Physical Therapist Assistant Program


Greetings Student,

Students applying by the May 31, 2023, deadline may start the program and graduate in as few as 11 months. With a 100% two-year average employment rate, it is very reasonable to expect gainful employment in less than a year! You may also visit our website for graduation rates, pass rates, and other program statistics at

The U.S. mean pay for physical therapy assistants is more than $29/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. The estimated program cost for those who have completed their prerequisites comes to around $8,000, making this a reasonable investment for your career in lieu of rising student debt.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the program or application process, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Brad Bechard, program director, at 406-771-5134.


Brad Bechard, PT, DPT, NCS
Director, Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Great Falls College MSU


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 Class of 2021

Job Title Median Wage Annual Job Openings Expected Growth
Physical Therapist Assistant MT: $51,220
US: $58,790
MT: 26
US: 16,500
MT: 22.8%
US: 27.0%

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

Physical Therapist Assistant Program Estimated Costs

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 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 write to the Financial Aid Office, Great Falls College MSU, 2100 16th Ave S, Great Falls, MT 59405, or email

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.

Physical Therapist Assistant Program Requirements

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
  • 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 2022-23 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

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

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

Brad Bechard - Program Director

The next onsite visit will occur in Fall of 2028.

For information on continuing your education in this field, please visit

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
  • Collaboration
  • Compassion/Caring
  • Duty
  • Excellence
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • 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

Student Outcomes:

    A. 85% of students will maintain a 2 year average ultimate pass rate on the NPTE.

    B. 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

Student Outcome:

    A. 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

Student Outcomes:

    A. 100% of students will have participated in at least one service related activity within the community prior to graduation.

    B. 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.

    C. 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:

4. 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

Faculty Outcome:

    A. 100% of full time faculty will participate in at least one continued education or professional development course annually

5. Program faculty will continually develop updated course materials to provide students a contemporary education via evidenced based practice. Developing Quality Skills

Faculty Outcome:

    A. 100% of full time faculty will implement at least one assignment based on peer review research annually. 

6. The program faculty will demonstrate commitment to the profession through service learning activities within the community. Unwavering Ethics

Faculty Outcome

    A. 100% of full time faculty will participate with students in at least one service learning activity within the community annually. 

PTA Program Goals:

7. The program will contribute to the needs of the community through the student association and it's pursuit of volunteering and fundraising. Unwavering Ethics

      Program Outcome:

    A. 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.

8. 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

Program Outcomes

    A. The program will implement at least one assignment discussing the importance of life-long learning prior to graduation.

    B. The program’s student association will require 100% of voting constituents to be members of the APTA annually.

PTA Program Statistics as of 11/29/22:

  '18-'19 '19-'20
Graduates who entered the program 12 9 16
Graduates who completed the program 11 9 15
% Completion Rate*** 91.7% 100% 93.8%
2-year average graduation/completion rate 93.1% 95.2% 96%
Graduates who took the NPTE 11 9 15
First time NPTE pass rate 72.7% 77.8% 86.7%
2-year average first time NPTE pass rate 85.2% 75% 83.3%
Ultimate NPTE Pass Rate 100% 100% 100%
2-year average Ultimate NPTE Pass Rate 100% 100% 100%
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:

  '20-'21 '21-'22 '22-'23
Number of Students Admitted to Program 16 11 7
Average Age in years 32 29 28
Gender: Number of Females 11 7 6
Gender: Number of Males 5 4 1
Race: African-American/Black (Non-Hispanic) 0 0 0
Race: American Indian/Alaskan Native 2 1 0
Race: Asian/Pacific Islander 1 1 0
Race: Hispanic/Latino 1 0 1
Race: White (not of Hispanic origin) 12 9 6
Race: Other 0 0 0
Race: Unknown 0 0 0
Number of Students with no College Degree 8 5 2
Number of Students with Associate Degree 4 4 4
Number of Students with Bachelor Degree 4 3 2
Number of Students with Master Degree 0 0 1



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 Quincie Jones - Director of Health Sciences. Quincie Jones's e-mail address is and her contact number is (406) 268-3723. 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.


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Physical Therapist Assistant Faculty


Brad Bechard

Brad Bechard, PT, DPT, NCS
Program Director

Office: A214
Phone: 406.771.5134
Fax: 406.771.4317

Michael Hansell

Michael Hansell, PTA
Faculty and ACCE

Office: A215
Phone: 406.771.4383
Fax: 406.771.4317