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Physical Therapist Assistant FAQs

Physical Therapist Assistant FAQs

How difficult is it to get into the PTA Program? Admission is competitive and selective and requires preparation. The program typically receives over 100 applicants each fall.  The program can accept a maximum of 32 students.  Applicants with files completed by the deadline are ranked for interview using a numerical point system. The top 32 ranked applicants will be interviewed by the program chair or admissions committee beginning March 2016. Priority admission is given to legal residents of Oakton Community College District 535, and legal residents of Illinois Community College districts without a PTA Program.  Out-of-state, VISA holders, and applicants who live in a community college district with a PTA Program may be ranked after July 1, 2016 based on space availability.Please see admission requirements for information on how to prepare for admission.

Are there any deadlines? Application submission period is September 1, 2015 to January 22, 2016.  The deadline for submission of the Health Care Program Application and all supporting documentation is January 22, 2016.  Students are responsible for making sure files are complete by the published deadline for each application cycle.

What should I expect during the admission interview? You will meet with one or more of the physical therapy faculty to discuss your interest in and capacity to work as a physical therapist assistant. You will be expected to have gained first-hand knowledge of what PTAs do and have considered how you would be good for the field as well as what being a PTA would do for you. You will need to demonstrate good verbal communication skills essential for working in a patient care setting. Our goal is to use the interview to help you and us make a decision about the appropriateness of physical therapy as a career for you.  Any applicant who does not complete a satisfactory interview may not be considered for admission.

How do I complete the 10-hour observation? The on-site observation requirement gives applicants a first-hand look at PTAs in the workplace.  You'll be able to ask questions, learn more about clinical settings and patient needs, and gain a better understanding of the difference between physical therapists (PTs) and PTAs.  All of this information can help you decide if becoming a PTA is a good career choice for you.
Applicants are responsible for coordinating their own observation experience.  Select a physical therapy facility in the area that employs both PTs and PTAs, and plan to spend at least half of the observation time with the PTA.  Hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics are good choices; doctors offices, home health care agencies, and chiropractic offices generally are not.  Contact the facility of your choice, explain the observation requirement to staff, and schedule your observation hours.  Remember: the PT or PTA who supervises your observation will submit a recommendation form for your application file.

What courses can I take before I get started in the program? Any non-PTA prefixed courses in the PTA curriculum, including Anatomy and Physiology I and II (BIO231 and BIO232) and Medical Terminology (HIT104).

When can I begin the PTA courses at Oakton? The PTA sequence of courses begins in the fall semester (mid-August).

How much will it cost me to go to Oakton? Tuition rates are available on the Tuition and Fees Web page. Lab fees vary.

Note: Through a joint agreement or chargeback, students may attend and pay in-district tuition at a community college outside their home district if they are pursuing a certificate or degree. Joint agreements and chargebacks are available only when the home community college does not offer the certificate or degree program. Residents of the following districts who wish to attend Oakton's PTA program under a joint agreement or chargeback should contact either the Admission or Registration Office at their home college:
College of Lake County
Kishwaukee College
McHenry County College
Rock Valley College
Triton College
William Rainey Harper College

What will my class schedule be like?
Most PTA courses consist of lecture and lab components. Classes meet four half days each week during the day - specific days and times vary each semester.  During two academic semesters, the schedule includes an additional eight hours per week of clinical education time.  There are also two full-time summer clinicals.  General education courses must be scheduled around the PTA program courses and clinical.

What happens in the lab? Students are required to participate in lab activities, which require the application of real physical therapy treatments.  Students are required to wear appropriate lab attire that exposes various body parts necessary for the teaching and learning of physical therapy assessment, treatment, and interventions.

How long will it take me to complete the program? The program takes four full semesters and involves clinical placements in summers after both the first and second years. If you begin with credits, you will have a lighter load each semester.

Can I work while I am in the PTA program?  PTA course work should take precedence over work obligations. It is recommended that full-time students not work. Part-time students are advised if they do work, their work schedules should be flexible to accommodate semester changes in class and clinical schedules.

What about clinic education? You will begin clinic education in the second semester including five- and six-week summer clinicals.  This means you have four clinic education rotations and all four of them will be different. An attempt is made to give students a varied experience so that you know how to work with different kinds of facilities and patients. Therefore, it is not always possible to have each clinical site convenient to your home. You are responsible for your own transportation to the clinical site. There may be additional costs associated with clinical education such as parking and meals. Clinical requirements include health screenings and vaccinations, drug and alcohol testing, and a criminal background check.  A valid Social Security number is required to comply with the criminal background check requirement.  Visit for more information.

What is the program’s graduation rate? Over the last three years (2011, 2012, 2013) 87% of admitted students graduated from the PTA Program.

Do I need to take a test after graduation to allow me to work as PTA?  Yes, you must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTAs in order to be licensed to practice in Illinois. Most states require licensing in order to work. The ultimate pass rate for Oakton graduates from 2011-2013 is 98%.

Will I get a job when I finish?  While no one can guarantee anyone a job, the current job market for PTAs in the Chicago metro area and nationwide is very good. For the last several years, 100 percent of Oakton's PTA graduates who sought jobs were employed within six months of passing the licensing exam.  

Can PTA courses transfer to PT schools?  No, PT programs are graduate level education and PTA courses ordinarily do not transfer.  For more information and a listing of PT schools by state, contact the American Physical Therapy Association at

How can I find out more about Physical Therapist Assistants?

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Looking for a new sense of purpose in life, Gerard Christianson (now a graduate of St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota) embarks on a spiritual journey.



March 25
Registration opens for summer 2015.

March 29
Last day to withdraw with a "W" from 16-week courses; Students will receive a grade in all courses in which they are enrolled after March 29.

April 8
Registration opens for fall 2015 semester.

May 14, 15
Evaluation Days.

May 15
Last day of student attendance.

May 18
First summer 2015 interim classes begin.

May 18
Grading Day.
Faculty on campus and available to students at designated times.

May 19
Faculty grading due.

May 19

May 25
Memorial Day holiday, College closed.

June 8
Summer 2015 eight-week session begins.

Full Academic Calendar