Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants play an important role in recovery, helping patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses. Working under the supervision of a physical therapist, the physical therapist assistant helps maneuver the patient's body through stretches and exercises and oversees other important treatments. It's an important and rewarding job and offers chances for a real connection with patients.

Oakton Community College's Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program teaches you the essential skills to provide this skilled, direct patient care under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist in a variety of health care settings. You can earn an associate in applied science (A.A.S.) degree by taking on 69 credit hours of general education and PTA courses or pursue the PTA pathway, a recommended sequence of courses.

Courses at our Des Plaines campus include classroom and laboratory instruction in such therapeutic interventions as heat and cold applications, electrotherapy and therapeutic exercise. You'll also enrich your learning through a planned clinical experience in off-campus medical facilities.

You will have to pay laboratory fees, provide proof of health insurance, purchase uniforms, provide your own transportation to four assigned clinical facilities and participate in laboratory activities that require applications of physical therapy treatments. Laboratory classes also require you to wear appropriate clothing that exposes selected body areas necessary for the teaching and learning of physical therapy assessments, treatments and interventions.

When you graduate from this program, you will be eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Exam for Physical Therapist Assistants and become a licensed PTA in Illinois

Enrollment is limited. There are a number of minimum requirements for admittance. (Please note: meeting those requirements does not guarantee admission.) For more information on program admissions and how applications are decided on, please visit the PTA Admission Procedures page.

Degree and Pathway

Among the learning outcomes for our 69-credit hour program, you will be prepared to apply current knowledge, theory, and clinical judgment while considering the patient/client perspective and the environment, based on the plan of care established by the physical therapist.

Learn More About the Physical Therapist Assistant A.A.S.

This pathway is recommended for students pursuing an Associate in Applied Science degree in Physical Therapist Assistant. General Education courses should be selected from the list of IAI General Education Courses.

Learn More About the Physical Therapist Assistant Pathway

Job Outlook

Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 32 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 23,800 openings for physical therapist assistants and aides are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $59,770 in May 2020.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Important Information

  • High school graduation or High School Equivalency Certificate if less than 20 credit hours of U.S. college credit.
  • Weighted, cumulative college GPA of 2.50 or higher (or high school GPA for those with fewer than 12 college credits).
  • Official transcripts of all colleges attended.
    • Foreign high school graduates or students with foreign college credits need to send English-translated copies of their transcripts to Educational Perspectives. Students with foreign college credit should request a catalog match.
  • ACT score of 18 or higher, or SAT score of 960 or higher, or 12 hours of college credit with a minimum GPA of 2.75, with at least four credit hours of laboratory science.
  • One year of high school biology (with laboratory) or BIO 101 or the equivalent and one year of high school physics (with laboratory) or PHY 101 or the equivalent (completed within the last five years with a minimum grade of C). Course content must be equivalent to Oakton’s PHY 101, otherwise, two semesters of higher-level physics are required.
  • Completion of Oakton composition placement test, placing into EGL 101, or evidence of credit in EGL 101 or its equivalent.
  • Limited Enrollment Health Center Accuplacer® Reading Assessment test, taken at Oakton’s Testing Center, with a minimum score of 250. Scores from more than two attempts will be averaged. Results will expire after three years.
  • Completed observation essay from a 10-hour observation at a Physical Therapy facility.
  • Recommendation: One recommendation from a licensed physical therapist (PT) or a licensed physical therapist assistant (PTA) at the observation site. A minimum of 10 hours of observation must be spent with the licensed PT or PTA.
  • Clinical requirements include passing a drug test, having a clear criminal background check, and clear health requirements including vaccinations before the start of the PTA program.

In this program, you will take courses involving off-campus clinical rotation. You are required to submit a current and complete physical examination, including immunizations, prior to clinical courses and a copy of your health insurance card to prove coverage. Clinical requirements include passing a drug test and having a clear criminal background check before the start of the PTA program.

We highly recommend that you attend an Information Session prior to applying.

1. New students should apply online. Current Oakton students should apply through their myOakton account.
2. View your Admission Checklist online. Your New Student Portal includes Admission Checklist and next steps.
3. Submit admission documents, including official transcripts (high school, college, AP, military) and proof of residency.
4. Complete the minimum requirements for admission.
5. Students eligible for early decision are notified in writing of their ranking status in March. All other PTA applicants will be notified in June.

All applicants are encouraged to meet with a Health Career Advisor, healthcareeradvising@oakton.edu.

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Oakton is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

3030 Potomac Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22305
accreditation@apta.org
www.capteonline.org

CAPTE is the only accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Educational Accreditation to accredit physical therapist assistant education programs. It establishes and applies standards that assure quality and continuous improvement and reflect the evolving nature of education, research and practice.

Complaints regarding the program should be first addressed to PTA Program Chair Melissa Mendoza. An appointment to discuss the problem should be scheduled via phone to 847.376.7182 or email mmendoza@oakton.edu.

Unresolved complaints should be directed to Maribel Alimboyoguen, assistant dean of Health Careers via phone to 847.376.7053 or email malimboyoguen@oakton.edu.

All complaints will be documented, including the projected outcome, and securely filed within the program.

Complaints regarding accreditation of this program should be addressed to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education at 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, VA 22305.

Clinical placements require a health assessment, certain immunizations, yearly flu vaccine, substance abuse testing, criminal background check, specific skill certification (i.e., CPR) and health insurance. These requirements represent an additional cost to the student.

All Oakton Community College Health Career students in nursingphysical therapist assistantmedical laboratory technologypharmacy technicianphlebotomyhealth information technologycancer registry management, and medical assistant programs must have "clear" criminal background checks and drug screens in order to participate in any and all clinical components of any health career program courses. See the health career programs pages for further details.

To comply with state statutes and clinical affiliation agreements, and to provide a safe environment for students, employees, and patients cared for by students, those accepted into Oakton's health career programs will be required to complete a criminal background check and drug screening through a company contracted by the College. Health Career students will be charged a fee for this service.

Timelines for completing criminal background checks and drug screens may vary among the various programs. Deadline dates for each program will be provided by the individual department chairs at the time of a student's acceptance into a health career program.

Students without a clear criminal background check and/or clear drug screen will not be allowed to enroll in clinical practicum courses or attend clinical programs. This would further necessitate that the student withdraw from the health career program at that time.

Students who refuse a criminal background check and/or drug screen will not be considered "clear" and will not be authorized to participate in the clinical component of the health career program, necessitating withdrawal from the program at that time.

Individual results of student background checks and drug screens are considered confidential.

Determination of whether or not a student can participate in the clinical component of a particular health career program will be communicated to the respective department chairs by the Background Check/Drug Screen vendor. Students may view their personal results on the vendor's website.

Program Outcome Data

2020-2021 Two-year Average Program Outcome Data:

  • 77% Graduation Rate
  • 97% First Time Pass Rate
  • 100% Ultimate Pass Rate
  • 97% Employment Rate
Average Program Outcomes


Year

Graduation
Rate

First Time
Pass Rate

Ultimate
Pass Rate

Employment
Rate

2016

90.3%

100%

100%

100%

2017

93.3%

100%

100%

100%

2018

82.1%

100%

100%

100%

2019

82.1%

100%

100%

100%

2020

84%

94%

100%

94%

2021

72% 100% 100% 100%

 

Meet Your Faculty and Experts

Oakton's Physical Therapy faculty are talented teachers and healthcare practitioners. The Physical Therapy Assistant Program is overseen by an expert panel of clinicians, physical therapists, and educators. 

Melissa Mendoza, Chair
Professor of Physical Therapist Assistant
M.S. Boston University
D.P.T. Saint Louis University
N.C.S. American Board of Physical Therapy Specialist
mmendoza@oakton.edu
847.376.7182
Office: 204A, Lee Center Des Plaines

Abigail Garcia
Assistant Professor of Physical Therapist Assistant
D.P.T. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
abgarcia@oakton.edu
847.376.7063
Office: 203, Lee Center Des Plaines

Mary Ann Nedorost
Professor of Physical Therapist Assistant
MBA University of Illinois of Chicago
Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School
D.P.T. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
mnedoros@oakton.edu
847.635.2613
Office: 2150, Des Plaines

Martina Azizi

Lauren Canon, DOR, MS, CCC-SLP
Director of Rehabilitation Services
Holy Family Medical Center

Myly Castillo, DPT
Northwest Community Hospital
Physical Rehabilitation Services at the NCH - ICC

Elizabeth Dempsey, PTA
PTA Lab Instructor
Oakton Community College

Lisa Heswall, PTA
Illinois Bone and Joint Institute

Brittany Kopke Tepora PTA
Clinical Instructor
Whitehall of Deerfield

Michael Mitarotondo PTA

Christine Moorehouse PT
Clinical Instructor
Accelerated/Athletico Rehabilitation

Vicki Parker, PTA
Chicago Health and Physical Therapy

Julie Petelle PTA

Renee Ramos, PTA

Crystal Smith DPT

Karen Stevens, PT, DPT, MS, OCS
Rosalind Franklin University
Dept. of Physical Therapy

Jodi Steiner, PTA
Whitehall PRN

Patrick Wargo, PTA
Staff PTA/Clinical Instructor
Lutheran Home

Cecilia Thorn PT
Coordinator of PT/PTA Clinical Education
Presence Resurrection Medical Center

What's Next?

We are glad you are considering attending Oakton Community College. No matter where you are in your decision-making process, we are here to help you with your next steps. Whether you're ready to apply now, need information on paying for college or have questions and want to contact someone, we're here to help.

FAQ

The Admission process is competitive and selective and requires preparation. The maximum number of students that the program can accept is 32. Many times, the program receives more applicants than spaces available, allowing the program to be selective. Selection begins by ranking Applicants that completed files and minimum requirements by the application deadline using a numerical point system. The top 32 ranked applicants will be interviewed by the program chair or admissions committee beginning in the following April. Priority admission is given to legal residents of Oakton Community College District 535. Out-of-state and visa holders may be ranked after July 1, based on space availability. Please see admission requirements for information on how to prepare for admission.

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.

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.

Any non-PTA prefixed courses in the PTA curriculum, including Anatomy and Physiology I and II (BIO 231 and BIO 232) and Medical Terminology (HIT 104).

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

PTA coursework should take precedence over work obligations. It is recommended that full-time students not work. Part-time students are advised that if they do work, their work schedules should be flexible to accommodate semester changes in class and clinical schedules. Students should be advised that the course, clinical and lab schedules will not be altered to accommodate a student’s employment schedule.

You will begin clinic education in the second semester including five- and six-week summer clinicals. This means you have four clinic education rotations. An attempt is made to give students a varied experience so that they 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 www.idfpr.com for more information.

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. 

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. There are several PTA to PT bridge programs in the US.

Licensure Requirements: Each state and territory has different licensure and certification requirements.  Oakton has determined that its PTA program meets one of the major educational requirements leading to professional licensure in all U.S. States.  Dependent upon an alternate state’s Physical Therapy Practice Act, additional licensure requirements may be required.  Additional requirements may include additional exams, background checks, years of work experience, fingerprinting, etc.

Licensure information is reviewed and updated on this site in June of each year.  As of July 1, 2020, we have determined that individuals that successfully complete Oakton’s Physical Therapy Assistant Program curriculum:


Meets the education requirements leading to licensure/certification in these states and U.S. Territories: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming


Does NOT meet the education requirements For licensure/certification in these states and U.S. Territories: 


We have not made a determination if the program curriculum meets the requirements for licensure/certification in these states and US Territories: 


Oakton Community College’s PTA Program is a CAPTE (Commission of Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) approved program. Graduates of Oakton’s PTA program satisfy one element required to practice in any of the United States.  If you intend to practice in a state other than Illinois, you should contact the appropriate licensing agency to independently determine what additional elements, if any, are required to gain licensure in that state.   


Here are some useful links to help you determine those requirements:

Jurisdiction Licensure Reference Guide: This webpage informs you whether a jurisprudence exam, criminal background check, or other criteria is required to obtain licensure in other states.  A jurisprudence exam is a separate exam that tests your ability to understand the state’s Physical Therapy Practice Act. 

FSBPT Licensure Reference Guide: This is a free resource giving you pertinent Licensing Authorities Contact information listed by states in alphabetical order.  

Be aware that state licensure requirements may change from time to time. 

The application submission period begins on October 1 of each fall semester and runs until June 1 of the following year. Students that have a completed application and checklist documents by February 14, and rank as eligible for an early decision interview, will be contacted in March. Students are responsible for making sure files are complete by the published deadline for each application cycle.

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.

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.

While no one is guaranteed a job, the current job market for PTAs in the Chicago metro area and nationwide is good. See Program Outcomes for the latest statistics.

Contact Us

Melissa Mendoza
Physical Therapist Assistant Program Chair
847.376.7182
mmendoza@oakton.edu

Jennifer Crowley
Health Career Advisor
847.635.1844
jcrowley@oakton.edu

All applicants are encouraged to meet with a Health Career Advisor: email healthcareeradvising@oakton.edu to connect.