PTA Frequently Asked Questions

What is a PTA?

A Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is an educated, skilled, and licensed health care worker. Under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist, the PTA helps people of all ages who have health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Job activities of a PTA may include helping a person to exercise or learn to use crutches, providing electrical stimulation, paraffin baths, applying hot or cold packs, traction, and ultrasound treatments. PTAs are responsible for recording patient responses to treatment and reporting progress. Clients seeking physical therapy may be accident victims or individuals with disabling conditions such as arthritis or head injury or may be recovering from surgery or sports injuries. PTAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health, nursing homes, schools, sports facilities, and more.

Academic Requirement: A PTA possesses an Associate of Applied Science Degree

Current information concerning employment prospects and earnings can be found in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

What is a PT?

A Physical Therapist (PT) is a highly educated, skilled, and licensed health care professional. PTs examine patients’ medical histories, then test and measure their strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function. They also determine the patient’s ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after injury or illness. The physical therapist develops patient treatment plans describing a therapy strategy, its purpose, and the anticipated outcome. PTs work in coordination with PTAs to restore, maintain, and promote client fitness and health.

Academic Requirement: A PT must possess a degree at the Masters level or above. Most educational programs for physical therapists now culminate with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

For more information about physical therapy as a profession, visit the American Physical Therapy Association

Will having a degree in PTA help me to become a PT?

PTA and PT are ordinarily considered distinct academic paths. In general, a PTA program is not a stepping stone to a PT program and technical courses in PTA program are generally not transferrable to a PT program though general education coursework may be accepted in transfer.

Does a PTA have a license?

In most states, PTAs must have a license. The Alabama Board of Physical Therapy requires that an applicant for licensure as a physical therapist assistant must first have completed a program of physical therapy education approved by the Physical Therapy Association’s Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The Alabama Board of Physical Therapy grants qualified applicants a license following satisfactory completion of a written examination.

A Board policy states, “Licensure shall be refused to any applicant who is of other than good moral character and the determination as to what constitutes good moral character and reputation shall be solely within the judgment of the Board.” Grounds for refusal of licensure may include but are not limited to conviction of a felony or of a crime involving moral turpitude, conduct detrimental to the best interest of the public, or conviction of violating any state or federal narcotic law.

Additional information can be found at:

What physical capabilities are required of a PTA?

The CCC PTA Program has adopted a list of “Essential Functions” which delineates the physical, behavioral, and cognitive abilities needed to complete the physical therapist assistant curriculum and to competently perform as a physical therapist assistant upon graduation. The Essential Functions can be found in the PTA Program Application.

CCC provides environmental and programmatic access for persons with documented disabilities. Any student who desires information or services for a disabling condition should Student Disability Services at 256-306-2630.

When does the CCC PTA program begin?

A new class of twenty-four (24) PTA students is enrolled each fall semester. The program consists of five semesters of consecutive PTA classes which must be taken in sequence and only students who have applied to the program and have been accepted are allowed to enroll in PTA courses. Graduates of the PTA program are awarded an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Physical Therapist Assistant by CCC.

How do I apply?

Applications for the next class of PTA students starting fall semester 2019 will be accepted beginning in January 2019 until Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 at 3:00 P.M. Make certain your PTA Application Packet states “PTA Program Application 2019” on page one.

The minimum requirements for admission are listed on page 2 of the application. All applicants to the PTA program must minimally:

  • Unconditional admission to Calhoun Community College
  • A Calhoun Community College transcript documenting all previously completed general education coursework taken at CCC or accepted in transfer
  • A reading score from an ACT or ACCUPLACER test taken in the past 3 years meeting a minimum requirement of:
    ACT reading Scre 18 or higher
    ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension 70 or higher
  • Documentation of 24 hours of physical therapy observation signed by licensed physical therapy personnel
  • An essay discussing what was learned through physical therapy observation experiences
  • Two (2) letters of professional recommendation using the form provided
What classes or courses must I first take in order to apply to the PTA program?

There are no “prerequisite” classes which must be taken prior to application to the program. However, completion of some or all of the general education courses required for the associates of applied science degree in PTA will improve your application score and therefore your chances of being offered enrollment. Acceptance into the program is competitive and students are selected based on the published point system (application p. 2).

How are students selected for enrollment in PTA?

Because only 24 students can be enrolled each fall, there is a point system used to evaluate each candidate. Completion of general education coursework as well as the grades obtained in these classes is heavily weighted as students who have demonstrated academic success in these foundational classes will best be poised for success in the rigorous PTA program. Points are also assigned for professionalism as demonstrated by physical therapy observation experiences, a written essay, and professional recommendations. See the application for further details.

What general education courses are required for an Associate of Applied Science degree in PTA?

The general education courses are listed on page 9 of the PTA Program Application.

  • English Composition I – (ENG 101) – this is the only English course that may be used for application points
  • Intermediate College Algebra – (MTH 100) – is the “lowest” MTH course needed for the PTA AAS degree. Applicants may also claim a “higher” MTH course and grade for application points by highlighting it on the general education worksheet. Any of the following mathematics courses meet the degree requirement and may be used for MTH application points: MTH 100, MTH 110, MTH 112, MTH 113, MTH 120, MTH 125, MTH 126, MTH 227, MTH 237, MTH 238. No other MTH classes meet the requirements for the PTA degree. MTH 265 is not a “higher” math than Intermediate College Algebra. It is not acceptable for a degree in PTA and cannot be used for application points.
  • General Psychology – (PSY 200)
  • Human Growth & Development – (PSY 210)
  • Speech Elective – such as Fundamentals of Oral Communication (SPH 106), or Fundamentals of Public Speaking (SPH 107), or Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (SPH 116)
  • Humanities Elective – (such as an Art, Music, Foreign Language, Philosophy, Religion, Theatre, Literature – see page 41 of the current CCC Catalog for more information.) Applicants may select which humanities course and grade they wish to claim for application points by highlighting it on the general education worksheet
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & II – (BIO 201 & 202) – must have been completed within the past 10 years
  • Medical Terminology for Health Professions (EMS 106)
What if I plan to take some of the classes spring semester?

Points for general education courses taken spring semester 2019 (during the application submission period) will be added to the application score if an unofficial copy of course completion with the grade earned is submitted to the Allied Health Secretary. This is the responsibility of the applicant and the documentation must be received no later than 3:00 P.M. on May 16, 2019.

Because of the short time between the end of the semester and the deadline, SPRING GRADES from other colleges may be submitted on an unofficial transcript from that College. THE APPLICANT must send or deliver spring grades to the CCC Allied Health Secretary by the deadline. THE CCC ADMISSIONS OFFICE DOES NOT FORWARD GRADES TO THE ALLIED HEALTH DIVISION.

What if I took some/all of the general education coursework at another college?

At least one month prior to application to the PTA program, you should apply for general admission to CCC and under intended academic program list “PTA”. Have your transcripts from all other colleges you’ve attended sent to the CCC Office of Admissions and Records as soon as possible. Admissions and Records will evaluate your previous college work to determine which, if any, courses fulfill the PTA degree requirements.

Note: Only the CCC Office of Admissions and Records may determine if coursework transferred from other institutions meets the general education requirements for the PTA degree. DO NOT SUBMIT TRANSCRIPTS FROM OTHER INSTITUTIONS WITH YOUR PTA APPLICATION.

  • IF YOU HAVE TAKEN CLASSES AT CCC: Classes accepted in transfer will appear on your unofficial transcript which is accessible via MYCALHOUN. A copy of this is “OK” to turn in with your PTA application packet.
  • IF YOU HAVE NEVER ATTENDED CCC: Once all of your transcripts from other institutions you have attended reach the CCC Office of Admissions and Records, they will need at least two weeks to complete a transcript evaluation. Once completed, you will be able to print an unofficial CCC transcript, accessible via MYCALHOUN to submit with your application. If you have questions about course transfer, please contact the Office of Admissions & Records at 256-306-2593.

The only way to know if classes taken at another institution will transfer and apply to a degree in PTA is to have your transcripts evaluated by the Office of Admissions and Records. A minimum of two weeks should be allowed for the evaluation of transfer credit.

Do I have to re-take the ACT?

All applicants to the PTA program must submit an ACT Reading Score or Accuplacer Reading Comprehension Score from a test taken within the past three years.

ACT Reading score 18 or higher
ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension 70 or Higher
ACCUPLACER Next Generation 250 or Higher

All Alabama Community Colleges now offer the Accuplacer. The Accuplacer is available free of charge on both CCC campuses.

For more information, contact an Advising Center:

Decatur: 256-306-2648
Huntsville/Research Park: 256-890-4770

PTA applicants need to take (only) the Reading section of the ACCUPLACER. You may visit the following website to learn more and help you prepare for the test:

What is the minimum GPA I must have to be admitted to the PTA program?

>There is no “minimum” GPA. Applicants are awarded points (pg. 10 of the application) based on the grades obtained in the required general education courses for a degree in PTA which have already been taken and successfully completed.

How can I acquire physical therapy observation hours?

PT and PTA students are commonly required to obtain observation hours and therefore physical therapy facilities are accustomed to such requests.

  • Contact local physical therapy providers of your choice to request an appointment to obtain the required hours.
  • Take the Observation Documentation Form in the PTA Program Application packet with you.
  • All hours must be signed by a licensed Physical Therapist or Physical Therapist Assistant. Electronic signatures will not be accepted.
  • Follow the directions on the Observation Documentation Form.
  • Observation hours should be documented in ink.
  • Arrive on time and remember to dress and act as a professional.
  • Visit at least two different facilities to complete the 24 hours of observation.
  • Note that the 24 hours of observation experiences submitted with the PTA Application should have been completed within the past 3 years.

Inpatient observation hours are accrued at a hospital or rehabilitation center where patients spend the night. Outpatient observation hours should be completed at a physical therapy center which provides treatments for patients who travel to the facility for a scheduled appointment. Home health care physical therapy is not accepted for the purpose of observation hours.

What if I am employed by a physical therapy provider?

Students who are employed in a physical therapy department may use regular work hours from the past three years to fulfill observation hour requirements. If you work at an outpatient facility the hours can be used for outpatient. Likewise, if you work at an inpatient facility, your hours can be used as inpatient hours. Work hours should be listed on the Observation Documentation Form and signed by a licensed PT or PTA.

What if I have observation hours documented on a form for another school?

Observation hours properly documented on other forms will be accepted with your application to the CCC PTA Program if they can be verified for authenticity. Be certain the hours are clearly delineated as inpatient or outpatient. Remember that all hours must be signed by a licensed PT or PTA.

How many observation hours do I need? Should I get more than the minimum?

Twelve in-patient and twelve out-patient hours are required for a total of 24 hours. Additional time spent observing the working environment, job duties, and special skills of PT’s & PTA’s may be personally helpful in deciding if physical therapy is the right vocation for you but will not necessarily add to the strength of your application to the PTA Program.

May I use my own experience as a patient receiving physical therapy care as observation hours?

Yes, if your experience was within the past three years. Please note the date, times, facility, and if your experience was in-patient or out-patient therapy. Have your therapist verify these hours by their signature.

What about the essay?

As noted in the application directions, the essay should discuss your physical therapy observation hours. This may include the kinds of health problems requiring physical therapy you encountered, the types of treatments you observed and/or the goals of treatment, the role of the PTA and/or PT and the insights you gained as a results of your experiences.

The essay should be typed using a standard font, standard spacing and margins, and be 2-3 pages in length.

What about the professional recommendations?

Two (2) confidential professional recommendations using the form supplied are required when applying to the PTA program. Teachers and employers are good professional resources for recommendations, not friends or someone who is related to you. References are asked to evaluate professional behaviors including your ability to manage stress, accept constructive criticism, maturity, your relationships with others and conduct. Choose individuals to complete your references wisely. Someone who has known you for only a short period of time may be unable to rate you on some measures.

Note the directions on the second page of the recommendation. Each form should be sealed by the person completing the recommendation in a letter-size envelope and signed across the seal before being returned to you. Both professional recommendations should be submitted, still sealed, in your application packet.

What about the Information Sessions?

At least three information sessions are held periodically throughout the year to provide individuals interested in the program the opportunity to learn more details and ask questions. Dates and times of upcoming sessions are posted on the PTA Program web page. Applicants who attend an information meeting receive up to 5 application points. Attendance at only ONE session is needed. You do not need to pre-register to attend a meeting.

If you are unable to attend an information session because of distance or other hardship, please contact the program director regarding the application points.


When will I be notified if I’ve been accepted into the PTA program?

Each application is individually evaluated including the verification of transcripts and observation hours. Journals, essays and professional recommendations are evaluated by members of the Admissions Committee and points assigned according to a grading rubric. Final decisions will be made in late May and letters will be mailed in early June to all applicants at the address provided on the application.

Is there a waiting list?

Yes and no. Twenty-four students will initially be invited to enroll in the PTA Program in the fall. A small number of students will receive a letter stating they are on a waiting list in the event that an offered slot is not filled. Waiting list applicants will be notified of an opening in the program that fall in order of application score. Waiting list individuals are not “carried over” to the next year. If you are not accepted into the program, you must reapply the following year.

What expenses are involved in the Program?

Approximate costs:

  • In-state tuition, based on 69 hours,=$10,350 (tuition + fees) + $2500 (books + additional expenses)=$12,850
  • · Out of state tuition, based on 69 hours=$18560 (tuition + fees) + $2500 (books + additional expenses)=$21,060
Do I have to have a background check, a physical examination, drug testing, or have taken CPR to apply to the PTA Program?

None of the above are required to apply to the PTA Program. However, all will be needed once you are enrolled to comply with the requirements of our clinical facilities. DO NOT PROCEED WITH HEALTH EXAMINATIONS, BACKGROUND CHECKS, or CPR UNTIL DIRECTED TO DO SO. If a background check or a confirmed positive drug screen renders a student ineligible to participate in clinical experiences, they will be dismissed from the PTA Program.

Background Check – General Guidelines

CCC Health Science students will be accepted to participate in a clinical rotation if their background check reveals:

  • No history of criminal offenses
  • Misdemeanors for expired or failure to obtain a hunting or fishing license
  • Misdemeanors for traffic or moving violations (excluding DUI)
  • Any single misdemeanor over 2 years old

Students will not be allowed to attend clinical rotations if their background check reveals:

  • Any misdemeanor less than 2 years old that is related to crimes against the person (such as assault and battery), crimes based on dishonesty or untruthfulness (such as theft or embezzlement), or drug and other substance abuse related crimes.
  • A felony conviction less than 5 years old.
  • A felony conviction that is a crime against a person such as battery or assault.

A student will be considered for clinical rotations on a case by case basis if their background check reveals:

  • Any felony that is crimes based on dishonesty or untruthfulness (such as theft or embezzlement) or drug and other substance abuse related crimes AND more than 5 years old (all decisions made by the review committee are final and may not be appealed.)
  • Multiple misdemeanors regardless of length of time since offense (all decisions made by the review committee are final and may not be appealed).
How many semesters are there in the PTA program?

The program is 5 semesters in length, incorporating both the PTA and general education classes necessary for the degree. The general education courses are sequenced in the curriculum plan to support learning in the PTA program. Students may elect to take the general education classes in any order or complete prior to enrollment in the program. The one exception is Medical Terminology (EMS 106) which must be successfully completed before or by the end of the first semester enrolled in PTA.

General education courses must be taken and passed with a C or higher prior to graduating from the program.

All PTA courses must be taken and successfully completed in the order delineated by the curriculum plan. Five semesters are required even when all general education coursework has been completed prior to enrollment.

What is involved in PTA lab courses?

Many PTA classes include laboratory hours for learning skills. Courses with lab components require hands-on participation with other students and lab attire that allows practice on, palpation of, and observation of body segments. For female students this includes a halter top or sports bra and shorts which allow for exposure of the hip joint and thigh. Male students must also wear similar shorts and upper body covering that allows exposure of the trunk, front and back.

What are “clinical experiences”?

In addition to on-campus classes, each student will have three clinical rotations while in the PTA program. When the student is on a clinical rotation he/she will be assigned to a clinical facility full time to practice as a Student PTA with a licensed PT or PTA as a clinical instructor who will supervise the student for the duration of the clinical rotation.

Clinical rotations are scheduled Monday through Friday, generally between the hours of 7:00AM and 5:00PM, full time. Health care facility assignments are based on the learning needs of the student, not geographical proximity to the home. Students must have reliable transportation, flexibility in their personal schedules, and the willingness to commute to clinical sites throughout north Alabama and southern Tennessee.

Clinical rotations provide the student the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and techniques learned in the classroom and lab setting.

Prior to assignment to a clinical facility a student must undergo a background check and drug screening, purchase medical malpractice insurance, and completed a healthcare provider CPR course.

Will I be able to work and attend the PTA program?

The program requires commitment. Successful students report studying approx. two hours for each contact hour of lecture classes per week. Sound study skills and time management are critical to achievement in the PTA program. Therefore, it is recommended that students do not work more than 20 hours per week. Classes and clinical experiences will be scheduled during the day Monday through Friday and student attendance is required. See the CCC Catalog for Attendance Policies.

The PTA Program Application says the grading policy is different. Why is that?

The PTA program grading policy is more stringent than the general college grading policy. In order to pass a PTA course the student must receive a grade of 75% or greater. Students who do not receive a minimum of 75% as a final grade in a course will not be allowed to progress in the program. It is the belief of the faculty that having a strict grading policy will help to better ensure student knowledge and competency.

Are PTA classes at CCC offered by distance education or in the evenings?

All PTA classes will be scheduled during day time hours, Mondays through Fridays on the Decatur campus only. There are no distance education PTA classes.

Which campus?

All PTA classes will be held on the Decatur campus in the Health Sciences Center.

Is the PTA program accredited?

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Calhoun 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

Any person may submit to CAPTE a complaint about an accredited program. CAPTE will investigate and take action on any complaint filed in accordance with its’ Rules of Practice and Procedure.