People worry about making the wrong decisions, but what they should really worry about is not making any decisions at all. And by “they” I hope you know I mean “me.” I worry about making the wrong decision, but what I should really worry about is not making any decisions at all. I know, I know… not making a decision is also a decision, but let’s not get too technical here. Little decisions that have no bearing on my life – like what color shirt to buy – are easy to make and I can make them without batting an eyelash. But give me the opportunity to make a life-altering decision and I’m like one of those fainting goats. I just sorta freeze, fall over, and let my attacker eat me. Or something like that.
I’ve been some sort of perfectionist since birth. Seeing as I struggle to make big decisions, I know that choosing a state and city to live in and subsequently a PTA school to attend will cause a terrible bout of analysis paralysis. My attempt to remedy this “glitch” in my brain might not be the most dignified way to make a decision, but ultimately I have decided to make my decision by sitting down with both a blank map of the United States and a list of every accredited school that houses a Physical Therapy Assisting (PTA) program.
I’m starting by looking over the 50 states and crossing out the ones where I absolutely will not live. North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, and so on… And then leaving the states blank where I might possibly live. Then I’m taking my list of accredited schools and scanning for cities that I know…and then the ones that I do not know. I’m using Google to research each school, each city, the local weather, points of interest, crime rates… You can find anything on Google. It’s helping me narrow down my choices without it feeling suuuuper overwhelming. But to be honest, it still feel super overwhelming. From there I’m making a list of people that I know in each city that also houses an accredited school AND is ranking high in my other qualifiers (such as city info, weather, points of interest, etc.).
A PTA education is typically two years (5 semesters) depending on how quickly you can complete your prerequisite classes (it seems I still require 5 because I hold a non-science-based bachelors degree) it could take a person 3+ years. A PTA must get their education from a 2-year college not from a university. There are clinicals all spread throughout your second year (typically) where students work with local doctors on patients. After you graduate you must pass your national licensure exams and your state legal exams before you can practice. As a PTA you must always work under a PT, but they still make a decent wage and can do much of what a PT can do but without as much schooling and without all the paperwork.
I’ve barely started this journey and I’m already getting asked why I’m not going for the full doctorate program. I could. I totally could. But in the end it’s the opportunity cost that gets me. You must always give up something to get something else. I have a bachelors in business so I am lacking many of the classes to even begin the medical program. And once you enter, it’s 30-36 more months after that. So you’re committing to about 7 years worth of school total IF you have an appropriate bachelors degree. I’m just not that committed to school. I’ve already spent 4+ years in undergraduate and I would like to spend as little time in a classroom as possible.
I’ve spoken to PT’s about why they chose PT over PTA. And I’ve talked to PTAs about why they chose PTA over PT. It all comes down to money and time and responsibility and your preferences for work environments. If it’s your dream to have your own business, then don’t become a PTA because you can’t practice on your own. If you want little to no debt from your education and you don’t have much money, then don’t become a PT because the schooling is longer and it’s far more expensive that PTA school.
It’s all up to what you want for your life and your particular situation.
All I’ve ever done since entering the workforce is business. I’ve worked in the medical side of business, but being in the medical field as a professional is going to be whole new adventure.