Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical Therapy is a field of healthcare that utilizes the application of physical agents, therapeutic exercise and activities in the treatment and restoration of human bodily function. The Physical Therapist Assistant program prepares students to provide direct patient care, utilizing physical therapy treatments in a variety of departmental settings under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Graduates of the program are eligible to take the national licensure examination. PTA students can be accepted into the College in the Fall (August), Spring (January) or Summer (May) semesters. PTA course sequencing begins only in August for the full-time course sequence (day classes) and January for the part-time course sequence (evening classes).

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Application Requirements:

  • Completed Harcum College application
  • Official copy of high school transcript or GED transcript. This requirement is waived for applicants who have completed a bachelor's degree, unless specifically requested.
  • Official copies of all college transcripts, if applicable
  • Completion of Algebra I and II, Geometry, biology (with lab) with earned grades of C or higher
  • Minimum combined SAT score of 900 and a minimum GPA of 2.5
  • For students with college credits, a minimum college GPA of 2.5
  • A written essay describing how the applicant would define physical therapy, how the applicant decided to become a physical therapist assistant and how the applicant sees her/himself practicing in the field of physical therapy in the future
  • TOEFL scores (for students for whom English is a second language)
  • It is strongly recommended that applicants complete a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer or work experience in a physical therapy department.
  • All application documents must be submitted to the Admissions Office. The Admissions Committee will review only completed application files.
  • It is recommended that the student meet with the program director of the PTA Program prior to entering the program (complete an interview).

Admission Application Review Guidelines>>    

Program Requirements:

  • A maximum of 30 credits of general education coursework may be transferred from another institution.
  • No prior PTA courses will be accepted from another institution (exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis per PTA program policy).
  • Prior to or during the student’s first semester, a child abuse clearance and criminal history background check must be completed successfully (both should show a clear record). Clearances must be successfully completed in order to proceed to site visits and clinical affiliations.
  • Students may be unable to complete requirements for graduation and/or obtain a license to practice based on results of these background checks.
  • Accepted students must demonstrate math proficiency and complete the college placement examination in English and reading above the developmental level.
  • Students without the prerequisites are required to complete preparatory coursework before admission to the program. This will increase the number of semesters required to complete the program.
  • Once accepted to the program, students must provide proof of the following medical and legal clearances (or of application in progress): a physical examination, chest x-ray, PPD test, hepatitis B vaccine, and proof of current CPR certification and proof of medical insurance.  Process for submission of these documents will be mailed to students with their admissions packet. All forms are managed electronically via Certified Background (see tuition page for additional fees).
  • Students must complete 20 hours of community service throughout the duration of the program.
  • PTA students are required to comply with the PTA program dress code and professional behavior standards.
  • PTA students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0 throughout the program.
  • PTA students must earn a grade of C or higher in MTH 113, AHS 101, BIO 103, BIO 104 and a C or higher in all PTA courses to proceed in the PTA course sequence.
  • Failure (grade of C- or lower) of any two Physical Therapist Assistant courses will result in dismissal from the program.
  • Students must take all PTA courses in the sequence in which they are offered.  Failure to do so will result in an increase in the number of semesters required to complete the program.
  • Class attendance is mandatory for all PTA lectures, labs and clinical affiliations.
  • PTA Policies and Procedures (per PTA Policy and Procedure Manual) are binding.

Application Deadlines
The priority deadline for the PTA full-time program is March 15. The priority deadline for the PTA part-time evening program is October 15.

Essential Functions for the PTA Program
For students to be successful in the PTA Program, they must possess the following qualities:

  • Academic ability to earn a grade of C or higher in all PTA courses
  • Ability to achieve competency level performance in all physical therapy procedures which include, but are not limited to, the following: 

Cognitive Domain: The student must demonstrate the ability to:

  • Reason with abstract and concrete variables, define problems, collect data, establish facts, and draw valid conclusion.
  • Master information presented in course work in the form of lectures, demonstrations, independent study, clinical experiences, written material, material presented through computer imaging, and projected images.
  • Interpret instructions furnished in oral, written, or schedule form.
  • Problem solve and deal with unexpected situations.
  • Carry out written or oral, one, two, or three-step instructions.
  • Remember instructions and carry out tasks over time.
  • Generalize instructions from one situation to another.
  • Read and comprehend physical therapy evaluations, educational and medical charts, manuals and instructions for maintenance of equipment, safety rule,s and procedures.
  • Document entries into medical charts.
  • Prepare and write written educational reports using appropriate grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Manage his/her time effectively and ability to maintain a work pace appropriate to a given caseload, including regular and punctual attendance at the clinical affiliation sites as well as all classes.
  • Recall coursework materials and integrate appropriately in problem solving scenarios.
  • Demonstrate an entry-level knowledge of clinical and didactic materials.
  • Effectively process information, prioritize, and problem solve within an environment containing multiple distractions.
  • Understand spoken and written English and utilize the English language appropriately in written assignments and documents.

    Psychomotor Domain  The student must demonstrate:

    • Functional vision, hearing, motor and tactile sensation which must be adequate to monitor and assess a patient’s health needs and to perform duties as noted in a PT plan of care
    • Adequate ability to guard patients safely during ambulation activities on level surfaces and stair climbing when the patient is using a cane, walker, crutches, or other assistive devices
    • Ability to transfer patients safely from bed to chair or mat and from table to chair using minimum, moderate, maximum, or dependent-lift techniques
    • Ability to perform the full range of motion to a patient
    • Ability to apply graded manual resistance to patients’ individual muscle groups for the purpose of determining the patient’s strength or applying exercise techniques for strengthening or stretching all muscle groups
    • Ability to safely and competently apply modalities and electrical stimulation, including contra-indication/precaution review, using appropriate parameters and set-up techniques. These treatments include, but are not limited to: moist heat, cold packs, cryocuff, intermittent compression, paraffin, fluidotherapy, ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical stimulation, Russian stimulation, high volt galvanic stimulation and neuromuscular stimulation.
    • Ability to apply ultrasound safely, which includes manipulating dials at the same time that the sound head is kept moving on the patient’s treatment site
    • Ability to complete wound care techniques on open wounds
    • Ability to perform cleaning procedures for sterile techniques with all size whirlpools
    • Ability to utilize good body mechanics in the process of all patient treatment techniques
    • Ability to communicate effectively with patients by explaining procedures to patients; obtaining consent from patients to proceed with treatment; receiving information from patients, their charts, other healthcare providers and/or their physician; introducing self while confirming patient’s identity and documenting clear, concise and accurate notes in the patient’s chart
    • Ability to set up treatment sessions using laboratory or clinic equipment within the time restraints of the treatment requirements to provide safe and effective treatments to the patient
    • Ability to perform CPR
    • Ability to apply standard precautions when indicated for patients with potential bloodborne pathogens
    • Ability to monitor vital signs and respond to emergencies

    Affective Domain  The student must demonstrate:

    • Ability to handle stresses of competency testing, lab practicals and clinical affiliations.
    • Empathy—being sensitive and responding to the feelings and behaviors of others
    • Ability to engage in a face-to-face verbal conversation, making eye-contact and using appropriate body language
    • Ability to cooperate and work effectively with other individuals
    • Ability to initiate or self-start projects, tasks and communication, searching out answers using appropriate resources
    • The organizational and time management skills necessary to coordinate class, study and clinical responsibilities
    • Ability to give and receive constructive feedback and to modify behavior accordingly
    • Ability to present oneself in a manner (dress, body language, personal hygiene, verbal style) that is accepted by peers, clients, and employers
    • Students must possess the emotional health required to complete all academic and clinical requirements and to follow appropriate classroom, testing and clinical protocols. 
    • Ability express self clearly in English, and be easily understood when using the English language

    Clinical Experiences

    All PTA students will participate in a clinical partnership prior to the start of their affiliations. This student/client clinical partnership will introduce the PTA students to the exploration of physical therapy practice and the integration of professional behaviors in a structured healthcare facility. This partnership will allow the students to begin to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and clinical decision making skills during their academic coursework. Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the facility(ies).

    Students participate in three clinical affiliations which are assigned by the Clinical Coordinator of Education, as follows: PTA 150 for four weeks at the end of the junior year and PTA 250 and 251 for seven weeks, each at the end of the senior year. Grading for all clinical affiliations is on a pass/fail basis. Clinical affiliations PTA 250 and 251 must be completed within 18 months of completion of the didactic coursework.

    The clinical sites include acute care hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, sports medicine facilities, and other medical facilities. A clinical instructor from the clinical site's physical therapy staff supervises all clinical affiliations. The travel distance for the student for each clinical affiliation will be dependent on the location of each clinical site assigned. The PTA program does not guarantee any minimum or maximum travel distances. The clinical affiliations are full-time (40 hours per week) and follow the facilities' business hours. The clinical affiliations are full-time, typically during the day, including those affiliations for the students completing the coursework in the part-time/evening division. Students must successfully complete each affiliation prior to continuation in the PTA program.

    PTA Program Additional Costs (these are in addition to college tuition and per-semester fees) These costs include (but may not be limited to):  
    Annual APTA/PPTA membership, Lab Kit, all program required textbooks, PTA program Student polo shirt, and all transportation costs associated with clinical and site visits. This list is subject to change at the discretion of the PTA program. These program specific items are estimated to cost $1,950.
    For current information about college tuition and fees, visit
    For information about financial aid, visit

    Program Accreditation and Outcomes

    The PTA Program at Harcum 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:

    Although many of these courses may be transferred for college credit, the Physical Therapist Assistant program is not intended to prepare students to enter a masters-level or doctorate-level physical therapy program. Graduates are eligible to sit for the national board examination for the physical therapist assistant. Students can review the outcomes results for the PTA Program at or

    PTA Program Outcomes


    Graduation Year


    2013- Day

    2013- Eve


    2014- Eve

    2015- Day

    2015- Eve

    Licensure Pass Rate (Ultimate)*







    3 year average (2013-2015) Licensure Pass Rate (Ultimate)* = 98.1%

    Employment Rate**








    Matriculation Year (Graduation Year)


    2011- (2013 grads) Day

    2011 (2013 grads)- Eve

    2012 (2014 grads)- Day

    2012 (2014 grads)- Eve

    2013 (2015 grads)- Day

    2013 (2015 grads)- Eve

    Graduation Rate***







    Graduation Rate (including all reasons for attrition, including personal reason)

     69.6%  81.8%  73.5%  90%  84.8%  93.8%

    * As reported by FSBPT 11/30/201
    ** Defined as % of graduates who are initially employed within 6 months of passing the national licensure exam, who were actively seeking a job as a PTA (as reported to the program by program graduates).
    ***As defined by CAPTE, the percentage of students who matriculated in a given year who graduated on time or with 150% of the expected time. Average attrition varies from year to year for many reasons. Historically, the highest attrition rates occur during the first semester of course work/pre-requisite courses. Percentages supplied based on CAPTE tabulation criteria of graduation rate as per annual accreditation report formula, and this tabulation excludes students who left the program for personal reasons, health reasons, or military deployment.

    Acceptance into the PTA Program


    Number of Seats

    Number of Applicants

    Average GPA of accepted student

    PTA Program Applicants Fall 2016




    PTA Program Applicants Spring 2016




    Application to the PTA program and meeting the minimum qualifications for application does not guarantee acceptance. Admission into the PTA program is competitive.  The PTA program admission process includes careful review of an applicant’s overall academic performance history, prior academic success (especially in Math/Science courses), the strength of the applicant’s reference letter, the quality of the applicant’s essay, and an indication of volunteer or observational hours completed in a physical therapy setting.

    Questions specific to eligibility for licensure in PA should be referred to the PA State Board of Physical Therapy.

    Questions specific to eligibility for licensure in NJ should be referred to the NJ State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners.

    Questions specific to eligibility for licensure in DE should be referred to the DE Examining Board of Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers.