Program accreditation assures that graduates can work as knowledgeable and safe PTAs.

You pay your money, put in your time and work hard. Then it’s time to take the National Physical Therapy Examination for physical therapy assistants so you can get your license to work. However, if the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education doesn't accredit your school, you're not eligible for the exam. One way to find a PTA program that is both accredited and affordable is to go through a state’s community college system. Costs for in-state residents are significantly lower than many other programs.


As part of the State University of New York system, many community colleges across the state have PTA programs, including Broome, Herkimer, Genesee, Nassau, Niagara, Onondaga, Orange and Suffolk. Programs are small, averaging between 25 and 65 students. As part of the SUNY system, state residents pay significantly less than students from other states. Four of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts also offer PTA degree programs: Berkshire, Mount Wachusett, North Shore and Springfield Technical. Most campuses graduate a high percentage of students who pass the licensing exam. The employment rate for graduates is between 95 and 100 percent.


Heading south, the Virginia Community College System has three schools for students interested in becoming PTAs. On all campuses the teacher-student ratio is less than 1 to 20. The employment rate for students who completed the program and pass the licensing exam is 100 percent. The Florida College System has 11 campuses with PTA programs. Most enroll 20 to 30 students each year, and, generally, 70 to 90 percent finish. St. Petersburg College is an exception. It accepts about 40 students each year, but only 60 percent complete the entire program. However, the vast majority of graduates pass the licensure exam.


In the middle part of the U.S., students can study to be PTAs at seven of Michigan’s 28 community colleges: Delta, Henry Ford, Kellogg, Macomb, Mid Michigan, Mott and Washtenaw. Most are located in central or southern Michigan. Acceptance into the program varies greatly among the colleges. For example, while Kellogg accepts only 20 percent of qualified applicants, everyone who's eligible gets into Delta’s program. Of the 25 public community and technical colleges in Kansas, Colby, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Labette offer PTA programs. All require PTA candidates to complete a year of prerequisites, such as composition, algebra, psychology, anatomy and physiology, before being accepted into the program, which typically lasts three semesters.


Moving westward, out of Colorado’s 13 community colleges, three -- Arapahoe, Morgan and Pueblo -- have PTA degree programs. All are centrally located. Although only 75 percent of PTA students finish on time at Arapahoe and Pueblo, 100 percent of graduates pass the licensure exam. Washington State has 34 technical and community colleges, and prospective PTAs can find programs at five of them: Green River, Lake Washington, Olympic, Spokane Falls and Whatcom. They sit primarily in the eastern part of the state. Most offer on-site full-time programs running five to seven consecutive semesters, Whatcom, however, has a part-time program that combines classroom and online learning.