Physical Therapist Assistant Degree

The goal of the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Finlandia University is to enable the graduate to function effectively as a physical therapist assistant in any practice setting.

This is achieved through professional education and training using sequential instruction, practical clinical experiences, and development of leadership skills. Emphasized throughout the student experience are problem solving skills, scientific inquiry, ethics, teamwork, and examination of the roles of the physical therapist and the Physical Therapist Assistant and the boundaries between them. Also emphasized is development of professional behaviors that facilitate and enhance positive therapeutic relationships with patients, including respect and sensitivity for ethnic, cultural, and spiritual differences. Qualified clinical sites further support these ideas.

The Physical Therapist Assistant degree program faculty members believe learning is a life-long process that requires self-assessment of professional behaviors, clinical skill performance, and service to society. This requires active participation in an open, supportive environment. The faculty demonstrates the attitudes necessary to support individual learning styles, maximizing each student’s potential. Through the competency-based curriculum, the student is given the opportunity to learn the problem solving skills and professional behaviors necessary to become both a critical-thinking PTA and a contributing member of society.


APTA – American Physical Therapy Association
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is an individual membership professional organization representing more than 93,000 member physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and students of physical therapy. APTA seeks to improve the health and quality of life of individuals in society by advancing physical therapist practice, education, and research, and by increasing the awareness and understanding of physical therapy’s role in the nation’s health care system.


Scholarship Opportunities

Program Policy

Graduates of the Finlandia University Physical Therapist Assistant degree program receive an associate in applied science degree. The program consists of a minimum of 29 credits in general education (gen. ed. core) and 41 credits in PTA education (technical phase).

Progression Criteria

Once admitted into the technical component of the program, students must meet the following requirements to retain their positions:

  1. The student must maintain at least a “C” (2.0) in any individual course, but must earn a cumulative GPA of 2.5 in the required General Education course work. The student must have a minimum GPA of a 2.7 (“B-”) in the following courses: BIO 171 and BIO 172. If the requirements are not met, student GPAs will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis each semester to determine if student status remains PTA, or reverts to pre-PTA. Required courses may be repeated only once.
  2. Students must demonstrate professional behaviors and practices consistent with the Professional Behaviors Assessment as outlined in the Physical Therapist Assistant Student Handbook (PDF).

Participation In The Clinical Setting

IStudents-Studyingn addition to academic course work, clinical education is a significant part of the physical therapist assistant’s education, helping the student apply the learned skills, professional behaviors, and academic knowledge to the practice of physical therapy. The Finlandia University PTA program has a strong clinical education component with an emphasis on rural health care experiences. During clinical education, PTA students complete 14 weeks of full-time clinical experience at three different clinical affiliation sites. Students are required to gain exposure to diverse physical therapy settings, diagnosis groups, and patient populations.

To be eligible to participate in clinical education experiences, the student must submit the following:


  1. Submit evidence of current training and certification in American Heart Association-BLS for Healthcare Providers.
  2. Submit evidence of a recently completed physical examination by a physician indicating that the student has no limitations that would interfere with successfully performing PTA interventions required during the PTA program technical phase. The cost of the examination is the responsibility of the student.
  3. Immunizations/Health Tests. The student is required to provide a current record of a negative tuberculosis skin test (2-step test). If a TB test is positive, a negative chest x-ray no older than twelve months is required. Also required is proof of immunization for rubella, rubeola (measles), and mumps and varicella (chicken pox). It is recommended that the student be immunized for Hepatitis B; however, in the event that the student does not want this immunization he/she must sign a Hepatitis B Immunization Information and Release from Responsibility form. Proof of receiving the influenza vaccine is required during flu season (September thru March). Forms are available in the PTA Department office. The cost of these tests is the responsibility of the student.
  4. Health Insurance. During the technical phase of the PTA program, the student is required to provide evidence of basic health insurance. If a student does not have such insurance, the PTA program can recommend short-term policies and provide information from different vendors. The cost of this insurance is the responsibility of the student.
  5. Uniforms. During the clinical education experiences of the “technical phase,” the student may be required to purchase a “lab” coat to be worn during the experience. The cost of one lab coat is approximately $30-$40 and is the student’s responsibility.
  6. A clear criminal background check is required prior to clinical placement for all PTA students.
  7. Students may be subject to drug testing per clinical site and/or PTA Student Handbook guidelines.

Admission Policies

Freshmen PTA students are enrolled as pre-PTA students and are eligible for entry into the PTA major upon successful completion of the PTA admission requirements. Students may enter the pre-PTA curriculum at any time. Entry into the PTA major occurs in the fall semester of each academic year. Admission to the PTA major is limited.

To be eligible for admission to PTA Major, the student must:

  1. Complete a PTA Program Application (PDF) for admission to the Finlandia University PTA Program.
  2. Have earned a minimum of a 2.7 (B-) in the following courses: BIO 171 and BIO 172 or equivalent within the past five years and must achieve at least a C (2.0) in any individual required course and must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 in the required general education core course work. Required courses may be repeated only once. All prerequisite course work must be completed before the final year.
  3. Complete 12 documented hours of clinical observation in more than one physical therapy setting prior to the start of the technical phase coursework.
  4. Participate in an interview with the PTA faculty in person or via telecommunications.

The PTA Department strives to admit students who can provide evidence of adequate potential to succeed in the Physical Therapist Assistant degree program. Students are selected on a competitive basis based on their GPA and interview content. The PTA faculty reserves the right to use professional judgment when selecting students for admission. Although GPA is strongly considered, other factors such as communication, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking ability are considered.

Qualified students are considered for admission to the PTA program regardless of race, color, creed, sex, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin or disability that does not interfere with the performance of physical therapy.

Students who have attended a college elsewhere may apply as transfer students. Qualified students that meet the PTA admission requirements and meet the application deadline will be considered. Although preference is given to Finlandia students, enrollment is not limited to such applicants. Qualified students that meet the PTA admission requirements and apply after the deadline will be accepted on a space available basis. Transfer students must be in good standing and eligible to return to all institutions previously attended and have earned a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better (on a 4.0 scale or its equivalent) on all work attempted. Transfer students must satisfy the pre-PTA curriculum in order to transfer directly into the PTA Major.

For more detailed PTA admissions information please see the PTA Student Handbook.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Finlandia believes it is important for the student to be exposed to the world. By fostering exchange relations with foreign learning institutions we are able to bring experts from around the world to teach on campus and offer students the opportunity to attend college overseas.

International Study Programs International Admissions (906) 487-7208 |



The Physical Therapist Assistant degree program at Finlandia University is accredited through 2023 by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE):
1111 North Fairfax Street | Alexandria, Virginia 22314
telephone: (703) 706-3245 |email:  


If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call 906-487-7308 or email

CAPTE grants specialized accreditation status to qualified entry-level education programs for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. CAPTE is listed as a nationally recognized accrediting agency by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Specialized accreditation is a system for recognizing professional education programs for a level of performance, integrity, and quality that entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and the public they serve. Accreditation status signifies that the program meets established and nationally accepted standards of scope, quality, and relevance. Once awarded accreditation status, a program must submit reports regularly to the Commission ensuring continuing compliance with the evaluative criteria. Each program is formally reviewed every five to 10 years.


ClassGraduation RatesEmployment Rates of graduates, who sought employment, that were employed (full-time or part-time) as PTAs within 1 year of graduation (2 year averages)


National Physical Therapist Assistant Exam
Based on information received from The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) 01/2018.

PTA Program graduate passing rate: (2 year average 2016-17): 89%

File a Complaint

To file a complaint with the Finlandia University PTA program, please refer to procudures outlined in the document link below.

Additional Links and Forms


What you will learn

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program outcomes integrate the learning outcomes of the Finlandia Plan and the performance criteria of the American Physical Therapy Association’s Physical Therapist Assistant Clinical Performance Instrument.

At the completion of the Physical Therapist Assistant Degree Program the student will demonstrate the following:
• Performs in a safe manner that minimizes the risk to the patient, self, and others.
• Demonstrates expected clinical behaviors in a professional manner in all situations.
• Performs in a manner consistent with established legal standards, standards of the profession, and ethical guidelines.
• Adapts delivery of physical therapy services with consideration for patients’ differences, values, preferences, and needs.
• Communicates in ways that are congruent with situational needs.
• Participates in self-assessment and develops plans to improve knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
• Demonstrates clinical problem-solving.
• Performs selected therapeutic exercises* in a competent manner.
• Applies selected manual therapy*, airway clearance*, and integumentary repair and protection techniques in a competent manner.
• Applies selected physical agents* and mechanical modalities in a competent manner.
• Applies selected electrotherapeutic modalities in a competent manner.
• Performs functional training* in self-care and home management and application and adjustment of devices and equipment in a competent manner.
• Produces quality documentation* in a timely manner to support the delivery of physical therapy services.
• Participates in the efficient delivery of physical therapy services.

Graduates will be able to:

  • possesses the necessary entry-level technical skills to practice as a physical therapist assistant in a variety of practice settings.
  • applies knowledge of basic sciences and physical therapy (PT) theory to the application and appropriate modification of selected PT procedures.
  • communicates effectively with patients, supervisors, support personnel, and other health care team members using suitable verbal, non-verbal, and written skills.
  • applies critical/creative thinking and analytical skills to make sound clinical judgments and proposals to enhance patient care.
  • possesses the necessary professional behaviors to practice as a physical therapist assistant in a variety of practice settings. These professional behaviors include the following: • Commitment to Learning/Use of Constructive Feedback • Interpersonal Skills • Communication Skills • Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving • Stress Management/Effective Use of Time and Resources • Professionalism/Responsibility
  • delivers patient care in a respectful manner that reflects sensitivity to individual differences.
  • is successful in qualifying for licensure/certification/registration where required by state law.

Sample Courses (CORE)

  • Functional Anatomy
    Knowledge of functional anatomy and kinesiology are essential foundations for the PTA. In this course the skeletal, muscle, joint and nervous systems are studied in terms of their ability to produce movement and postural control. There is an emphasis on the biomechanics of the human body. Lecture and laboratory exercises are integrated to help the student learn how the body moves and then to apply that knowledge to physical therapy interventions. Available fall semesters. Prerequisite: BIO 172 or permission of PTA program director.
  • Therapeutic Procedures
    Examination of pathological gait deviations, the physical therapy management of the burn-injured patient, wound care management, chest physical therapy, amputee care, prosthetics, and orthotics for the upper and lower extremities are included. Anatomy, physiology, and pathology are discussed for each topic. Available spring semesters. Prerequisites: HSC 260 and PTA 200 or permission of PTA program director.
  • Neurologic Rehabilitation through the Lifespan
    Preparation of the PTA student to treat patients with pediatric and adult movement disorders caused by damage to the nervous system is included. Neuroanatomy, motor control, motor learning and motor development form the foundations for understanding the pathology and the interventions used for the patient with neurologic disorders. Case studies dealing with common pediatric and adult disorders help the student appreciate the effect of the disability on the individual’s life and provide an opportunity for the student to apply their clinical reasoning skills and physical therapy interventions. Available spring semesters. Prerequisites: PTA 200 and PTA 210 or permission of instructor.

Career Opportunities

Acute Care, Adult Day Care, Assisted Living Centers, Burn Care, Home Health Care, Hospitals, Industrial Rehabilitation, Long Term Care, Medical and Surgical Rehabilitation, Neurological Rehabilitation, Oncology, Orthopedic Rehabilitation, Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, Outpatient Care, Pediatric Rehabilitation, Physical Fitness and Recreation, Programs, Private Practice, Public Health Departments, Research, Schools and Educational Institutions, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Teaching, Wellness Programs
Anne HalgrenAdministrative Assistant, Physical Therapist Assistant Program, Medical Assistant Program, Medical Billing and Coding ProgramFinlandia Universityanne.halgren@finlandia.edu906-487-7308
Nicole PolakowskiAdministrative Coordinator for Clinical Education, PTAFinlandia 487-7372
Pam BrownPTA Program Chair/Assistant ProfessorFinlandia Universitypam.brown@finlandia.edu906-487-7368

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