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Physical Therapist Assistant


Enter one of today’s most rapidly growing and rewarding careers through the physical therapist assistant associate degree program at Mercyhurst North East. Our PTA program will prepare you to become an important member of a health care team, where you will work under a physical therapist to provide hands-on care that helps improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Through both classroom and clinical work, you will gain knowledge and skills in services ranging from the use of physical agents such as therapeutic heat and cold, electrical stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound; application and instruction of therapeutic exercise techniques; functional mobility training; and data collection skills to monitor strength, range of motion, sensation, and reflexes.


Apply to the PTA program


Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to complete the National Physical Therapy Examination for the physical therapist assistant, which is required by most states to become certified / licensed as a PTA. Additional information about the field of physical therapy can be accessed through the American Physical Therapy Association.

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Mercyhurst University is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314; telephone: 703-706-3245; email: ; website:


What can I do with this degree?

PTAs help physical therapists in their daily activities, which include assisting patients during rehabilitation. Their patients include accident victims and clients with such conditions as burns, amputations, stroke, vertigo, low back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient physical therapy clinics
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Home health care

Other MNE alum have gone on to earn a bachelor's degree in sportsmedicine at Mercyhurst's Erie Campus and other four-year institutions. Our Internal Transfer Coordinator, Jackie Fink, can help you determine if a move to Mercyhurst's Erie Campus is right for you.


Job Outlook

Physical therapy remains a viable and rewarding profession with continued growth expected over the next eight years. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics "employment is projected to increase much faster than the average, as rapid growth in the number of middle-aged and elderly individuals increases the demand for therapeutic services." Earning potential for a PTA varies from region to region. As reported by the BLS, the median annual earnings for a PTA are $46,140.

Degree Requirements
Please use the downloadable "Degree Requirements" sheet below as a guide to successful completion of this program. You should also meet with an academic adviser to set up a more personalized plan. If you are a transfer student, you may check with the admissions office prior to enrollment to find out what classes may transfer in and be applied to your program.


View PTA Degree Requirements



The following outcomes data is provided to allow potential students to make an informed decision regarding their college choice. This information is provided as a two-year average:
Acceptance and matriculation rates for students entering between 2013 and 2014

·         85% of qualified applicants are accepted.

·         72% of those accepted actually enroll.

·         Admissions cap for the program is 35.

Graduation rates for students graduating 2015 through 2016

·         85% of those who began classes in the fall term graduated within two years.

·         91% of those who entered the first technical course in the spring term graduated on time.

Ultimate pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Examination for students who graduated 2014 through 2015

·         92% of graduates who have taken the exam have passed.

Employment rates for students who graduated 2014 through 2015

·         95% of qualified graduates who seek employment are employed as physical therapist assistants within one year.



Admissions Requirements

In addition to Mercyhurst North East's standard requirements for admission, which include a high school diploma, a minimum GPA of 2.5, and either an ACT, SAT or MNE Placement Test score, individuals applying for admission to the physical therapist assistant program are subject the following standards:

  • Applicant must be a high school graduate or GED recipient with minimum overall C+ average
  • Applicant must have completed high school courses in algebra, biology AND chemistry, with a minimum grade of C in each course.
  • Preference will be given to applicants with SAT scores at or above 900 (two section total) or a 20 composite score on the ACT test.
  • Applicant may be required to take the MNE Placement Test (COMPASS) to determine placement in appropriate English and math courses.
  • The skills test is required for students who achieved below 900 on their SATs (two section total), students who achieved below a 20 on sections of their ACTs, or have never taken the SATs or ACTs, as well as those who have been out of school for several years.
  • If an applicant does not meet the required scores to enter into Research and Writing, and/or Introduction to Statistics, he or she must take preparatory classes. Placement into  Research and Writing, and/or Introduction to Statistics will enable the student to enter into the two-year track program of study. If preparatory English or Math are required, a three-year track will be recommended.
  • Drug testing may be required based on clinical facility placement.
  • All students enrolled in the program will submit a criminal record check prior to the start of clinical rotations in the second fall term.
  • Applicant must complete a total of 20 hours of documented work or volunteer experience in two different physical therapy settings under the supervision of a licensed PT or PTA prior to the start of classes. Download a clinical observation form here, which you must take with you to the observation.
  • Applicants must also must submit two recommendation forms from a teacher, employer or other reference.
  • Official, final transcripts are required before the start of classes.
  • Drug testing is required for clinical placement and will be conducted prior to the clinical courses.
  • All students enrolled in the program will submit criminal record checks prior to the start of clinical rotations in the second fall term.

Transferring in from another college? Transfers are welcome in this program, assuming we get a final, official college transcript from each college you have attended. If you still owe another college money, and cannot get a transcript, you will not be permitted to start classes. Check out our credit transfer policies to get an idea of what credits may transfer in.

If you have any questions regarding your admission into the program, please contact the Office of Admissions at 814-725-6144 or email


Essential Skills

Mercyhurst North East ensures that qualified individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in educational and employment programs offered at the university. In higher education, it is the student’s responsibility to disclose their disability. Any student who has a history of a diagnosed disability or suspects that he/she may have a disability is encouraged to contact the MNE Learning Differences office. The MNE Learning Differences office is responsible for coordinating accommodations and services for students with disabilities. Office: Karsh 206, Phone: 814-725-6299, 814-725-6141, Email:

View of list of essential skills.

 The Physical Therapist Assistant Program faculty believe that each individual in our society has the right to receive quality health care. Physical Therapy represents an integral part of a dynamic health care system which has developed in response to the ever changing need of society. As a part of the health care system, Physical Therapy is dedicated to the promotion of health and wellness, prevention of injury or dysfunction, and restoration and maintenance of function, considering the total needs of the individual. At Mercyhurst, students gather the knowledge insight, skills and vision necessary to lead fulfilling and productive lives. The program carries on the University mission by preparing graduates to function effectively within the health care system while respecting the dignity and rights of others. The Physical Therapist Assistant Program strives to foster an atmosphere of compassion for others as valued individuals and strives to instill the importance of lifelong learning.


  • Graduates will be prepared for entry-level practice as a physical therapist assistant within the guidelines set forth by the American Physical Therapy Association and within the scope of practice established by the State Boards of Physical Therapy
  • Graduates will be adequately prepared to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination for the Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Graduates will perform as safe and effective physical therapist assistants in a physical therapy setting
  • Graduates will demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning and appreciate the importance of supporting the education of future PTAs
  • Use knowledge of legal and ethical principles in clinical decision making
  • Provide patient/client treatment in manner that is respectful, caring and empathetic
  • Apply interventions in a safe, efficient and effective manner as directed in the plan of care and within the scope of practice of a physical therapist assistant.
  • Perform safe and effective data collection to aid in the assessment of patient status and treatment effectiveness.
  • Recognize the need for modification of interventions as related to patient/client response to treatment
  • Identify viable treatment options for progression of treatment within the plan of care
  • Provide effective patient/family education to achieve established goals and outcomes within the plan of care
  • Utilize appropriate communication to aid in the effective operation of the physical therapy department and the provision of physical therapy services
  • Complete documentation that follows professional guidelines and facility policies
  • Engage in literature review and critical analysis of practice

Students studying in the physical therapist assistant program get hands-on training in the 1,800-square-feet PTA Lab. A variety of equipment is housed in the lab, including:

  • Hydrotherapy tanks
  • Treatment and mat tables
  • Parallel bars
  • Stairs
  • Wall pulleys
  • Elastic resistance
  • Plyometric unit
  • Free weights
  • Ankle exercise unit
  • Stationary bike
  • Upper body ergometer
  • Hot and cold packs
  • Electrical stimulation units
  • Ultrasound machines
  • Diathermy
  • Traction unit
  • Assistive devices and wheelchairs
  • Tilt table
  • Balance boards
  • Bosu ball
  • Mechanical lift
  • Equipment used for data collection

Students gain exposure to equipment not available on site through field trips to area facilities.


Danny Bilski PTA Fund

The Danny Bilski PTA Assistance Fund was established in 2013 in memory of Danny Bilski, a graduate of the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at the Mercyhurst North East campus. Danny passed away in 2012 and the fund was established to help PTA with relevant expenses associated with program studies, and will in turn help Danny's memory live on in the form of continuing education. After graduation, Danny worked with at-risk children in McAllen, TX, and was later a director at Reliant Rehabilitation in San Antonio, TX. He had an unending smile and a special way of lifting their spirits.

Gifts to this fund will be used at the discretion of the PTA Program director, and will be used entirely to support current PTA students continue and complete their studies in the field Danny so loved. Click here to make a contribution.

Janice Haas, P.T.A., M.S
Director and Assistant Professor of PTA
JoAnne Whaling, P.T.A
PTA lab assistant
Tricia Mahoney