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Physical Therapist Assistant

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Trident Technical 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: accreditation@apta.org; website: http://www.capteonline.org. Accreditation has been granted until December 2024.

One of the most important benefits of being a physical therapist assistant is the personal satisfaction that comes from helping others. PTAs work directly with patients to enhance their health and fitness and play an important part in improving the quality of life of people with disabilities.

What can I do as a physical therapist assistant?

The physical therapist assistant (PTA) is a technically educated health provider who assists the physical therapist in the provision of physical therapy and may perform physical therapy interventions selected by the supervising physical therapist. The physical therapist assistant works under the direction and supervision of the physical therapist, helping manage conditions such as back and neck injuries, sprains/strains and fractures, arthritis, burns, amputations, strokes, multiple sclerosis, birth defects, injuries related to work and sports, and others.

What characteristics and skills do I need to work in this field?

Physical therapist assistants must be able to think on their feet. They should be well organized, detail oriented and compassionate. Physical therapist assistants should be able to take direction and work well in a team situation. They should have strong interpersonal skills and a desire to help people in need. PTAs need a moderate degree of strength because of the physical exertion required in assisting patients with their treatments. Frequent kneeling, stooping, bending, lifting and standing for long periods are part of the job.

Where can I work?

Physical therapist assistants work in a broad range of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics or offices, rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing, extended care, patient homes, education centers, schools, hospices, fitness centers and sports training facilities.

What does Trident Technical College offer?

Trident Technical College’s Physical Therapist Assistant associate degree program has both class studies and clinic time in which students work with physical therapists in various settings, including a hospital. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Graduates become licensed by passing the National Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure Examination.

General Information about Trident Technical College’s PTA Program




Classes Begin Summer Semester

Program Mission: The mission of the Trident Technical College Physical Therapist Assistant Program is to provide a community based two year educational program that prepares students for opportunities and responsibilities in a rapidly changing healthcare environment. The program seeks to graduate physical therapist assistants who have acquired the necessary entry level competencies that will enhance the economic, social and cultural life.

Philosophy: The faculty believes that quality health care is a right of all mankind. Physical therapy plays an essential role in the health care system and as such makes significant contributions to the wellness of individuals.

The faculty are committed to developing an environment that is conducive to lifelong learning and success for all students. Education not only occurs in the academic setting, but learning is also fostered through life experiences and professional pursuits.

The faculty pursue a philosophy that encourages open communication, teamwork, mutual respect and continual assessment and improvement of our educational process.

Program Student Learning Outcomes: The Physical Therapist Assistant faculty have established student learning outcomes in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.  Student learning outcomes are assessed using benchmarks utilizing a variety of tools including student assignments, clinical evaluations, competency checkoffs, laboratory practical exams, employer follow-up surveys, graduate follow-up surveys, etc.

Student Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program, the entry-level graduate will:

  1. Demonstrate competency in physical therapy interventions including therapeutic exercise techniques, gait and transfer training, modalities/electro modalities, and functional training and applications of devices and equipment.
  2. Accurately collect relevant physical therapy data to be used in the determination of treatment progression working toward the PT’s short- and long-term goals.
  3. Plan and execute appropriate and safe treatment interventions for the patient within the physical therapist’s plan of care and under the direction and supervision of the physical therapist.
  4. Demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving ability sufficient for clinical judgement in the determination of accurate patient progression through the PT plan of care.
  5. Appropriately report changes to the supervising physical therapist to modify or withhold interventions according to data collected, patient observations, and critical thinking judgments.
  6. Demonstrate appropriate and effective written, oral, and nonverbal communication with patients and their families, colleagues, faculty and the public.
  7. Exhibit professional behavior relative to self-responsibility, work behaviors, time management, interpersonal skills, and cultural competence.
  8. Practice within the legal, ethical, and regulatory frameworks of physical therapy and standards of practice.
  9. Accurately utilize self-assessment practices to determine strengths and weaknesses in order to grow as a para-professional.
  10. Demonstrate understanding of the need for lifelong learning for self-improvement.

Program Outcomes       

Graduation Rate:      

Year Percent
2015 66.7%
2016 73.9%

NPTE Pass Rate*:

Year Percent
2015 85.7%
2016 88.2%

 Employment Rate**:

Year Percent
2015 100%
2016 100%

*Based on ultimate pass rates

**Based on all graduates who passed the NPTE

Introduction: The following information has been prepared to assist a student in becoming qualified for acceptance into the Physical Therapist Assistant Program.  It is essential that the student READ and FOLLOW this information very carefully.  Admission is based on a FIRST-QUALIFIED FIRST-ADMITTED basis, so students must ensure they meet the General College Admission Requirements and the Physical Therapist Assistant Program Admission Requirements. 

Application: The first step in becoming qualified to enter the Physical Therapist Assistant Program is the application process.  Each student desiring to enter the program must fill out a DIVISION OF HEALTH SCIENCES PROGRAMS APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION and turn it in to the Admissions Office in the 410 building. 

Essential Functions: Students must be able to perform the Essential Functions Required of Students for Admission and Progression in a Health Science Program. Students must meet these essential functions either without or with reasonable accommodations, such as the help of compensatory techniques and/or assistive devices and be able to demonstrate the ability to become proficient in the essential functions.

Physical Demands: A Physical Therapist Assistant may need to be able to perform the following in day-to-day situations (not all inclusive):

  1. Remain continuously on task for several hours while standing, sitting, moving, lifting and/or bending.
  2. Gross and fine motor activities sufficient to provide safe and effective patient care.
  3. Lifting and moving loads possibly in excess of 50 pounds.

Following Acceptance into the Physical Therapist Assistance Program:

  1. You will receive notification of the date and time for a MANDATORY Orientation. Failure to attend will cause you to forfeit your seat in the class.
  2. Prior to starting clinical rotations, students will be required to provide the following to the Program Coordinator:

 A.  Completed Student Health Record

  1. Proof of major medical insurance coverage.
  2. Proof of current immunizations to include, but not limited to:
    1. TB Skin Test
    2. Tetanus
    3. German Measles (Rubella) (Must include titer with lab values)
    4. Mumps (Must include titer with lab values)
    5. Red Measles (Rubeola) (Must include titer with lab values)
    6. Varicella (Must include titer with lab values)
    7. Hepatitis B (Must include titer with lab values)
      • Entire 3-shot series and a titer MUST be completed prior to beginning the program. (Documentation MUST be provided at the Orientation Session)
      • Entire series takes approximately 8 months to complete
    8. Meningitis
    9. Flu (to be taken after entering the program and during Fall semester prior to attending clinic)

3. Proof of CPR certification for the Healthcare Provider.

4. Instructions for obtaining a physical examination, CPR certification, background check and drug screening will be provided at the Orientation session.

Education Requirements: The PTA program begins a new cohort of students each Summer semester and accepts 25 students each year. Students enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program will follow a 3-semester curriculum of full-time, professional courses taught at the Main Campus and at affiliate clinical facilities. Classes include both didactic and laboratory sessions and are usually scheduled Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 am and 5:00 pm. While clinical rotations are during daytime hours, they may require weekend coverage.

Clinic: There may be exposure to patients with infectious diseases and those who are critically ill on clinical rotations. Open wounds, blood and body fluids may be encountered in this field.

The PTA curriculum requires that each student participate in three clinical affiliations – one 2-week assignment (during Summer semester) and two 7-week assignments (one during Fall 2 term and one during Spring 2 term). Each student is required to intern at either a general acute care hospital or acute rehab hospital in the inpatient department for one of the 7-week assignments. The PTA program affiliates with numerous facilities in South Carolina and with limited sites out of state. These assignments will be made by the PTA faculty. Due to the limited availability of sites, there is no guarantee that a given student will be able to remain in Charleston or be placed in the location of his/her choice for clinic. Each student must sign a Memorandum of Understanding in reference to this policy prior to beginning classes. The student will be responsible for arranging and paying for housing, meals, and transportation during these assignments. 

Transportation: While enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program, students MUST have reliable transportation to and from clinical rotation sites and campus classes.  Lack of transportation will not be a justifiable reason for missing class or clinic.

Parking: While enrolled in the program, parking at clinical rotation sites may not be provided free of charge.  Students are responsible for any parking fees and travel costs that they may incur.  

Insurance: While covered under Trident Technical College’s professional liability insurance, students will be required to purchase additional professional liability insurance due to clinic requirements. In addition, all students must provide proof of Major Medical health insurance when they first enter the technical phase of the program. Students must maintain coverage throughout the three semesters of the program.

Attendance/Professional Behavior: Physical Therapy is a profession that requires responsible individuals.  Promptness is extremely important, and it is a goal of this program to prepare the student for the responsibilities of the profession.  Students will be expected to exhibit professional behavior at all times, as they become members of the health care team.  Professional development and clinical evaluations will be used to assess student progress.  These evaluations are directly tied to success in the PTA courses.

Convictions: Conviction of a crime other than a minor traffic violation can make the student ineligible to take the National Physical Therapy Examination for Physical Therapist Assistants offered by the Federation of State Boards. Any student with concerns should contact the Program Coordinator to discuss the matter.       

Professional Organizations: Students are encouraged to become members of the following professional organizations:

           Student Physical Therapist Assistant Association
           American Physical Therapy Association

Program Costs

CPR certification $70.00
Major Medical Insurance        $1200.00
Professional Liability Insurance $40.00
Books, Syllabi, and Supplies   $1000.00
Uniforms/Lab Clothes $300.00
PTA Lab Supplies Kit $150.00
Clinical (housing/travel/meals) $800.00
APTA student membership $85.00
Review Course            $250.00
Licensure Exam          $600.00
Physical Exam/Immunizations/Titers $950.00
Background Check/Drug Screening   $120.00
TOTAL* $5565.00

* This is an estimated cost only and excludes tuition – actual costs may vary.

Course Progression: Once admitted to the program, a PTA student is required to achieve at least a 2.0 GPA on all courses required for the program as well as pass all competencies and critical safety areas.  If at any time, a student does not achieve one of the above requirements, he/she will be withdrawn from the program.

Readmission Policy: Students may seek readmission to allied health programs ONE TIME ONLY. Students who are withdrawn or voluntarily withdraw from the program must adhere to the currently published Readmission Policy that is published in the current PTA Student Policies and Procedures Manual.

Degree Granted and Licensure Requirements: Upon completion of the program, the student will receive an Associate in Applied Science degree. The graduate is then eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Exam for Physical Therapist Assistants in order to obtain licensure and practice as a PTA. Passing the board examination entitles the individual to use the initials PTA, Physical Therapist Assistant.

Salary: Starting salaries for new PTA graduates vary widely based upon geographic locale and site of employment (hospital, home health, private practice, etc.). Income in the more rural areas tends to be higher than in metropolitan areas. The current national average is approximately $32,000 to $75,500 annually.

Career Opportunities: The availability of PTA positions is good at the local and national levels. Graduates of the program can work in a variety of settings including hospitals, home health agencies, and private practice.

Comments: Individuals who have suggestions or concerns regarding the PTA program, its students or graduates may submit an email to the Program Coordinator at lori.fischer@tridenttech.edu.