Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a Physical Therapist. PTAs help people of all ages who have medical problems, or other health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. The program is based from the 4 main areas of physical therapy which include: musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiopulmonary, and integumentary as outlined in the Guide to Physical Therapy. PTAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health, nursing homes, schools, sports facilities, and more. PTAs must complete a 2-year associate of applied science degree and are licensed, certified, or registered in most states. Care provided by a PTA may include teaching patients/clients exercise for mobility, strength and coordination, training for activities such as walking with crutches, canes, or walkers, massage, and the use of physical agents and electrotherapy such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation.

The PTA contributes to society and the PT profession through the provision of physical therapy services, teaching, and administration.

PTA duties include:

  1. Implement selected components of patient interventions (i.e. exercise, massage, electrical stimulation, paraffin bath, hot and cold pack, traction, and ultrasound) 

  2. Make modifications to progress the patient as directed by the PT 

  3. Ensure patient safety and comfort 

  4. Educate and interact with other health care providers, patients, the patient's families, and caregivers 

  5. Respond to patient and environmental emergency situations.

The PTA contributes to society and the PT profession through the provision of physical therapy services, teaching and administration. 

Physical Therapy is the care and services provided by or under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. More that 750,000 individuals are treated every day in the United States. The practice of physical therapy consists of diagnosing and managing movement dysfunction by enhancing physical and functional abilities. It consists of clinical applications that help to alleviate pain, prevent the onset or progression of limitations or disability, and prevent changes in health status that occur as a result of disease, disorders, conditions and injuries. Physical therapy interventions can also restore health, maintain overall wellness, improve fitness, and provide quality of life as it relates to movement and health. 

The Physical Therapist Assistant program is designed to graduate individuals who are knowledgeable, competent, self-assured, adaptable, and service-oriented patient/client care providers performing their duties within the ethical and legal guidelines of the physical therapy profession as entry-level physical therapist assistants having successfully passed the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination (NPTAE). Graduates from the program are prepared to work in a variety of healthcare settings including acute care, outpatient, rehabilitation, and extended care.


PTA Program Mission:

The Great Falls College PTA Program: Developing Quality Skills with Unwavering Ethics


Core Values of Professional Conduct in Physical Therapy (as per the APTA)

  • Accountability
  • Altruism
  • Compassion/Caring
  • Excellence
  • Integrity
  • Professional Duty
  • Social Responsibility

Program Outcomes

The program prepares graduates to:

  1. Demonstrate a combination of critical thinking skills, provision of skilled interventions, documentation, patient safety awareness, confidentiality, and ethical guidelines under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist as outlined in the Guide to Physical Therapy Practice.

  2. Demonstrate  appropriate   education,  communication,  and treatment  towards various special populations  in regards to their cultural, community, and individual needs. 

  3. Address an area of need within the PTA scope of practice utilizing demonstration, audio and visual aids to accommodate different learning styles of the patient or community.

  4. Apply the use of evidence based practice through current healthcare literature  and research studies to augment best practice standards.

  5. Display a commitment to lifelong learning, ongoing professional development, and high quality care in the realm of physical therapy practice.

The formal portion of the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program begins fall semester with a limited enrollment of 20 students.  Enrollment is a competitive process. There are 32 credits of prerequisite courses which may take one year or longer to complete. All prerequisite coursework must be completed with a grade of “C” or higher. The student must apply for acceptance into the formal portion of the PTA program and be accepted.  A grade of “76%” or “pass” is required for all courses within the PTA program after formal acceptance. The formal portion of the PTA program is challenging and consists of fall, spring, and summer semesters; taking one full year. This time includes built-in clinical experiences which may or may not be in the Great Falls area. Upon completion of the PTA program, the graduate is prepared to take the national board examination for physical therapist assistants provided by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and must receive a passing score in order to become a licensed PTA.  Licensure is required to practice as a physical therapist assistant in Montana and is overseen by the State of Montana Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.

After completion of the program, the graduate is eligible to take the national licensure examination for physical therapist assistants through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Montana does require licensure to practice as a physical therapist assistant.

In seeking admission into the program, the student is required to complete all requirements listed in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program Information and Application Packet.

PTA Program Requirements Prior to Admission:

Prior to Fall admission into the PTA program students must:

  • Have completed high school physics AND chemistry with a “C“ or better (students without high school coursework in these areas should consult the PTA Program Director as to the appropriate college courses needed to meet this requirement)

  • Provide proof of keyboarding must be completed at the high school or collegiate level with a “C” or better. If these courses are to be taken at the collegiate level, contact the PTA program director to assure that you take the appropriate course/courses to meet the requirements for admission to the formal PTA program.

  • Be admitted to Great Falls College MSU and in good academic standing.  Application information may be acquired at the office, or by calling Student Central at (406) 771-4414 or toll free at 1-800-446-2698 or via the Internet at
  • Complete 40 hours or more of observation with a licensed physical therapist or physical therapist assistant.  Please note that higher point values for admission to the PTA Program are awarded at 10 hour intervals.  Refer to section “Observation Hours” in the application packet.
  • Earn a grade of “C” or higher in all pre-requisite courses

Accreditation Status:

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Great Falls College Montana State University is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314; telephone: 703-706-3245; email:; website:

The next onsite visit will occur in October 2018.

PTA Program Statistics as of 11/30/17:

  '13-'14 '14-'15 '15-'16
Acceptance Rate 100% 100% 95.2%
Graduates who entered the program 19 14 17
Graduates who completed the program 17 13 14
%  Completion Rate*** 100% 92.9% 93.3%
2-year average graduation/completion rate 100%* 96.4% 93.1%
Graduates who took the NPTAE 17 13 14
Graduates who passed the NPTAE on first attempt 15 12 12
Graduates who passed the NPTAE with multiple attempts 1 1 2
Ultimate NPTAE Pass Rate 94.1% 100% 100%
2-year average Ultimate NPTAE Pass Rate 94.4%* 97.1% 100%
Employment Rate ** 100% 100% 100%
2-year average Employment Rate 100%** 100%** 100%


*Calculated at a 3 year average.

**Employment rate as defined by the number of graduates who sought employment and were employed in physical therapy (full-time or part-time) within one year of graduation. Employment rate is limited to those graduates who had responded to the post graduate survey.

***Completion rate does NOT include students unable to complete the program due to health, family, or personal reasons unrelated to clinical or academic reasons.

PTA Programmatic Student Demographic Characteristics:

  '15-'16 '16-'17 '17-'18
Number of Students Admitted to Program 17 17 17
Average Age in years 16 29 28
Gender:  Number of Females 11 8 13
Gender: Number of Males 6 1 4
Race : African-American/Black 
0 0 1
Race : American Indian/Alaskan Native: 0 0 0
Race: Asian/Pacific Islander: 1 0 0
Race: Hispanic/Latino: 1 0 0
Race: White (not of Hispanic origin): 13 9 16
Race: Other: 0 0 0
Race: Unknown: 2 0 0
Number of Students with no College Degree 10 4 9
Number of Students with Associate Degree 0 2 4
Number of Students with Bachelor Degree 7 4 4
Number of Students with Master Degree 0 1 2



Complaints from the community, faculty, or students regarding the program or the program graduates should be first addressed by contacting the PTA Program Director.  Unresolved complaints or complaints about the Program Director should be directed to Dr Frankie Lyons- Director of Health Sciences.  Dr. Lyon's e-mail address is and her contact number is (406) 771-4361.  All complaints will be documented, including the projected outcome, and kept on file at the program facility. 

Complaints regarding accreditation of this program should be addressed to the Commission for Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education.  This Commission is located at 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.


Contact Information:

Brad Bechard, PT, DPT
Program Director

Office: A214
Ph: 406.771.5134
Fax: 406.771.4317

Michael Hansell, PTA
Faculty and ACCE

Office: A215
Ph: 406.771.4383
Fax: 406.771.4317

Health Sciences