Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) Regarding the FVCC PTA Program

What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is a technically educated health care provider who works under the supervision of a Physical Therapist. The PTA performs duties and carries out treatment plans as directed by the physical therapist. Care provided by a PTA may include teaching patients/clients exercise for mobility, strength and coordination, along with training for activities such as walking with crutches, canes, or walkers. They may also provide therapeutic massage and the use of physical agents, electrotherapy and patient education.

The work involved in physical therapy includes physical activity such as bending, lifting patients, and prolonged standing and walking. PTAs utilize various rehabilitative techniques to help patients whose abilities have been impaired by an accident, injury, illness, disease or other health-related conditions that limit movement and functional abilities. PTAs work in a variety of settings including acute care and rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient facilities, school systems, nursing homes, home health and sports medicine clinics. The PTA is an important member of the dynamic rehabilitation team and will interact with other health care providers including occupational therapists and assistants, nurses, speech pathologists, and physicians.

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How is the job market for PTA’s?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 edition reports that employment is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for physical therapy is expected to increase in response to the healthcare needs of an older population and individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.  Job opportunities should be particularly good in acute care hospitals, skilled nursing and orthopedic settings where the elderly are most often treated.  Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural settings which would serve us well in our state of MT. The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $58,040 in May 2018. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,810.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for physical therapist assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) $66,440
  • Home healthcare services 62,340
  • Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 56,760
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private 56,180
  • Offices of physicians 54,360

Most physical therapist assistants work full time. Some may work nights and weekends because many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

When are students selected for the PTA program?

Applications will be available during the spring semester on the FVCC PTA website as well as can be picked up in the Registrar’s office or from Janice Heil’s office (BC 123C). They are due the first Friday in May. After a thorough review of applications, students will be notified of their acceptance into the PTA program in June. These students will then begin the technical phase of the PTA program in the fall semester.

How many students are admitted to the PTA program?

We accept a cohort of 12 students in the program with 2 on the waiting list.

What is the application process for the PTA program?

The application process for the PTA is competitive and selective. Students are admitted to the PTA program after completing all the steps in the selective admissions process.  The first step is to make sure all pre-requisite courses have been completed (Please consult the course outline in the catalog, website, PTA advisor, etc.).  Next, students want to make sure that they have completed all of their observation hours and have completed all forms. There is an application rubric that will address additional areas of work experience, prior education, and letters of recommendation, GPA, essay and interview skills. Finally, students will want to make sure that all aspects of the application form have been completed including proof of immunizations, TB tests, etc.

How important is a student’s grade point average in the selection process?

Grades are important, since they are one measure of a student’s foundational knowledge.  No grades lower than a C will be accepted for the selective pre-requisite calculation. An average of C + or 2.75 in pre-requisite classes is recommended for consideration of this program.  Apart from grades, significant consideration is given to a student’s ability to communicate well with all age groups, show compassion for people, professional demeanor, motivation to learn and a self-disciplined approach to their education. Once accepted into the program, students must maintain a C+ grade point average or 78% to continue in the program. A “C” will not be accepted in technical PTA courses.

Do PTA’s take a national licensure examination?

After completion of the PTA technical and clinical program, graduates are required to take and pass the National PTA examination (NPTE) to be eligible to apply for a license to practice as a PTA. The NPTE is a 4 hour/ 200 question test.  The examination is administered by the Federation of State Boards of PT (FSBPT).  For more information, visit: ;

How much does the Physical Therapist Assistant Program cost?

The pre-requisite component of the program has only those costs associated with regular tuition per credit hour which is the same for all FVCC students.  Once accepted into the technical component of the program, there are additional costs related to immunizations, background checks, drug screen, books, program fees, potential clinical internship costs (travel, housing, food, clothing, etc.).  There is also a fee for sitting for the licensing exam. The estimated cost for tuition and fees for the technical portion of the PTA program is ~ $10,000.

I am concerned about financial aid. What should I do?

Financial assistance is available to eligible students in the form of grants, scholarships, employment, or loans.  Contact the Financial Aid Office (756-3849). They will be available to advise and assist all students with application procedures for financial aid.

When and where are classes scheduled?

Students should be prepared to attend the PTA program for 6-8 hours/day, 5 days/week.  Classes are held in the new Rebecca Broussard’s Nursing and Health Science Building designated PTA lab, Room 114. Once clinical internships start, students will be at various clinical sites around the valley, MT and possibly out of state, for 40 hour work weeks and should be flexible to also work weekends according to facilities clinical instructor availability. Students need to be aware that they may be required to attend a clinical site outside of the Flathead Valley based on clinical availability.

How long does it take to complete the program?

This program can be completed in 5 semesters. This program is considered a 1+1 program.   Students take at least 1 year to complete their pre-requisite courses. Students could possibly take more than 1 year to complete the pre-requisite phase of the program based on various factors.  After acceptance into the technical phase of the PTA program, students will have 3 semesters where they will be involved in the didactic and clinical components specific to the physical therapy field.  Students will complete 3 clinical internships prior to completion of the program for a total of 16 weeks; the first clinical is 4 weeks fall semester, the next clinical is 6 weeks spring semester, the last clinical is in the summer for 6 weeks. Completion of the PTA program will occur in the late summer of the final semester following a professional seminar preparing students for their licensing exam and the workforce.

Will I be able to continue working during the PTA program?

Consider first if this is a good time for you to make an investment in yourself and your education.  The PTA program is a rigorous academic and time-intensive program.  The program faculty recommends that work hours be kept to a minimum based on the aforementioned factors.  Each student must make an individual decision about the number of work hours that he/she can accept while continuing to make acceptable academic progress in the program.

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Flathead Valley Community College 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:

Next Site Visit:  Spring 2018