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Physical Therapist Assistant Header Image

 

 

What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

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.

Employment Data
  Physical Therapist Assistant
Median Wage (MT)* $51,220 yearly - $24.63 per hour

Median Wage (US)*

$58,790 yearly - $28.26 per hour
Annual Job Openings (MT)* 26
Annual Job Openings (US)* 16,500
Expected Growth (MT)* 22.8%
Expected Growth (US)* 27.0%
*Montana Career Information System
Career Opportunities

In May 2019, the median annual wasges for physical therapist assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) $66,840
Home healthcare services $63,200
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists $57,520
Hospitals; state, local, and private $57,140
Offices of physicians $55,490
Why Great Falls College MSU

Figure Out Your Finances

Physical Therapist Assistant Program Estimated Costs

Estimated Resident Program Cost*

Tuition and Fees $8,625
Application Fee $30
Lab/Course Fees $1,046
Program Fee $138
Books/Supplies $2,653
Total $12,491

Figure Out Your Finances

Students seeking federal financial aid (which includes grants and loans) must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which online at fafsa.ed.gov. As a result of completing a FAFSA, an applicant will receive a federal Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail or online. An electronic version of the SAR is automatically sent to the schools listed on the FAFSA. To list Great Falls College MSU, use our school code: 009314.

Students applying for financial aid may also be required to provide proper federal income tax information, completed verification materials, and any other information requested by the Financial Aid Office. Students must apply for financial aid annually.

Assistance is available to prospective students applying for financial aid. In addition, financial aid counseling for new students is an integral part of the admissions and orientation process. Once enrolled, students may receive counseling and assistance as needed. For assistance, please call 406-771-4334 or 1-800-446-2698 (in Montana), or write to the Financial Aid Office, Great Falls College MSU, 2100 16th Ave S, Great Falls, MT 59405, or email finaid@gfcmsu.edu.

Great Falls College MSU also offers a wide variety of different scholarships to assist you in paying for your college. To view a list of current scholarship offerings, please see our scholarship page.

Explore Course Lists

Physical Therapist Assistant Program Course Lists

Many students need preliminary math, science, and writing courses before enrolling in the program requirements. These courses may increase the total number of program credits. Students should review their math and writing placement before planning out their full program schedules.

The Great Falls College PTA Program is a limited enrollment program, accepting a restricted number of students each year. Interested students are urged to contact the PTA Program Director or Advising and Career Center Advisors for student advising specific to admission requirements and criteria for program acceptance.

Prerequisites

Background in basic sciences and proficiency in keyboarding are essential to success in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program.

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 completed at the high school or collegiate level with a C or better.  If a formal keyboarding course was not completed, proof of a typing test with a minimum of 25 words per minute must be demonstrated via a certificate that provides your name and the results of the test. If theses courses are to be taken at the collegiate level contact the PTA program director to ensure that you take the appropriate course(S) to meet the requirements for admission to the formal PTA program. 
  • Be admitted to GFC MSU and be in good academic standing. Application information may be acquired at the College, or by calling Student Central at 406.771.4414 or toll free at 1.800.446.2698 ,or online at http://www.gfcmsu.edu.
  • 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:
AHMS 144Medical Terminology +3
AHPT 105Intro to Physcl Thrpist Assist (Prerequisite or corequisite with consent of program director) +3
BIOH 201Human Anat Phys I/Lab (= 301) **,+4
BIOH 211Human Anat Phys II & Lab(=311) *,+4
NOTE: UM Western students may substitute BIOB 160, BIOH 365 & BIOH 379 for GFC MSU BIOH 201 & BIOH 211. All 3 classes are required and must have a grade of C or higher (not C-) within the last 5 years of application.
M 140College Math for Healthcare (OR any math course in the MUS Core) **,+3
PSYX 100Introduction to Psychology +3
PSYX 230Developmental Psychology +3
SOCI 101Introduction to Sociology3
WRIT 101College Writing I **,+3
Select one of the following:
COMX 111Intro to Public Speaking +3
COMX 115Intro to Interpersonal Communc +3
Subtotal32

Program Course Requirements after Formal Acceptance

A grade of 76% or better is required to pass each class within the professional phase of the program:

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
FallCredits
AHPT 101 Physcl Thrpist Assist I / Lab *,+ 5
AHPT 205 Anat and Kinesio for the PTA *,+ 6
AHPT 206 Pathophysiology for the PTA *,+ 3
AHPT 210 Clinical Experience I *,+ 3
AHPT 218 Theraptc Exercise for the PTA *,+ 2
 Credits19
Spring
AHPT 201 Physcl Thrpist Assist II / Lab *,+ 5
AHPT 213 Neurorehab for the PTA *,+ 6
AHPT 215 Introduction to Orthopedics *,+ 4
AHPT 220 Clinical Experience II *,+ 3
 Credits18
Summer
AHPT 225 Semnr in Physcl Thrpist Assist *,+ 1
AHPT 230 Clinical Experience III *,+ 7
 Credits8
 Total Credits45

 TOTAL PROGRAM CREDITS: 77

Application Deadlines

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 30 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:

  • Be admitted to Great Falls College MSU and in good academic standing. Application information may be acquired at the office, or by calling Student Admissions at (406) 268-3700 or online at www.gfcmsu.edu.
  • 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 (not a C-) or higher in all pre-requisite courses
  • Computer literacy and keyboarding skills are assumed

Application packets must be postmarked on or before May 31st to be considered eligible for admission into the Physical Therapist Assistant program for the 2021-22 academic year. From the pool of completed applications, the prospective PTA students will be screened. In the event that a full class of 20 PTA students cannot be initially attained, then incomplete or late applications may be looked at for possible admission. Applications with requirements not met at the time of the program deadline may be provisionally admitted pending fulfillment of ALL requirements. All persons submitting an application will be notified of their admission status following the selection process, approximately 4 weeks later.

Please only send required documentation as other supplemental items will be discarded.

It is recommended that application packets be sent by certified mail, or hand delivered and date stamped.

Hand-deliver or mail the Physical Therapist Assistant Program Application Packet to:

Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Attention: Health Science Administrative Assistant
Great Falls College MSU
2100 16th Avenue South
Great Falls, MT 59405
Download The Application Packet
Certification/Accreditation

The Physical Therapist Assistant program at Great Falls College Montana State University is accredited by:

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100
Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085
703-706-3245
accreditation@apta.org
www.capteonline.org

If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call:

Brad Bechard - Program Director
406-771-5134
bradley.bechard@gfcmsu.edu

The next onsite visit will occur in Fall of 2028.

Continuing Your Education

For information on continuing your education in this field, please visit https://www.apta.org

Additional Information

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 Goal and Outcomes

Student Goals:

  1. The student will develop an entry level skill set who are prepared both didactically and clinically for passing licensure while demonstrating quality provision of services under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Developing Quality Skills
    1. Student Outcomes:
    2. 85% of students will maintain a 2 year average ultimate pass rate on the NPTE.
    3. 100% of students will demonstrate successful completion of all objectives on the terminal clinical prior to graduation. 
  2. The student will identify evidence based practice to relate to their clinical decision making. Developing Quality Skills
    1. Student Outcome:
    2. 100% of students will utilize peer review research within at least two assignments while in the program.
  3. The student will demonstrate commitment to the profession by serving the needs of the community through ethical practice and participation in service related activities. Unwavering Ethics
    1. Student Outcomes:
    2. 100% of students will have participated in at least one service related activity within the community prior to graduation.
    3. 100% of students will demonstrate through at least one assignment that addresses appropriate education, communication, and treatment towards various special populations in regards to their cultural, community, or individual needs prior to graduation.
    4. 100% of students will demonstrate through at least one assignment that addresses an area of need within the PTA scope of practice utilizing audio and visual aids to accommodate different learning styles of the patient or community prior to graduation.

Faculty Goals:

  1. Program faculty will demonstrate life-long learning through the pursuit of continuing education related to the profession of physical therapy and area of teaching responsibility. Developing Quality Skills
    1. Faculty Outcome:
    2. 100% of full time faculty will participate in at least one continued education or professional development course annually
  2. Program faculty will continually develop updated course materials to provide students a contemporary education via evidenced based practice. Developing Quality Skills
    1. Faculty Outcome:
    2. 100% of full time faculty will implement at least one assignment based on peer review research annually. 
  3. The program faculty will demonstrate commitment to the profession through service learning activities within the community. Unwavering Ethics
    1. Faculty Outcome
    2. 100% of full time faculty will participate with students in at least one service learning activity within the community annually. 

PTA Program Goals:

  1. The program will contribute to the needs of the community through the student association and it's pursuit of volunteering and fundraising. Unwavering Ethics
    1. Program Outcome:
    2. The program’s student association will promote at least one volunteer event with a portion of the proceeds going towards a non-profit organization annually.
  2. The program will promote life-long learning to reflect contemporary practice and advocate physical therapy via the APTA to best meet the needs of the profession and society. Developing Quality Skills with Unwavering Ethics
    1. Program Outcomes
    2. The program will implement at least one assignment discussing the importance of life-long learning prior to graduation.
    3. The program’s student association will require 100% of voting constituents to be members of the APTA annually.

PTA Program Statistics as of 12/4/20:

  '16-'17 '17-'18 '18-'19
Acceptance Rate 76.9% 76.9% 80%
Graduates who entered the program 9 17 12
Graduates who completed the program 8 16 11
% Completion Rate*** 88.8% 94.1% 91.7%
2-year average graduation/completion rate 91.7% 92.3% 93.1%
Graduates who took the NPTE 8 16 11
First time NPTE pass rate 62.5% 93.8% 72.7%
2-year average first time NPTE pass rate 77.3% 83.3% 85.2%
Ultimate NPTE Pass Rate 87.5% 100% 90.9%
2-year average Ultimate NPTE Pass Rate 95.5% 95.8% 96.3%
Employment Rate** 100% 100% 100%
2-year average Employment Rate 100% 100% 100%

**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.

***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:

  '18-'19 '19-'20 '20-'21
Number of Students Admitted to Program 12 9 16
Average Age in years 28 25 32
Gender: Number of Females 7 6 11
Gender: Number of Males 5 3 5
Race: African-American/Black (Non-Hispanic) 0 0 0
Race: American Indian/Alaskan Native 0 0 2
Race: Asian/Pacific Islander 0 0 1
Race: Hispanic/Latino 1 0 1
Race: White (not of Hispanic origin) 10 9 12
Race: Other 1 0 0
Race: Unknown 0 0 0
Number of Students with no College Degree 4 3 8
Number of Students with Associate Degree 3 2 4
Number of Students with Bachelor Degree 5 4 4
Number of Students with Master Degree 0 0 0

Complaints:

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 Russell Motschenbacher - Director of Health Sciences. Russell Motschenbacher's e-mail address is r.motschenbacher1@gfcmsu.edu and his contact number is (406) 771-4362. 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.

 


Great Falls College MSU
Physical Therapist Assistant Program In The News

 


Physical Therapist Assistant Faculty

 

Brad Bechard

Brad Bechard, PT, DPT
Program Director

Office: A214
Phone: 406.771.5134
Fax: 406.771.4317
bradley.bechard@gfcmsu.edu

Michael Hansell

Michael Hansell, PTA
Faculty and ACCE

Office: A215
Phone: 406.771.4383
Fax: 406.771.4317
michael.hansell@gfcmsu.edu

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