Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical Therapist Assistant

State-of-the-Art Training to Make Standout PT Professionals

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) help physical therapists provide important services to people with disabilities and those recovering from injuries. 

The PTA carries out the plan of care created by the physical therapist (PT), monitors the patient’s progress, and documents the care the patient receives.

As a PTA, you'll provide treatments in strengthening, flexibility, aerobic conditioning, exercise, balance activities, functional training, gait training, modalities and other therapeutic interventions, as well as patient and caregiver education.

This program begins each year in the fall. It has mandatory background checks and other compliance items that need to be completed for clinic participation.

The primary location for Physical Therapy Assistant students will be the Kirkwood Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha.

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Kirkwood offers more than $3 million in scholarships for students each year.

Students in this program may be eligible to have half their tuition paid for by the Kibbie Grant.

Graduates of the Physical Therapy Assistant program will be able to:

  • Demonstrate ethics, values, and responsibilities appropriate to the PTA 
  • Provide for patient/client management using appropriate framework
  • Demonstrate ability to interpret a plan of care, monitor patient response, and respond appropriately
  • Provide physical therapy interventions identified in the plan of care developed by the PT
  • Perform physical therapy tests and measures
  • Participate in the health care environment
  • Participate in practice management

Program Costs

Physical Therapy Assistant 

School Year: 2024–25

Program Entry Semester: Fall

Pre-Reqs Fall Spring Summer Fall Spring Total
Credit Hours per Semester 11.5 14 18 11 14 14 82.5
In-State Tuition $2,495.50 $3,038 $3,906 $2,387 $3,038 $3,038 $17,902
Technology Fee per Semester $50 $50 $50 $50 $50 $50 $300
Clinical Expenses (mileage, lodging, screenings, etc.) $0 $500 $0 $0 $844.50 $2,555.65 $3,900.15
Conferences/Seminars $0 $60 $0 $100 $0 $0 $100
Course Resources (textbooks, software, etc.) $311.75 $940 $431 $157 $135 $1,974.75
Course/Section Fees $10 $40 $45 $30 $45 $93 $263
Laptop (required devices) $0 $1,099 $0 $0 $0 $0 $1,099
Testing Fees $70 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $70
Third Party Credentials $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $700 $700
Tool Sets $0 $150 $0 $0 $0 $0 $150
Uniforms $0 $38 $10 $50 $50 $0 $148
Other $0 $86 $0 $0 $0 $0 $86
Total Estimated Cost $2,937.25 $5,941 $4,442 $2,724 $4,162.50 $6,486.65 $26,694.40


Costs provided are estimated and based on the following current tuition rates: $217 (In-State), $290 (Out-of-State), $400 (International).

Fees and costs are subject to change.

To view all costs associated with attending college visit our Tuition and Costs page.

Additional Program Requirements

To get into the Physical Therapist Assistant program, you must meet the following standards. These steps/requirements are in addition to Kirkwood's steps to become a student.  

  • Watch the PTA Program Conference video and complete the form after.
  • Completion of prerequisite courses with a C or higher.
  • ATI TEAS Test (see more on that below) with a required Adjusted Individual Score of 60 percent.
  • Lab visit at the Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha, IA.
  • Have placement test scores or course equivalents on file with the Allied Health office. If college level placement is not met, students are recommended to meet with an advisor. 

Kirkwood and Physical Therapy Assistant admissions policies and procedures are subject to change at any time. After all admission criteria are met, students are accepted or placed on the waitlist to the Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

Students in Kirkwood's Physical Therapist Assistant program are encouraged to join the Kirkwood chapter of HOSA, a global student-led organization exclusively for students enrolled in health science education and biomedical science programs or have interests in pursuing careers in health professions.

HOSA is one of eight recognized members of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO)CTSOs are co-curricular groups that help students in career and technical education programs further their knowledge and skills by participating in activities, events, and competitions.

The ATI TEAS was developed to measure basic essential skills in the academic content area domains of reading, mathematics, science, and English and language usage. These entry-level skills were deemed important for PTA, Dental Hygiene, and Medical Laboratory Technology program applicants by a panel of program curriculum experts.

The ATI TEAS is a 150-item, four-option, multiple-choice assessment. To prepare in an organized and efficient manner, you should know what to expect from the real assessment.

Students can use this link to purchase the ATI TEAS Study Manual.

Content Area Number of Test Items* Amount of Time Allotted
Reading 39 64 minutes
Mathematics 34 54 minutes
Science 44 63 minutes
English & Language Usage 33 28 minutes
Total 150 209 minutes

*There are 20 unscored questions throughout the exam for a total of 170 questions total.


Testing Center ATI TEAS Exam Schedule:

Test Registration Procedure

1) Register for an available exam time. Using the link below, choose between taking your exam at main campus in Cedar Rapids or the Kirkwood Regional Cener at the U of I in Coralville.

ATI TEAS Test Registration

2) You must create an account on the ATI TEAS website, click on "create account."

We recommend students use their Kirkwood student email when creating an account. Remember your username and password when you come to take your test.
3) On the day of your scheduled test, bring the following: 

  • Photo ID
  • ATI TEAS account username and password
  • Debit or credit card to pay for the exam. 

*The cost of the exam is $70 (as of July 1, 2023.)


On your scheduled date and time, you will take your test at the test center located on the second floor of Cedar Hall, check-in at room 2055. Leave all personal belongings at home, you will not be able to take your phone, smart watches, etc. in the room where you test.
Please look at the following link for some useful information on how to prepare for the exam: ATI TEAS Tips for Success.

A minimum of 30 days is recommended between ATI TEAS exam attempts. It is recommended that students remediate in the areas identified by the Individual Profile Sub-Scales scores before retaking this exam.

Questions or concerns? Contact the Test Center at or 319-398-5456.


Three cumulative attempts are allowed to pass the ATI TEAS exam with the minimum score required by the appropriate program.

  • If a student fails the exam for a program three times, they are not allowed to change their program to take the exam three more times for a different program. It is three cumulative attempts.

  • Acceptable scores vary between programs. Therefore, an unacceptable score for one program may be considered acceptable for another.

After the second failed attempt, students will be strongly encouraged to set up a meeting with the appropriate program director to discuss strategies for success on the third attempt.
After the third failed attempt, students are no longer eligible to be admitted into any program that requires the exam. You cannot change programs to start the testing process over.
Students must wait three years if they want to try again if the third test failed to meet the minimum score.

Students must complete prerequisite courses and earn a C or better. Prerequisite courses include:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology I
  • Introduction to PTA
  • Speech Course
  • Basic Medical Terminology

In addition to the required prerequisite courses, it is recommended that students take the following courses prior to admission into the program. If courses are not taken prior to admission they will be taken in semesters listed on the plan of study.

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology II
  • Intro to Psychology
  • Composition I
  • Professionals in Health
  • Humanities Elective
Learn more about being a PTA and the technical standards that come with it.

Successful completion of this program leads to a professional licensure or certification. View the state listing guide to identify which Kirkwood program fulfills state guidelines for professional licensure and certification.

The Physical Therapist Assistant program at Kirkwood Community College is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).


Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
3030 Potomac Ave, Suite 100
Alexandria, Virginia 22305 - 3085
Telephone: (703) 706-3245 

Individuals needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call 319-398-5566

PTA graduates qualify to take the licensure exam given by the Federation of State Boards in Physical Therapy. Licensure is granted by the Iowa Board of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners. Most states, including Iowa, require a license to practice as a PTA. Annual continuing education hours are required to maintain a license.


Individuals wishing to provide feedback to the program, please use the program feedback link or contact the PTA Program Director.  Information relevant to filing a formal complaint with CAPTE can be found at 

The primary location for Physical Therapist Assistant students is the Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha. Your clinical experience takes place at sites across Iowa and in neighboring states.

Kirkwood’s program takes place in a spacious lab with state-of-the-art equipment that’s used in current physical therapy practice. You’ll learn from faculty who have extensive real-world experience as physical therapists and educators.

Two short-term and two long-term clinical experiences will give you hands-on experience with a variety of patients.

2 Year Average Rates

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Year of Graduation Graduation Rate Licensure Employment
2018-2019 77% 97% 100%
2019-2020 77% 93% 93%
2020-2021 83% 91.45% 94%
2022-2023 TBD
* Expected 86%

* Graduation rates are based on graduating within 150% of expected timeframe.


Matriculation/ Graduation Rates

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Year of Admission # of students meeting admission requirements # Admitted Year of Graduation # Graduating within 3 years % Graduation*
2018 41 24 2020/2021 19 79%
2019 31 24 2021/2022 21 87.5%
2020 28 14
* Admitted smaller class size due to COVID-19
2022/2023 10
** 2 students
** 2 students
2021 26 23 2023/2024 TBD * 18/23 with two additional students expected to graduate in 2024 TBD * Expected 87%
2022 20 14 2024/2025 TBD TBD
2023 25 25 2025/2026 TBD TBD

** In determining graduation percent, those who left the program due to health or family reasons are not counted.


Licensure Pass Rates

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Year of graduation Total # of graduates # Taking licensure exam # Passing on 1st attempt # Passing on subsequent attempts Ultimate pass rate
2018 21 21 17 4 100%
2019 15 13 12 0 92%
2020 18 17 16 1 94%
2021 20 18
* 1 student chose not to take exam due to health reasons
13 3 89.9%
2022 11 11 6 4 90.9%
2023 18 18 13 TBD TBD


Graduate Employment Rates

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Year of Graduation # of graduates seeking employment # Employed # Seeking additional education % Employed
2018 20 19 0 100%
2019 12 12 0 100%
2020 17 15 0 88%
2021 16 16 0 100%
2022 10 10 0 100%
2023 18 TBD 0 TBD

* Employment is reported within one year after graduation.

We love to hear from the PTA community! Take a moment to give us your feedback through an anonymous survey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Graduates with Physical Therapist Assistant degrees can obtain jobs in a variety of different career opportunities.

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A PTA typically spends between six to seven hours each day in direct patient care and documenting that care. PTAs may also be involved in non-patient care activities such as making/receiving phone calls, assist with filing, equipment care, and keeping the department clean and orderly.

In the process of providing care, PTAs must use strategic communication to encourage, motivate, and provide feedback related to the patient performance. PTAs must problem solve to determine the most efficient and effective way to carry out the plan of care developed by the therapist.

The specialty areas include neuro-rehab, orthopedics, general medical, cardiopulmonary, and pediatrics. PTA students must learn and demonstrate competence in treatment of patients from all specialty areas, examples of patient diagnoses within each specialty area are:

  • Neuro-rehab: stroke, head injury, spinal cord injury
  • Orthopedics: sprains, strains, fractures, joint replacement, amputations
  • General Medical: diabetes, vascular disease, burns, wounds
  • Cardiopulmonary: heart attack, heart surgery, emphysema, asthma
  • Pediatrics: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida
  • Geriatrics: pneumonia, hip fractures, post-surgical

Yes, the job requires strength and endurance. The PTA may be required to assist patients who are very weak and unable to support their own weight. PTAs must be able to provide physical assistance or resistance as needed by the patient.

You will see patients of all ages and abilities, cultures and socioeconomic status. The PTA must be comfortable communicating with and motivating a variety of people.

The PTA provides a variety of therapy procedures such as:

Pain control modalities: hot packs, cold packs, traction, ice massage, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, etc.

Therapeutic exercise: stretching, strengthening, balance, coordinator, endurance, etc.

Functional activities: assist patients to learn or re-learn how to roll, sit up, transfer from bed to wheelchair, walk

Other: procedures to control/manage swelling and facilitate wound healing

The PT is responsible for performing the initial evaluation of the patient, setting up the plan of care and subsequent decision-making for each patient. When the plan of care is developed, the PT can delegate part or all of the treatment to the PTA.

The PT is educated at the bachelors, masters, or doctoral level; the PTA usually has an associate degree.

You need to take the Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure Exam and achieve a passing score to practice in Iowa.

If you move to another state, you need to apply for a license to practice in that state. Typically, you have to attend an oral interview or take a written test to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the laws that are necessary to practice in that state.

To apply to a PT program, you need to complete a bachelor's degree, which takes an additional three to four years following the completion of the PTA program. You then have to apply to the masters or doctorate-level PT program, which is typically two years in length.

To transfer to an athletic training program, you need to contact the institution that offers the program to obtain their transfer requirements. The number of credit hours that transfer varies from school to school.

The program admits 24 students each fall.

It is advised that you take the general education courses in our curriculum. These courses are indicated with an asterisk on the plan of study. We also recommend that you obtain volunteer or employment experience in a physical therapy department. 

After you have applied to the program, you should request that your transcripts be sent to Kirkwood Enrollment Services. Your transcripts will be evaluated and you will receive a letter informing you what courses transfer.

The PTA program courses are sequenced, and it will still require 5 semesters to complete the program, although your credit load will be decreased each semester.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Kirkwood Community College Physical Therapist Assistant Program is to develop practitioners who are able to provide quality patient care under the supervision of a physical therapist and are able to continue learning to seek knowledge and skills reflective of contemporary practice. 




Allied Health
2164 Linn Hall