class posing with physical therapy outreach table

Physical Therapist Assistant

Bachelor of Science

Physical therapy is one of the most rapidly growing and rewarding careers, and the associate degree program at Mercyhurst can offer you the best education in the field. Our esteemed faculty 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. Join the program today and do your part to help patients regain their strength and take back their lives.

Fast Facts

  • PTAs are in high demand nationwide with a predicted growth of 24% over the next ten years.
  • 95% of our recent PTA graduates found employment within one year.
  • A scholarship opportunity exists for this program. Established in 2013 in memory of a PTA graduate, the Danny Bilski PTA Assistance Fund helps current PTA students continue and complete their studies in the field Danny was so passionate about.

Program Overview

Mercyhurst's PTA program achieved initial accreditation in 1996 with the most recent 10-year reaccreditation received in 2021. With this accreditation firmly in place, the program prepares students for entry-level positions in physical therapy working as a PTA under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. In addition to academic course work and vast clinical experiences, our PTA major helps students foster the ability to think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and become at well-rounded clinician and contributing member of society. Students who are interested in pursuing further education in physical therapy may be eligible to apply to entry-level doctorate (DPT) programs.

Credit Requirements

The degree requires a minimum of 121 credits. Each course in the specified curriculum (or transfer equivalent) must be included in this total. A sophomore review will be conducted to ensure students are on track and meeting program standards. A minimum GPA of 2.5 must be attained by the end of the sophomore year and maintained for graduation. A grade of C+ (80%) or higher is expected in all PTA courses and no less than a C in biology courses to remain in good standing within the program. Students who are considering pursuing a DPT degree should also consider admission requirements for the program(s) of interest, which may be higher than program graduation requirements. 


Our curriculum includes a strong foundation in the basic sciences with a blend of general education, communication, behavioral science, and REACH courses, as well as focused technical coursework specific to physical therapy. The first two years consist of foundational coursework with student-selected focus. The final two years primarily consist of PTA technical courses, including three full-time clinical education courses. Students will be expected to attend class in the summer term between their junior and senior years. A listing of program degree requirements can be found under the Resources tab below.

Clinical Experience

The clinical education sequence begins in the fourth year of the program. Students will complete three full-time clinical rotations in a variety of physical therapy settings to include outpatient physical therapy clinics, hospitals, rehab facilities, and nursing homes. Facilities are available throughout the country. Clinical experiences are progressive in nature with an expectation of entry-level ratings achieved by the end of the final clinical experience. 

All students enrolled in the program are required to complete the following prior to the clinical education courses:

Criminal history clearances (state, FBI fingerprint, and child abuse)
Drug screen
Current physical examination and immunizations/titers
TB screening (two-step)
CPR certification 
All clearances will be processed through a clearinghouse (Certiphi). Some clinical facilities have additional requirements. A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to attain a license or certificate to practice, may restrict options for clinical placements, and may impact employability. A student who cannot be placed in the appropriate variety of clinical facilities will not be able to complete the program. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate professional behaviors in all patient/client interactions, including simulated situations.
  • Perform interventions and data collection in a safe and effective manner as directed in the plan of care and within the scope of practice of a physical therapist assistant.
  • Effectively monitor patient response to treatment and respond appropriately.
  • Utilize appropriate communication and documentation to aid in the effective operation of the physical therapy department and the provision of physical therapy services.

Admissions Requirements

In addition to Mercyhurst's standard requirements for admission, applicants to the PTA major are subject to 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.
  • Applicant must complete a total of 20 hours of documented work or volunteer experience with exposure to two different physical therapy settings under the supervision of a licensed PT or PTA prior to the start of classes. 
  • Final official transcripts are required before the start of classes

Transfer students are welcome with the expectation of a minimum average GPA of 2.8 in college level courses.


The Mission of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program is to educate competent physical therapist assistants with a commitment to serving the communities where they live. Our graduates will be prepared to provide high quality contemporary physical therapy services to patients/clients within the scope of practice of the physical therapist assistant under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

Career Outlook

Program graduates are employed at physical therapy settings throughout the country with many progressing to the level of department or regional managers. Some graduates have continued their education in a variety of fields including chiropractic, physician assistant, athletic training, biology, and doctor of physical therapy.

Helping Patients Take Back Their Lives

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  • Lab Facilities

    Students in our program receive hands-on training in the PTA Lab and learn how to use the equipment found in physical therapy clinics.

    two physical therapist assistant students exercise
  • Clinical Placements

    PTAs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient physical therapy clinics, rehab centers, and home health care.

    a physical therapist assistant wraps a patient's leg
  • Graduate School

    Graduates of the PTA program have also gone on to enroll in a DPT program after completing their associate and bachelor’s degrees.

    two female physical therapist assistant students pose in a lab
  • Hands-on Experience

    Each student completes 640 hours of clinical education in a variety of physical therapy settings in the fourth year of the program.

    physical therapist assistants check a male student's blood pressure
  • Exam Preparedness

    The program prepares graduates for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) designed to ensure sufficient PT knowledge.

    physical therapist assistants stretch patients
  • a physical therapist assistant helps a patient out of a wheelchair


Upon graduation from the B.S. PTA program, the student will be awarded both an A.S. and B.S. degree. The technical portion of the program, which results in the A.S. degree, is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100
Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085

If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call 814-824-2988 or email

Public Comment Policy

The Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Mercyhurst University actively seeks feedback about program, student, and graduate performance. Individuals are welcome to provide comments or concerns. Comments should be submitted to the PTA Program Director. If an individual would like to comment directly to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), comments can be made via the CAPTE website.