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Physical Therapist Assistant FAQs

A Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is a health care professional who works directly under the supervision of a Physical Therapist (PT). A PTA does not evaluate a patient but is directly involved in patient care. A PTA helps patients follow the plan of care prescribed by the supervising PT. PTAs are trained in most of the therapeutic strategies that are current in the field. PTAs can specialize over time in developing specific rehabilitation skills. PTAs are valued for their great interpersonal skills and hands on skills that allow them to assist patients reach their functional goals.  

You can learn more about what a PTA does by visiting the American Physical Therapist Association.
PTAs generally earn an associates degree. Here at BYU-Idaho, the degree is an applied science associates degree (A.A.S.). This degree requires coursework to learn fundamental knowledge in human health and disease as well as specialized physical therapy training. Students earning this degree will take some interdisciplinary classes that will hone skills in basic college math and writing. Also, here at BYU-I, students will be required to take religion coursework that will support the mission of the university to build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principles. The A.A.S. degree at BYU-I does not include enough coursework to transfer as an academic degree that fulfills general education requirements at other universities. If a student transfers with an A.A.S. degree, they may find that their PTA coursework does not transfer and may find that they have several more general education courses to complete at the new university.  

However, at BYU-Idaho, the PTA coursework can count towards a full associates degree or various bachelor's degrees. The Academic Advising can help students discern the best way to matriculate PTA coursework into a full associates or bachelor's degree.  
We know that only a portion of the students who apply will be able to be able to enroll in the program. Luckily, we have carefully selected prerequisite courses that will easily transfer to other bachelor's degrees on campus. The prerequisite courses include foundation courses that are required for nearly all degrees on campus.
The prerequisite courses also include Bio 264 and Bio 265, which are required for several health science and exercise science degrees. Also, with the new interdisciplinary options on campus, it is not impossible for a student to use the Bio 264/265 courses in degrees not specifically found in health or exercise sciences. We recommend that students seek advising from the Academic Advising to review all of their options. We recommend that you become aware of these options before you apply to the PTA program. In addition, it would be best to have a plan "B" in place just in case you are unable to enroll in or complete the PTA program.  
The PTA program has some very challenging coursework. The PTA graduate is a healthcare professional who must have a license to practice in most states. The national licensure examination requires students to have a very solid background in their coursework. There appears to be a strong correlation between GPA and success in PTA programs and on the national licensure exam. We believe that performance in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and medical terminology is an excellent measure to help us select students who can be successful in the BYU-I PTA program. Therefore, the GPA of these "core" classes is weighted heavily as we score applications (18 out of the 38 points possible). Overall GPA will also be considered during the acceptance process (9 points).

Although these GPAs will be major factors in the acceptance decisions, two letters of recommendation will be given some value as well (up to 6 points total but negative recommendations can deduct up to 11 points). Finally, because a major goal of the program is to graduate PTA students who become employed in the field, we will give some extra consideration to any student who is from out of state (1 point), who can demonstrate that an employer has made a hiring promise (2 points), and/or demonstrate that an employer has made a financial investment in their education (2 points). This is usually demonstrated by a letter of intent to hire or a document that shows financial investment that requires a promise to work for the employer for a defined period of time after graduation.  
BYU-Idaho PTA students pay the same tuition and may qualify for financial aid just like any other university student. Financial Aid options are explained on our Financial Aid Website. Students are encouraged to explore this site carefully.

Financial Aid Website

However, the PTA program does require students to incur costs beyond the normal costs of tuition and books. Below is an explanation of extra costs that a student should expect when they are admitted and agree to participate in the BYU-Idaho PTA program.
  1. Students who apply and are enrolled in a cohort of the second year of our 1+1 program, must complete 2 semesters of classroom coursework and 2 clinical internships. There is no formal "off-track" during this time.  Clinical internships earn academic credit and students must pay for these credits the same as any other coursework on campus. Clinical internships run 7 weeks in length (40 hours per week). This means that a student must complete a total of 14 weeks (560 hours) of clinical training. Students receive valuable and necessary hands-on experience in these clinical courses. Students are also required to fund their own travel, housing, living expenses and any other required costs associated with these internships. Internships are complicated to arrange. Clinical site owners and staff members are asked to train you in an apprenticeship style experience. This often means that the clinical site owners and staff must decrease their own load and revenue to help you. In order to avoid overwhelming local clinical sites with these requests, we develop contract opportunities all over the country. Although students can make requests for specific clinical sites, the program administrators will assign students to available contracted sites by the luck of the draw (especially when multiple students are requesting the same site).
  2. The following cannot be stressed enough: Students should be prepared to fund the travel and living expense of an internship anywhere in the United States. Students who cannot leave the area for any reason should avoid applying to the program, as the inability to complete a clinical internship will void your opportunity to complete the PTA program and sit for the national licensure exam.  
  3. Many of our contracted internship sites have requirements for students that might require additional extra costs. These requirements include, but are not limited to: specific immunizations, uniforms, drug screening, and First Aid/CPR certification. Students must bear the cost of any and all of these extra requirements. 
  4. Some courses in the PTA program have fees associated with them. These fees are used to cover expenses such as the licensure exam, lotions, gels, electrodes, laundry, name tags, and other incidentals that arise in the training curriculum. We take every opportunity to avoid unnecessary costs to students. However, due to the training requirements explained above, the PTA program will certainly have extra costs compared to other degree opportunities on campus.  
If you are a current PTA program student or faculty member, then please refer to the grievance section in the PTA student or faculty handbook. If you do not have access to the handbook or are not a student/faculty member, please contact the program director at