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Physical Therapist Assistant Program

Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus

Profession Description 

I. General Description of the Career Field
II. Description of Academic Programs Leading to a Career in PTA 
III. Entry Level Position Title with Salary 
IV. Employment Outlook 
V. Application Procedure for PTA Program 
VI. Accreditation 
VII. CPR Certifications
VIII. Health Examinations, Background Checks, and Drug Screenings
 IX. Health and Accident Insurance 
X. Professional Liability (Malpractice) Insurance 
XI. Transportation 
XII. Financial Considerations

I. General Description of the Career Field

Physical therapy is a field of rehabilitation in which therapists evaluate, assess, treat and instruct in the prevention of disability, pain, or movement dysfunction resulting from injury, disease, or disability.

A physical therapist assistant (PTAs) practices limited physical therapy under the supervision of a physical therapist.  Job settings include hospitals, private practice settings, rehabilitation facilities, extended care facilities, pediatric centers, home care, and specialty clinics (sports medicine, orthopedic, etc.).  PTAs have opportunities to practice as part of a team of health care providers and their scope of practice allows for interactions with patients as well as sophisticated equipment.

A broad and detailed knowledge of anatomy, a thorough working knowledge of principles of exercise and therapeutic techniques, and a mastery of patient care procedures involved in the handling of the sick and injured are all necessary accomplishments for the competent PTA.  Good health, emotional stability, free of drug and alcohol dependency, accuracy, confidentiality and the ability to get along with people are essential.  Since PTAs frequently work with seriously ill or injured people, they should be able to demonstrate empathy, honesty, and compassion.

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II. Description of Academic Programs Leading to a Career in PTA

PTAs are prepared in Associate Degree programs.  An Associate of Applied Science Degree program can be completed as a full-time student in two years over 5 semesters or can be taken on a part-time basis for as long as it takes to complete the general education requirements.  As long as they meet all eligibility requirements, graduates from the CAPTE-accredited PTA program at Montgomery College are eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Licensing Examination (NPTE) which is required to practice in Maryland.  Other United States jurisdictions have similar requirements. 

As part of the educational process, students learn and develop skills in the academic setting.  Most of the PHTH classes have both lecture and laboratory components.  In addition, most courses have supplemental course pages in Blackboard. Clinical education is an essential component of the PTA curriculum which allows the student to enhance their skills by practicing under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist.

While some PTAs may choose to continue their education to become physical therapy (PT) students, it is important for the PTA student to understand that the technical courses offered in the PTA program may not necessarily transfer for credit into bachelors degree programs or into post-graduate PT programs.  In addition, PT programs are taught at the post-baccalaureate level (masters and doctorate degree programs) and in only a few colleges and universities.  Please refer to the American Physical Therapy Association web page for more information (www.apta.org and select "Prospective Students").

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III. Entry Level Position Title with Salary

A full-time entry-level position in skilled nursing facilities and some out-patient settings for a licensed PTA with no prior work experience in the Washington Metro area has been estimated at approximately $45,000 - $55,000 per year.

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IV. Employment Outlook

Demand for physical therapist assistants will continue to be high according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  People requiring physical therapy services will continue and possibly grow, due in part, to the growing elderly population and baby-boom generation.

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V. Application Procedure for PTA Program 

Application to the PTA Program is a two-step admission procedure. 

First, submit a Montgomery College Admissions Application.  Application to Montgomery College is open to all.

Second, there is a separate admission procedure for the Health Sciences programs.  Please refer to the Admissions section of the MC catalog for admission procedures.  Check with Admissions or PTA program webpage for current procedures and timelines.  The PTA Program admits students only in the fall semester, with an application deadline of March 1.  Click here for the Health Sciences Application (PDF).

Successful applicants are notified by late April.  A new student orientation is scheduled in summer to help students prepare for PTA classes to begin in late August. 

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VI. Accreditation

Montgomery College is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  The State of Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) designates the PTA program as a statewide education program.  The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) has granted full accreditation to the PTA Program through December, 2020. 

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VII. CPR Certifications

Students are required to have Healthcare Provider or First Responder training and certification.  While other companies offer this training, our clinical partners prefer the American Heart Association for certification.  These courses are provided in many community locations, such as hospitals and ambulance stations.  The courses are also offered through the College's Workforce Development and Continuing Education Department.  Students must keep a copy of their CPR certification on file with the PTA Program and must maintain certification throughout the duration of the PTA Program.  MC credit course, HLTH 220 Emergency Medical Responder, meets the CPR requirement. 

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VIII. Health Examinations, Background Checks, and Drug Screenings 

By the end of the first year in the program (early July) students must receive a complete physical examination by a physician.  Results of this examination are maintained in a secure database and are required for participation in clinical internships.  Physical examination includes complete blood work, urinalysis, tuberculosis (Mantoux) test or X-Ray, current immunizations (or titers), and influenza shot record.  The Hepatitis-B vaccine is strongly recommended to all students pursuing careers in health care.  Students are kept informed about any change in requirements or procedures. 

Criminal background checks and drug/alcohol screening are mandatory for all health science students, and the results could affect clinical placement.  These are due by the end of the first year in the program (early July).  Students must be prepared to repeat any of these tests upon request of the clinical facility.  For example, a facility may perform random drug screening and a student could be selected to participate.

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 IX. Health and Accident Insurance

Students are financially responsible for their own health care.  This includes illness or accidents which occur during school hours or while on clinical affiliations.  It is advisable to get health coverage if you are not covered by any plan.

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X. Professional Liability (Malpractice) Insurance

Students are covered by liability – also known as malpractice - insurance through Montgomery College at no cost during clinical hours associated with the PTA program.  Additional liability insurance is available commercially, should this be desired.

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XI. Transportation

Students are responsible for providing their own transportation to and from school, field trips, and clinical affiliation sites.

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XII. Financial Considerations

Due to the nature of the program, expenses can run quite high. Special considerations of expenses include:

  • Planning for PTA school (PDF). 
  • Tuition (Refer to the credit tuition and fee schedule).  There is a Statewide and Health Workforce Shortage Form, which allows in-county tuition to all Maryland residents if you are enrolled in one of the designated programs.  All students are encouraged to apply for financial aid.  
  • Text books and lab materials (estimate $300- $500 per semester).
  • Uniforms and transportation for clinical internships (estimate $500 - $700 per semester in semesters 3 and 4).
  • Internship tracking and assessment is $100
  • Annual health physical examinations, immunizations, Hepatitis-B vaccinations, and criminal background check (costs vary based upon student insurance plans). These are required after the start of the program in July.
  • APTA student membership ($75 per year).
  • CPR certification or renewal (costs vary based on provider).
  • Drug and alcohol screening and criminal background checks.  The Health Sciences programs uses a secure third party to complete these.  Students are required to complete these prior to the start of any clinical internship.  Costs will vary from year to year but estimate $50 per year for each screening or check requested.
  • Cost of NPTE and Initial State Licensure is estimated at $700.  This is a practice requirement after graduation.  

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Montgomery College

Montgomery County, MD

240-567-5000

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