Date: Wed, Jan 11th, 2023

Physical therapist assistant program offers limited-residency option

Dr. Brad Bechard, program director of Great Falls College's physical therapist assistant program.

Great Falls College’s physical therapist assistant program is excited to introduce a limited-residency option that will allow students to stay in their home communities and gain a high-wage, high-demand degree in less than a year once all prerequisites are completed.

Students will have to travel to Great Falls for hands-on labs and skill-assessment on Thursdays and Fridays for 12 weeks in both the spring and fall.

Students also will be required to get clinical hours, but those hours can be done at almost any location.

“This is really exciting,” said Dr. Brad Bechard, physical therapist assistant program director at Great Falls College. “Students from all over Montana now will have access to the program. There is a shortage of physical therapist assistants throughout Montana, and we are hopeful that we can help fill those voids. And students don’t have to uproot their lives and move to Great Falls. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The limited-residency program begins with fall semester in 2023.

The way it will work is students will have the option to attend the classroom portion live online with the ability for students and instructors to interact with one another, live in-person on Great Falls College’s campus or listen to pre-recorded lectures at their convenience Monday through Wednesday.

They will then need to be on campus for hands-on labs Thursdays and Fridays.

“The people here are awesome, very friendly and fun,” said Britta Young, a recent graduate of the program from Augusta.

The U.S. mean pay for physical therapist assistants is more than $29 an hour or an annual wage of $60,740, and a job outlook between 2021-2031 predicts a 24% employment growth in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics.

Graduates of the program have a 100% two-year average employment rate.

The estimated program cost for those who have completed their prerequisites comes to around $8,000.

“The high wages, job prospects and low cost of the program make it a good investment when you look at the student-debt crisis,” Bechard said.    

Dr. Stephanie Erdmann, CEO/dean of Great Falls College, is pleased to see this model moving forward.

“Brad and (instructor) Michael Hansell have worked really hard to figure out a way to make this accessible for more people and more communities,” she said. “Brad and Mike are such good instructors. I know the students will have a great experience and find a rewarding career. We are pleased to be able to offer it to more of Montana.”

The physical therapist assistant program does have pre-requisites and is a competitive-entry program with a deadline of May 31 to apply, so reach out to Bechard at 406-771-5134 or with questions. You also can reach out to admissions at 406-268-3700 or

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Record Number: 803