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Can a Felon Become a Physical Therapy Assistant?

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What a challenge felons face after leaving prison!  Nothing is as it used to be.

Felons often think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

Many employers have discovered that felons make good employees, but they might have to begin a different career.

This blog post will address the question of whether a felon can become a physical therapy assistant.

  • What is a Physical Therapy Assistant?
  • What Education/Training Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Need?
  • How Much Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Physical Therapy Assistant?

A physical therapy assistant (PTA) is a person trained to work under the supervision of a physical therapist and help patients in recovering from an injury or illness.

They are directly involved in patient care.

Among a PTA’s duties are:

  • Observe patients before, during, and after therapy
  • Detail patient status and report to a physical therapist
  • Treat patients using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
  • Help patients do specific exercises
  • Monitor patients’ care plan
  • Document progress for a physical therapist
  • Use devices and equipment, such as walkers, to assist patients
  • Educate a patient and family members about home care

A physical therapy assistant works in a variety of settings, such as offices of physical or occupational therapists, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home healthcare clinics, and physicians’ offices.

There are particular skills that a successful PTA must have:

  • Caring and compassionate
  • Detail-oriented to observe a patient’s progress
  • Organized to document a patient’s care plan
  • Dexterity skills to move equipment for treatment
  • Good communications and interpersonal skills to relay information to a PT
  • Stamina to stand for long periods of time
  • Good coordination
  • Reading comprehension to understand written instructions from physical therapists and other healthcare professionals
  • Ability to work independently while following specific instructions from a PT
  • Ability to work in a stressful environment

What Education/Training Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Need?

In order to become a physical therapy assistant, an individual must graduate from a physical therapy assistant educational program with an associate degree.  There are approximately 300 programs, and a program typically takes two years to complete.

Classes will include courses in anatomy, physiology, psychology, algebra, and English.  Usually, 80% of a program will be classroom and lab work with 20% clinical education.

All states require a physical therapy assistant to be licensed.  Following educational requirements an individual must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

How Much Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 204,000 licensed physical therapy assistants in the U.S.

This occupation is expected to show a 40% growth by 2024.  The reason for this growth is the high demand due to the aging of the baby boomer population.

The median salary of a physical therapy assistant in 2015 was $56,600 annually.  The median salary is the one for which 50% earn more than this and 50% less.  The lowest 10% of physical therapy assistants earned less than $34,600 while the top 10% earned more than $79,000.

Experience will make a difference in how much a physical therapy assistant earns annually.

The area of the country in which a physical therapy assistant works is also a factor in their earnings.  Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than a physical therapy assistant that works elsewhere.

The top states for PTA salary are California, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, and New Mexico.

An Opportunity for Felons?

Many physical therapy education programs do a background check on applicants for their program.

As many as 84% of PT and PTA programs require a background check of students while they are enrolled.

Each state board for licensure establishes its own criteria.  Currently, 12 states require a criminal record check before issuing a PT or PTA license: California, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.

Relevant factors such as type of offense, potential for harm to the public, and potential for recurrence of criminal activity will be considered.

“An explanation of how a felon’s character has been rehabilitated” is factored into a decision on licensing in some states.

A crime of moral turpitude or a drug offense can cause a licensing application to be rejected.

In Texas, an applicant is allowed to review their criminal record before submitting an application.

The board then considers the type of felony, how long ago it occurred, and an applicant’s age at the time of the crime.

A felony that isn’t disclosed but discovered on a background check constitutes fraud and is a punishable crime, which could result in being sent back to prison.

They are already viewed as dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a physical therapy assistant.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It may be a difficult road for a felon to travel, but it could be worth it for a felon wanting to become a physical therapy assistant.

They have to give themselves the best chance for success by having their record expunged.

Then, it would be beneficial to document any programs, education, or training they have completed.

Having support from family and friends is essential.  There may also be others like counselors, ministers, and even previous employers.

A felon doesn’t have to be defined by their crime.  They can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a physical therapy assistant with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

1 thought on “Can a Felon Become a Physical Therapy Assistant?”

  1. Your page is amazing and VERY helpful. I was released August 2020. And today is when I found your page. I am going to start researching physical therapy assistant programs. Thank you all for your web page!


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