Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical Therapist Assistant Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

About Physical Therapist Assistant

Prepare for success in one of the fastest growing healthcare careers.

Demand for physical therapy services is increasing. The rigorous physical therapist assistant (PTA) associate degree program at PennWest California trains you to assist a physical therapist (PT) in providing much-needed rehabilitation services that improve patients' quality of life.

This two-year undergraduate program prepares you for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and PTA licensure.

High expectations help you achieve more.

High expectations help you achieve more.

  • Our competitive program ensures top training. A maximum of 26 students will be admitted based upon GPA in the first-semester pre-technical courses. Additional benchmarks assure the rigor needed for success.
  • Clinical internships give you the experience you need to excel in your career.
  • Professors offer open lab hours to review physical therapy techniques and give one-to-one instruction.


Top Accreditation: PennWest California's PTA program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

In-Demand Career: Pennsylvania Workforce Development classifies PTA as a high-priority career. This means it is an in-demand job that requires top skills and provides family-sustaining wages.

Learn more about applying

93 %
In 2018-2019, 93% of PennWest California PTA graduates passed the National Physical Therapy Examination and received PTA licensing.
100 %
Employment rates for the classes of 2018 and 2019 were 100% for each class, for a two-year average of 100%. 
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Degree Benefits

Learn how to work with PTs to implement and monitor comprehensive physical therapy treatment plans.

  • Perform physical therapy data collection according to the PT's plan of care.
  • Implement patient interventions.
  • Make appropriate clinical judgments.
  • Participate in discharge planning and follow-up care according the PT's plan of care.
  • Educate and interact with PT and PTA students, aides, volunteers, patients, families and caregivers.
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Graduate Outcomes

PTA employment opportunities in Pennsylvania are expected to grow 41% through 2022 - a much faster rate than the average for all jobs. PennWest California alumni have gone on to physical therapist assistant careers at:

  • Pennsylvania hospitals
  • Area Agency on Aging
  • Keystone Rehabilitation
  • Bradley Physical Therapy
  • MediCorp Health Systems
  • Greene County Memorial Hospital
Physical Therapist Assistant Associate's Degree
Portrait of Aimee Bosley.

PTA Alumni Faculty Spotlight

Meet Professor Aimee Maruniak, a clinical instructor at PennWest California. A 2006 graduate of PennWest California's PTA program, Aimee has worked as an outpatient PTA, a treating PTA and a director of rehabilitation. In addition to teaching, she currently manages a 61-bed facility about 30 minutes from campus that serves as a clinical site for PTA students.

PTA students listen to instruction.

PTA Club

Make connections and open doors by joining the PTA Club. This student-run organization helps you get the most out of your PennWest California experience. Gain access to networking opportunities, local and national physical therapy conferences, continuing education, lectures, study groups and more.

A student in the PTA lab.

Cadaver Lab

Learn real-life lessons that textbooks can't teach. PTA students gain insight into human anatomy and physiology through lab work with cadavers - an exceptional learning opportunity. The cadaver lab is used in courses such as Interventions in Cardiopulmonary Impairments and Human Anatomy and Physiology II.

Associate Degree Courses and Admission Requirements

This professional associate degree program combines comprehensive courses, hands-on lab work and clinical internships. Students gain applied physical therapy knowledge and techniques, so they are prepared to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs.

Example Courses

Course Credits
General Education Courses 21
Building a Sense of Community
UNI 100  First-Year Seminar
ENG 101  English Composition I
Public Speaking
CDC 101  Public Speaking
Natural Sciences
HSC 110  Human Anatomy and Physiology I
Social Sciences 
PSY 100  General Psychology
General Education Options
  • HSC 120  Human Anatomy and Physiology II (4 credits)
  • SOC 100  Principles of Sociology  OR  GTY 100  Intro to Gerontology (3 credits)
Required Major Courses 50
PTA 100  Intro to Physical Therapist Assistant 3
PTA 101  Basic Physical Therapy Procedures 1
PTA 110  Intro to Pathology 2
PTA 150  PT Clinical Internship I 4
PTA 200  Professional Issues in PT 2
PTA 205  Interventions in Cardiopulmonary Impairments 3
PTA 210  Interventions in Neurological Impairments 4
PTA 225  Interventions in Orthopedic Impairments 4
PTA 230  PT Interventions Across the Lifespan 3
PTA 240  PTA Special Topics 3
PTA 250  PT Clinical Internship II 12
PTA 260  Pharmacology and Imaging 2
HSC 275  Functional Kinesiology 3
HSC 290  Therapeutic Modalities 4
Total 71

Program Notes: Must pass Part A and Part B of Math Placement Test OR Pass Part A and take DMA 092 Developmental Algebra. The first semester consists of a pre-technical phase that is designed to be a rigorous test of students' academic abilities. Students' performance during this phase will largely determine if they are admitted to the technical phase of the program.

Admissions Requirements

Admission to the
Physical Therapist Assistant Program

: Program Entrance Requirements

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program is a limited entry program. Admission to the University does not guarantee formal admission to the Technical phase of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program. For students seeking program readmission, please see the last page of this document. The following steps must be followed for admission to the Pre-Technical phase (Pre-PTA status) of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program:

Step 1  Admission to PennWest California in Pre-PTA (Major Code 9601).

Step 2  Sit for University Placement tests.  As required by the results, complete all developmental courses with a grade of C or better as needed. [Note: a student who needs to complete developmental courses may be delayed in entry and/or application into the Pre-Technical Phase of the Program].

Step 3  If transferring in courses, please consult with a PTA academic advisor ( or to assure your fall schedule is accurate.

During the first week of the Fall semester, attend the mandatory orientation meeting. Typically, this meeting is the first Tuesday or Thursday at 11:00.

Formal admission into the Technical phase of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program occurs at the completion of the fall semester.  This admission is competitive, as a maximum of 26 students will be admitted into the Technical phase, which will commence with the subsequent spring term. Students may meet or exceed all of the admissions criteria and not be formally admitted into the Technical phase due to program size limitations. A maximum of 26 students will be selected based upon the students’ GPA in the Pre-Technical phase courses which includes the following: 

  • PTA 100, Introduction to Physical Therapist Assistant (C minimum)
  • PTA 101, Basic Physical Therapy Procedures (C minimum)
  • HSC 110, Human Anatomy and Physiology I ([B-] minimum).
  • CDC 101, Public Speaking
  • PSY 100, General Psychology
  • UNI 100, First Year Seminar


The minimum acceptable QPA to qualify for ranking is 2.75 in the courses listed above. If a student meets the minimum 2.75 QPA as well as the minimum grades listed above, the student is eligible for ranking. Admittance is granted only to the top 26 students being ranked. Students will be informed of their admissions status within thirty (30) days of the completion of the fall semester courses in the Pre-Technical phase. Additionally, students must provide evidence of the following to be admitted to the Technical phase:

  1. Verification of 10 hours of shadowing in a physical therapy setting.
  2. Verification of current CPR (adult BLS with AED) certification. Please note that there is a CPR course available for students to take on campus during the Fall semester to complete this requirement. The cost is approximately $15.


Once a student is formally admitted into the Technical Phase of the Program the student must provide evidence of all of the following for successful clinical placement:

  1. Verification of Act 33 (Pennsylvania Child Abuse History), Act 34 (Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record), and Act 114 (FBI Federal History Record) clearances. The total cost of clearances is currently $47.50.
  2. Evidence of physical and emotional health as indicated by submission of a University Medical Information Form completed by a licensed physician including current immunization records for DTP, MMR I, MMR II, Hepatitis B vaccine series (3 doses), and chicken pox titer or history of the disease.
  3. Evidence of Tuberculin skin test (2-step PPD by mantoux method) during the semesters prior to clinical internships. Students will have the option of obtaining the 2-step PPD test on campus in the Spring semester at the University Health Center for a cost of approximately $20.
  4. Students also may be asked to take a drug screening test prior to clinical placement if required by the clinical internship site. The test will be arranged by the clinical internship site requesting the test. Any associated cost incurred for drug testing is the sole responsibility of the student. (Cost varies per facility but typically ranges from $35-$75).
  5. Students must provide evidence of professional liability insurance prior to receiving a clinical assignment in PTA 150, Physical Therapy Clinical Internship I (currently a $15 fee). This is arranged by the Academic Clinical Coordinator of Education.


***Academic Requirement for Continued Placement in the Technical Phase***

Students are required to maintain a B- or higher in all Technical Phase PTA coursework to remain in good academic standing in the PTA Program.  In addition, at the end of the Spring semester, students are required to pass two benchmark criteria to remain in the Technical Phase of the program: Qualifying Examination and Interview.

Qualifying Examination

Students will be required to take a written Qualifying Examination which will test the students’ knowledge of content taught in previous and concurrent PTA and HSC coursework.  The Qualifying Examination is designed to be a rigorous test of the students’ academic knowledge and problem-solving skills to assure that the student is competent to achieve continued success within the program. Students must successfully pass the Qualifying Examination with a score of 80% or better. If a student does not meet the 80% benchmark but scores a 70% or higher, the student will be asked to engage in remediation and take a new Qualifying Examination within the Spring semester. Students scoring below 70% on the first attempt will not be offered a re-take and will be dismissed from the Technical Phase of the Program.


Students will complete an interview with members of the PTA Advisory Committee. Students will be provided with the interview score sheet at the beginning of the Spring semester to provide adequate time for students to prepare for the interview. The purpose of the interview is to assure that students are competent in verbal and non-verbal communication and self-reflection of strengths/weaknesses.  Additionally during the interview, students will be required to demonstrate knowledge of the role of the PTA, convey strong rationale of why PTA is their career choice, and provide evidence of campus/community service.  Students must successfully pass the interview to continue with program.

In summary, students need to earn an 80% on the Qualifying Examination and PASS the interview to continue with the Technical Phase of the PTA program. If a student does not meet these benchmarks, the student will be dismissed from the Technical Phase of the Program. Dismissed students due to subpar performance on the Qualifying Exam or interview are eligible to re-apply to the Technical Phase of the program at a maximum of one time.

Special Notice for Transfer Students:

PennWest California students may apply for entrance to the Pre-Technical PTA program in the Department of Health Science simply by completing the standard PennWest California change of major form and indicating Physical Therapist Assistant as their intended major. These internal transfer students must have an overall quality point average of 2.50 at PennWest California to meet College of Education and Human Services guidelines and they must have completed all developmental courses. Students are encouraged to meet with a PTA Advisor to explain the requirements and admission standards.

Students from other colleges and universities must meet university admissions requirements and then select Physical Therapist Assistant as their major in order to be admitted to the Pre-Technical phase of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program.   does not set a maximum number of transferable credits.  To earn a degree, 30 of the last 45 credits must be taken from PennWest California.  In addition, students must complete at least 50% of the major coursework within their department from PennWest California, with the exception of intra-system transfer students.  This is in accordance with the graduation policy as well as the Board of Governors degree requirements. Please see this link for the complete transfer policy.  It is strongly encouraged that all transfer students correspond with a PTA advisor to review admission standards. Transfer students are required to follow the same technical phase application and continuation procedures.

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia  22314; telephone: 703-706-3245; email:; website:

Readmission to the PTA Program

If a student is no longer able to continue in the program due to voluntary withdrawal or dismissal from the program, the student may re-apply to the Technical Phase of the program only once. To re-apply, the student must notify the program director, in writing, of his/her intent to re-apply by August 31 of the academic year and attend the mandatory orientation meeting held during the first week of classes.  At that point, the student will be granted Pre-Technical status and shall follow the process outlined for Technical phase admission found on the PTA website. The student will be considered along with the entire qualified applicant pool for that year. The only exception to this policy is that if a student is dismissed from the program due to a professionalism issue, the student may not re-apply to the program.

Readmitted students must also follow these additional criteria if matriculating to the Technical Phase:

  1. The student must meet with both the Academic Clinical Coordinator of Education and the Program Director to determine the necessary steps to determine competence and preparedness to return to the clinical setting.
  1. The student must demonstrate competence in clinical skills through completion of laboratory check-offs that had been completed prior to the departure from the PTA program. For example, if a student repeats PTA 210 Interventions in Neurological Impairments, he or she must also perform and demonstrate competence on previously completed technical phase laboratory check-offs from PTA 230 (Lifespan), HSC 275 (Modalities), PTA 225 (Orthopedics) and PTA 205 (Cardiopulmonary). This is to assure that the student maintains competency in these areas in preparation for clinical internships. Laboratory check-offs may be arranged with the course instructor and/or the lab supervisor. Completed check-offs (with faculty signature) must be provided to the program director at the completion of the semester. If the student does not successfully perform or pass the check-offs, the student will not receive a passing score for the course being repeated.
  1. The student must demonstrate competence in clinical skills through the successful completion of one or more practical exams that encompass the curriculum that had been completed prior to the departure from the PTA program and consistent with what is required of all students to enter the next scheduled clinical education course. The practical exam(s) will be associated with one course that the student is currently taking (the course being repeated or another laboratory based course). The practical exam(s) will be supervised and graded by at minimum of two PTA faculty and follow the policies outlined previously regarding practical examinations. If a student does not successfully pass the practical exam(s), the student will not receive a passing score for the course.

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at PennWest California is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085; telephone: 703-706-3245; email:; website:

If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call 724-938-4562 or email

For the classes of 2021-2022, 69% of students admitted to the Technical Phase of the PTA program at PennWest California graduated from the program. Graduation rates for the class of 2022 was 72% and 64% for the class of 2021. Graduates are required to pass a licensing examination in order to practice as a Physical Therapist Assistant. The licensing examination (National Physical Therapy Examination or NPTE for PTAs) ultimate passing rates for the classes of 2020 and 2021 were 88.2% and 81.8% respectively for an average two-year passing rate of 85%. First time passing rates for the class of 2020 was 70% and class of 2021 was 54% for a two-year first passing rate of 64%. Employment rates for the classes of 2020 and 2021 were 100% for a two-year average of 100%.

For any program concerns, please click on the following link: Procedure for Program Concerns.

Please click this link for the Student Financial Fact Sheet