Physical Therapist Assistant

Program Description

Are you interested in science, health and physical fitness? Do you enjoy problem solving and helping others overcome challenges? If so, pursuing a degree as a physical therapist assistant (PTA) might be right for you. PTAs help people of all ages who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. PTAs provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist and work in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health, nursing homes and schools.

The PTA program at Cecil College admits once a year in the spring semester. In the program, students will complete general education requirements, complete a core of technical education coursework and participate in three full time, off-site clinical experiences. The program is full time, five semesters in length (70 credits) and culminates in an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree which will prepare students to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs, required for practice in all states.


The Physical Therapist Assistant program at Cecil College 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: If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call (443) 674-1557, or email

Degree Programs

Physical Therapist Assistant (Associate of Applied Science)

The Physical Therapist Assistant program provides a foundation for graduates to become highly skilled in providing patient services using physical therapy techniques under the supervision and direction of a licensed physical therapist in clinics, hospitals, and many other health care settings. Upon completion of the curriculum, the graduate will receive the A.A.S. and will be eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Exam for Physical Therapist Assistants.

Required Courses & Learning Outcomes

See a list of required courses and learning outcomes for this program in the college catalog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a physical therapist assistant (PTA)?

Physical therapist assistants are trained and licensed health care professionals who work as an integral part of a rehabilitation team to provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

What does a PTA do?

PTAs strive to improve function, relieve pain, improve mobility and increase ability. They do this through a wide variety of hands-on treatments and modalities. The goals of physical therapy include the restoration, maintenance, and promotion of optimal physical function; the promotion of optimal wellness, fitness and quality of life as it relates to movement and health and the prevention of the onset, symptoms and progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities that may result from disease, disorders, conditions or injuries (APTA, 2003).

Where do they work?

PTAs work in wide variety of settings dependent on their area of interest, their competency and expertise. A PTA working in a school setting may help with seating, gait training, improving motion, mobility and posture. A PTA in a hospital may treat patients following a stroke, burn patients, a shoulder replacement, or a patient recovering from a hip fracture all in one day. Outpatient PTAs in an orthopedic or sports medicine settings work with acute injuries to active people. PTAs work in long term care settings with geriatric patients, rehabilitation centers that specialize in head and spinal trauma, pediatric centers and fitness facilities. Each setting is different and a PTA may move from one setting to another as their competencies and career progresses.

Admissions & Advising

Cecil College is an open enrollment institution. Get more information, find out how to apply, or meet with an advisor.


Whether transferring coursework to Cecil College or transferring your completed degree or certificate to a four-year institution, transfer is a viable option to help meet your educational goals.

Transfer information for Maryland colleges and universities is available through the Articulation System of Maryland (ARTSYS) website at Additional transfer information can be found on the Transfer Agreements page.


Full-time Faculty

Deanna Smith PT, MPT
Interim Director of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program
M.P.T., University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Medicine
(443) 674-1564

Kelly Brukiewa, PTA, BTPS
Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education
B.T.P.S., Towson University
(410) 287-1060

Adjunct Faculty

Cecil College's adjunct PTA faculty are highly credentialed in their discipline and have years of professional experience. Adjunct faculty are licensed and practicing physical therapists and/or physical therapist assistants with advanced training and certifications in their area of specialization.

Program Overview

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at Cecil College has been designed to provide a foundation for graduates to become highly skilled in providing patient/client services using physical therapy techniques under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. As a PTA, you will be challenged to be a self-motivated, creative and critical thinker who strives for personal as well as professional growth.

Students will complete general education courses focused in the sciences, verbal and written communication and psychology to prepare to work in a rehabilitation career. They will follow a progression of technical courses in the science of human movement, pathology of the human body, clinical skills development and the application of physical therapy procedures and interventions. The program will include clinical lab work, field trips and full time clinical affiliations in local health care facilities to reinforce and support classroom coursework.

The program will be full time, five semesters in length (70 credits), and culminate in an Associate of Applied Science Degree (A.A.S). The PTA graduate will be prepared to take the National Licensing Examination, required to practice in all states. After successfully passing the National Licensing Examination, the graduate is prepared to begin their professional career.


Cecil College is an inclusive, open-access community college committed to academic excellence and service to the greater community. The Physical Therapist Assistant program is dedicated to this mission. Consistent with the Cecil College Mission, the mission of the Physical Therapist Assistant program is to provide an optimal learning experience which fosters academic excellence, critical thinking, clinical performance and high ethical standards. This will be accomplished by providing a supportive learning environment of integrated classroom, laboratory, and clinical education experiences that prepare students to deliver the highest quality of patient care, under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. Ultimately, the outcome will be to graduate well-educated, competent, compassionate physical therapist assistants who strive for excellence, commit to high ethical standards, appreciate diversity, invest in their community and engage in lifelong learning.

Program Goals

Program goals are in alignment with and in support of the strategic initiatives of Cecil College. It is the goal of the Cecil College PTA program to provide for the health care needs of Cecil County and the surrounding area by educating and graduating PTAs who are highly skilled, competent, ethical providers, prepared to join the health care team.

The PTA Program Goals for Cecil College are as follows:

  1. Emphasize student completion, making pathways to degrees clearer for students. The College will provide current information to the community and to prospective students regarding the practice of physical therapy and the role of the physical therapist assistant in health care delivery. Information will focus on the pathway from advisement, application and admission through program progression and completion.
  2. Collaborate with community partners to develop and deliver programs in Cecil County to meet health care needs.
  3. Become a regional leader in incorporating innovative technology for learning. Cecil will provide state of the art classroom, laboratory and learning resources facilities to enhance the student’s attainment of the knowledge and skills needed for graduation from the program and obtain licensure.
  4. Provide clinical education experiences which provide the student with the appropriate environment for attainment of competence in the day to day practice of physical therapy under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist.
  5. Graduate individuals who are well prepared to provide entry- level knowledge, clinical skills and the professional abilities of a physical therapist assistant in a safe and effective manner; who demonstrate the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, in a clear and understandable manner; who conduct themselves in a truthful and ethical manner with both patients and other health professionals; and who seek out avenues in which to broaden and expand their professional roles to more adequately serve the health care field.
  6. Achieve and maintain full accreditation by meeting all CAPTE evaluative criteria.

Student Learning Outcomes

The specific student learning outcomes are identified to facilitate the student's ability to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors for providing competent physical therapist assistant care under the supervision of a physical therapist in a variety of health care settings. As a provider of health services, PTAs should be self-motivated, creative, critical thinkers who strive for personal and professional growth.

Cecil College faculty will utilize the following student learning outcomes in implementing and evaluating the program’s goals. Program graduates are able to:

  1. Demonstrate the entry-level knowledge, clinical skills and professional abilities of a physical therapist assistant
    1. In the delivery of interventions
      1. Demonstrate competence and safety in implementing selected components of interventions identified in the plan of care, established by the physical therapist
        • Functional training
        • Infection Control Procedures
        • Manual therapy techniques
        • Physical agents and mechanical agents
        • Therapeutic exercise
        • Wound management
      2. Demonstrate competency in performing components of data collection skills essential for carrying out the plan of care. These include:
        • Aerobic capacity and endurance
        • Anthropometrical characteristics
        • Arousal , mentation, and cognition
        • Assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, supportive, and prosthetic devices
        • Gait, locomotion, and balance
        • Integumentary integrity
        • Joint integrity and mobility
        • Muscle performance
      3. Review the plan of care established by the PT prior to initiating patient/client intervention
      4. Recognize when NOT to perform intervention based on patient signs/symptoms and when interventions are beyond the scope of a PTA
      5. Provide legal and ethical interventions as directed in the plan of care and supervised by the PT
      6. Provide effective instruction to the patient/client and others to achieve the goals and outcomes as described in the plan of care
      7. Participate in discharge planning
      8. Collect data to quantify the patient/client’s response to interventions as directed and supervised by the PT
      9. Progress the patient/client interventions through the plan of care
    2. In all communication
      1. Complete documentation that follows professional guidelines, health care system, and physical therapy facility policies
      2. Complete documentation that is accurate, timely, thorough, logical, concise and legible
      3. Communicate an understanding of the plan of care developed by the physical therapist
      4. Expressively and receptively communicate in a culturally competent manner with PTs, patients/ clients, family members, caregivers, other health care providers, students, interdisciplinary team members, payers, and consumers
      5. Report changes in patient status to supervising PT and requests clarification when needed
      6. Express and communicate outcomes
    3. During education activities
      1. Participate in educating patients and caregivers as directed by the supervising PT to achieve outcomes based on the plan of care
      2. Effectively educate others using teaching methods commensurate with the needs of the learners
      3. Educate others about the role of the PTA
    4. During resource management activities
      1. Adhere to federal and state legal practice standards and institutional regulations related to patient / client care and fiscal management
      2. Utilize human and material institution-based resources and services to provide high quality, efficient, and cost-effective PT services
      3. Comply with facility procedures and payer regulations consistent with the health care delivery system and the practice setting
      4. Participate in performance improvement activities
  2. Provide competent patient care under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist, in an ethical, legal, safe and effective manner in a variety of health care settings
    1. Select and demonstrate appropriate clinical interventions based on best clinical practice and sound clinical evidence
    2. Read and understand health care literature
    3. Respond effectively to patient/client and environmental emergencies in the work setting
    4. Demonstrate competence in the provision and documentation of interventions identified in the plan of a care established by the physical therapist
  3. Integrate behavioral expectations of altruism, caring and compassion, cultural competence, duty, integrity, PT/PTA collaboration, responsibility and social responsibility into professional practice
    1. Demonstrate behaviors, conduct, actions, attitudes, and values consistent with the roles, responsibilities, and tasks of the PTA
    2. Identify, respects, and acts with consideration for the patients/client’s differences, values, preferences, and expressed needs in all physical therapy activities
    3. Act in a manner consistent with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for the PTA and Standards of Practice of the PTA, and Maryland Practice Act for Physical Therapy
    4. Demonstrate a commitment to meeting the needs of patients and consumers
    5. Place patient’s/client’s needs above the PTAs own self interests
    6. Exhibit compassion, caring, and empathy in providing services to patients/clients
    7. Demonstrate integrity in all interactions with patients/clients, family members, caregivers, supervising PTs, coworkers, other consumers, employers, and payers
    8. Promote active involvement of the patient/client in his or her care
    9. Support and participates in organizations and efforts that promote physical therapy and demonstrate good citizenship
  4. Manage an effective transition from the educational program to a career as a licensed physical therapist assistant
    1. Develop a plan for continuous professional competence and lifelong learning
    2. Participate in learning and development activities to ensure continued professional competence
    3. Participate in and respond to self-assessment activities
    4. Change behavior in response to understanding the consequences (positive and negative) of the PTAs actions
    5. Recognize role of the PTA as a role model for PTA students
    6. Pass licensure exam and secure entry-level job
    7. Qualify for state licensure and take the National Board Examination (NPTE) for the physical therapist assistant
      1. meet all qualifications for graduation
      2. apply for the NPTE and state licensure
      3. develop a study plan for NPTE, successfully implement study plan for NPTE
    8. If successful in passing the NPTE, is able to apply for a job as a physical therapist assistant
      1. develop job seeking strategy
      2. develop resume and cover letter
      3. practice job interview skills
      4. initiate plan for continued professional competence by citing continuing professional competence requirements of licensure jurisdiction


The Physical Therapy Assistant program at Cecil College has limited enrollment and requires specific criteria to be considered for admission.

Prospective Student Information

Please refer to the Prospective Student Packet for detailed admission information.

Non-Discrimination Statement

Please refer to the college catalog for Cecil College's statement regarding non-discrimination.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Please refer to the college catalog for information about FERPA.


Tuition & Fees

Standard tuition and fees apply for courses associated with the PTA program. Tuition and fees estimates are based on 2019–2020 rates for a Cecil County resident. Individual student costs will vary depending on the number of general education courses already completed. The PTA curriculum consists of 70 credit hours over five semesters. Twenty-seven of these credits are general education courses which students may take at any accredited college or university. All applicants planning to transfer credits to Cecil College are advised to meet with a Cecil College advisor as soon as possible to have their transcripts reviewed. The remaining 43 credits are the technical and clinical PTA courses. Students register and take these courses on the Cecil College campus and pay the tuition, fees, and all other associated expenses. All applicants are advised to meet with an advisor to explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Approximate Cost for Two-Year PTA Program

Following is an estimated summary of program costs related to the technical and clinical aspects of the program. Note that tuition is calculated for a Cecil County resident, based on the 2018-2019 school year; the rates for a MD resident (not a Cecil County resident) and out-of-state students are different. Refer to tuition and fees for up-to-date information. All expenses are estimated based on current tuition, fee and supply costs and are subject to change.

Item Cost
Tuition and Fees 43 technical credits (PTA-specific coursework, not including general education requirements); approximately $8,050.00
Course Fees Approximately $980.00
Lab Equipment Approximately $100.00
Books Approximately $1383.00
Uniform Approximately $75.00
Travel Expenses Students should consider the cost of travel both to the Cecil College campus, as well as travel to their clinical assignments throughout the program. The travel costs may vary greatly depending on the students’ residence and their clinical affiliation assignments.

Program Learning Outcomes

Graduation Rates (Data Reported November 2019)

Year of Graduation Number of Students Enrolled Graduation Rate Recent 2-Year Average
2016 16 87% N/A
2017 15 83% 85%
(Class of 2016 & 2017)
2018 16 100% 91%
(Class of 2017 & 2018)
2019 19 TBD (6/2020) TBD (6/2020)
(Class of 2018 & 2019)

National Board Examination Pass Rates

National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) pass rates are reported by The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

Year of Graduation Number of Graduates Graduates Who Passed NPTE on First Attempt First Attempt Pass (2-Year Average) Overall Pass Rate on NPTE (%)
2016 14 100% N/A 100%
2017 7 100% 100%
(2016 & 2017)
2018 16 100% 100%
(2017 & 2018)
2019 14 100% 100%
(2018 & 2019)

Employment Rates

Graduation Year Number of Graduates Number of Graduates Who Sought Employment, Employed Within 1 Year of Passing the NPTE Number of Graduates Who Sought Employment, Employed Within 1 Year of Passing the NPTE (2-Year Average) Employment Rate for All Graduates (%)
2016 14 14 N/A 100%
2017 7 7 100%
(2016 & 2017)
2018 16 15 100%
(2017 & 2018)
2019 14 TBD (6/2020) TBD (6/2020) TBD (6/2020)

Career Opportunities

Demand for physical therapist assistants will continue to be high according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand is fueled by the rapidly growing elderly population, active baby-boomers and the increasing number of trauma patients who survive.

The physical therapist assistant, as defined by the APTA, is the only paraprofessional who assists the physical therapist in the provision of physical therapy interventions. The main goal of physical therapy is to rehabilitate patients to as much physical independence as possible after injury or illness. Fields of interest include neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports injuries, geriatrics and acute care. Our program prepares you for entry-level employment in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.


Comments and Critiques

We welcome comment and critique in our continual effort to enhance the Cecil College Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program.

Comments and critiques must be provided in writing and signed by the author. Anonymous submissions, or written comments provided on behalf of an anonymous source will not be acknowledged.

Comments must be submitted to:

Cecil College
PTA Program Director
One Seahawk Drive
North East, MD 21901

Non-Retaliation Statement

Cecil College values input from our students, faculty, staff, and the community at large as it strives to provide high quality educational experiences in a professional environment. Multiple efforts are continuously employed to procure, address, and respond to feedback, concerns, and complaints. Protections are provided against retaliation, and confidentiality is maintained to the fullest possible extent. Identity may be disclosed in order to conduct a thorough investigation, comply with the law, and/or provide accused individuals their legal right to defense.

The College will not retaliate against any individual who truthfully, and in good faith, reports or assists in an investigation. The right of protection against retaliation does not include immunity to discipline if the investigation concludes that the individual has personally committed wrongdoing.

To learn more or file a complaint, please contact PTA program interim director Deanna Smith at or (443) 674-1564.

The PTA Program Director responds to all comments within ten days to further discuss and resolve the issue. If satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, appeal may be made to the Dean of Health and Human Sciences within ten days. If satisfactory resolution still is not reached, appeal may be made to the Vice President of Academic Programs within ten days. The decision of the Vice President of Academic Programs will be final and not subject to further appeal.

Records of all correspondence are maintained by the Program Director for two years.

Coronavirus Update

Cecil College is actively monitoring the status of COVID-19 locally, regionally, and nationally. We are working with our local health department and county offices to stay up to date on the latest developments regarding the coronavirus. As of now, all classes and events on campus are taking place as scheduled.

The College is utilizing additional precautionary measures to maintain a healthful environment on all of our campuses. Our Facilities department has added additional cleaning protocols to their daily routine to help prevent the spread of germs, including the use of disinfectant wipes on high-traffic surfaces like door handles and light switches.

In addition, the College is routinely posting information regarding the prevention of germ transmission on all on-campus monitors, our student and employee newsletters, and our primary social media channels. We also have signage both on campus and on larger event promotions reminding the community that if someone isn’t feeling well or has recently traveled to any of the global, high-risk areas, the responsible thing to do is to stay home. The College continues to monitor updates from local, state and national public health officials and will update this message as necessary.