinic. This real-world experience is integral to building the therapeutic and people skills you’ll need to properly care for your patients, particularly those with pelvic-floor issues.
When deciding where to attend school for your physical therapist assistant degree, consider colleges offering additional benefits like career counseling and job-placement services. Getting your PTA education from an institution that can help you find your first job saves you a ton of time (and stress) when you’re ready to start your new career.
3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam
Before earning your PTA license and beginning your career as a women’s health physical therapist assistant, you’ll need to pass the PTA version of the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). Passing this exam demonstrates your ability to care for patients safely and effectively. The exam is a multiple-choice test with around 200 questions. You’ll have approximately four hours to complete the exam.
Your physical therapist assistant certification exam is a big deal, and it’s always a good idea to take a practice test ahead of time. You can find practice exams through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (the same organization that administers the NPTE). The Practice Exam and Assessment Tool—or PEAT for short—will give you an idea of what to expect during the exam. PEAT also provides real-time feedback, which can be helpful in discovering which subject matter you should revisit before taking the NPTE exam.
Not everyone passes the NPTE on their first attempt, including those who eventually become successful PTAs. You can retake the exam if you come up short of the required passing score on your first try. However, be advised that you can only take the test up to three times in any given 12-month period. To start your new career as soon as possible, you should do your best to master the material. It’ll save you time in the long run!
4. Get Your PTA License on a State-By-State Basis
Once you’ve passed 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, transferring your scores and gaining licensure in different states is usually simple. This flexibility allows you to move somewhere new for your women’s health PTA career or to seek out the highest-paying PTA jobs throughout the country. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy will be your go-to resource for determining each state’s licensing requirements for PTAs.
Different states have varying requirements for maintaining your PTA license. However, most states will require occasional completion of ongoing education programs or proof of current employment and relevant work experience.
5. Gain Work Experience and Earn Additional Certifications
Before becoming a women’s health physical therapist assistant, you’ll likely need to gain work experience in other physical therapy clinics. Because women’s and pelvic health is a highly specialized field of physical therapy, most PTs will prefer to work with PTAs with previous clinical experience.
Many women’s health physical therapist assistants will seek out advanced certifications and training to expand their skill sets. Women’s health PTAs with sufficient experience can qualify to take an exam for the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification, which demonstrates advanced proficiency in pelvic floor therapy. While they don’t offer certification for PTAs, the American Physical Therapy Association offers women’s health certification for physical therapists. Seeking out a supervising PT who’s earned an APTA women’s health certification is a great goal for any aspiring women’s health PTA.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
The cost of earning a physical therapist assistant associate degree varies significantly between institutions and according to your financial situation. When comparing the cost of college, be sure to ask how much you can expect to spend on lab fees, books, and other materials. Some colleges will include all these as part of a flat-rate pricing structure per credit hour, saving you money in the long run.
Wherever you’re pursuing your PTA education, you should inquire about financial aid programs that can make college significantly more affordable. Many colleges have dedicated financial-aid staff to help you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal and state grants, plus loans and institutional aid.
Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant Salary
How Much Do Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistants Make?
Physical therapist assistants throughout the United States earn an average annual salary* of around $61,000, which is about $29.00 per hour. PTA salaries among the 25% of earners start at over $75,000. The highest-paid PTAs with salaries in the top 10% can expect to bring in $80,000 per year or more.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide salary* data specifically for women’s health physical therapist assistants, PTAs with advanced certifications and solid work experience tend to earn the highest salaries. And because women’s health physical therapy is a fast-growing field, women’s health PTAs can expect their skill set to remain in demand for the foreseeable future.
Ready to Start Your Career as a Women’s Health Physical Therapist Assistant?
While women’s health PTAs have a very specific skill set, they work with all types of patients to overcome challenging health issues and improve their quality of life. It’s a fulfilling career field that offers the chance to meet many different people and make a real difference in their lives. The opportunity to earn a comfortable living is a nice bonus, too!