Jun 18, 2024  
2023-2025 Catalog Volume XXXI Ver 1 
2023-2025 Catalog Volume XXXI Ver 1

Physical Therapist Assistant, AS

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(Knoxville, Nashville, Asheville, and Atlanta)


The mission of the South College PTA program is to develop knowledgeable, motivated, competent professionals who have the skills necessary to meet the career demands of an entry-level physical therapist assistant and, thereby, serve the diverse needs of their communities. A comprehensive curriculum is maintained, which includes verifying the competence and professionalism of students. To promote an optimal educational experience for all students, diversity in teaching methodology is also practiced. As role models, those involved with the program strive to exhibit the professional attributes expected in the physical therapy profession.

Program Goals and Expected Outcomes

  1. Graduates will be competent physical therapist assistants who work under the supervision of physical therapists.
  • Students/graduates will demonstrate effective written and oral communication skills.
  • Student/graduates will implement appropriate physical therapy treatments based on the plan of care established by a licensed physical therapist.
  • Students/graduates will understand the role of the physical therapist assistant and work in a manner consistent with their state practice act and APTA’s Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant.
  • Graduates will pass the national physical therapist assistant examination.
  1. The program will maintain a comprehensive curriculum developed and taught by qualified faculty in accordance with accreditation standards.
  • Faculty will continually develop and improve a comprehensive didactic curriculum that utilizes evidence-based practices.
  • Faculty will continually develop and improve a comprehensive clinical education plan that results in the achievement of “Entry-Level” competency in all areas by graduation.
  • The program will maintain adequate physical and monetary resources to facilitate a learning environment.
  • The program’s mission, philosophy, goals, and objectives will be consistent with those of the college.
  1. The program, through its faculty and students, will show a commitment to the private and professional communities through activities of continuing education, service, and advocacy for the physical therapy profession.
  • The program will provide faculty with professional development opportunities relevant to their topics of instruction, licensure requirements, areas of weakness noted on assessment tools, and desired areas of professional growth.
  • Faculty and students will participate in community service activities.
  • Faculty will be advocates for the physical therapy profession.

Role of the Physical Therapist Assistant in Health Care Delivery

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is a technically educated health provider who assists the Physical Therapist in the provision of physical therapy. The Physical Therapist Assistant works under the direction and supervision of the Physical Therapist, helping manage conditions such as back and neck injuries, sprains/strains, and fractures, arthritis, burns, amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, birth defects, injuries related to work and sports, and others.

Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure

Licensure as a Physical Therapist Assistant is regulated by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy while individual states are typically overseen by a State Board of Physical Therapy.  All 50 states require graduation from a CAPTE accredited program as well as passing the NPTE-PTA in order to obtain a license and practice as a Physical Therapist Assistant.  The South College PTA programs are CAPTE accredited program which aims to prepare graduates to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE-PTA).  Some states have unique licensure requirements. For example, a jurisprudence exam is required in some states to test the graduate’s knowledge of state laws, rules, and practice acts that govern physical therapy practice (this is currently required in Georgia and North Carolina but not in Tennessee). Some require satisfactory background checks.  These unique requirements are not associated with preparation in the South College program.  The following link provides contact information for individual state licensing authorities:  https://www.fsbpt.org/Free-Resources/Licensing-Authorities-Contact-Information.

Overview of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program

The South College Physical Therapist Assistant program offered in Knoxville, Nashville, Asheville and Atlanta is a 24-month program leading to an Associate of Science degree. The Atlanta Campus submitted an Application for Candidacy, which is the formal application required in the pre-accreditation stage, in June 2023. PTA major courses must be completed in the designated order. Classes are taught in the morning and afternoons. Class schedules may change at the discretion of the institution. Students should be committed to considerable out of classroom preparation and study. Certain methods classes require off-campus site attendance.

Clinical education internships are required and administered by South College and take place in a variety of health care delivery facilities in the Knoxville, Nashville, Asheville, and soon to be Atlanta metropolitan areas and beyond. Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from these off campus educational sites. Students are responsible for costs associated with any emergency services needed while participating in off-site educational activities.

Mandatory programmatic fees will be applied to each student’s cost of attending during the 4th and 7th quarters of the program. The fee for the 4th quarter covers the cost for CPR training, which is required for clinical participation. The fee for the 7th quarter covers the cost for the PTA licensure exam study guide provided to the student at the start of the quarter and the subsequent one-day preparatory course required by the program during the quarter.

Students applying to the AS Physical Therapist Assistant program must accept the following:

  1. A felony conviction may affect ability to attain state licensure
  2. Failure to produce proof of the following may severely limit clinical placement (possibly increasing the overall length of the program) and future employment options:
    1. Negative TB test
    2. Hepatitis B vaccination or waiver
    3. Negative Drug screening
    4. Health Insurance (increasingly required by internship sites)
  3. Commit to full attendance and participation in a rigorous educational program, significant out of class preparation time, and clinical assignments off campus.

Prospective students transferring credit into the AS PTA program should consult with the Registrar and PTA Department Chair regarding transferability of credit. This decision is final. There is no guarantee that transfer credit will be given for major curriculum courses. Students may not take major curriculum classes until transcripts have been received to verify pre-requisites have been completed.


Graduation from a physical therapist assistant education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085; phone; 703-706-3245; accreditation@apta.org is necessary for eligibility to sit for the licensure examination, which is required in all states.

The South College Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant program offered at the Asheville and Knoxville/Nashville campuses are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Avenue, Suite 100, Alexandria, VA 22305-3085, phone: 703-706-3245; email: accreditation@apta.org. The next review is scheduled for 2033 (Asheville) and 2024 (Knoxville/Nashville). If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please contact Pam deMent (Asheville) at (828) 398-2527/pdement@south.edu, Michelle Wray (Nashville - Knoxville/Nashville PD) at (629) 802-3126/mwray@south.edu, or Kaylea Booth (Knoxville Site Coordinator) at (865)251-1840/kbooth@south.edu.

Effective October 31, 2023, South College - Atlanta Campus has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085; phone: 703-706-3245; email: accreditation@apta.org).  If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call (470) 322-1224 or email acornell@south.edu. Candidate for Accreditation is an accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates the program may matriculate students in technical/professional courses.  Achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status does not assure that the program will be granted Initial Accreditation. Further, though achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status signifies satisfactory progress toward accreditation, it does not assure that the program will be granted accreditation. If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please contact Amy Cornell (Atlanta) at (470) 322-1200/acornell@south.edu.

Admittance Decisions

Applicants are ranked based on academic criteria. Admission is based on determined class size. Emphasis is placed on general education and science coursework related to physical therapy at all degree levels.

Admission Requirements (AS PTA)

General admission to South College does not guarantee admission to the Associate of Science degree program in Physical Therapist Assistant. Applicants interested in this program are required to visit the college and meet individually with an admissions representative and a program advisor to ascertain if their goals can be met by the college. Prospective students declaring PTA as their major must be generally admitted to South College and meet the following requirements in order to be considered for full admission to the program:

  1. Meet minimum score requirements required by the program on the college entrance examination, OR present documentation of a score of 19 or higher on the ACT Assessment examination, OR have earned transfer credit of 15 semester (23 quarter) hours with at least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA), OR achieve a GPA of at least 3.0 for the program’s pre-requisite general education courses (ENG 1201 English Composition ENG 1211 English Composition with Research BIO 1110 Anatomy & Physiology I , BIO 1120 Anatomy & Physiology I Lab , BIO 1130 Anatomy & Physiology II BIO 1140 Anatomy & Physiology II Lab AHS 1010 Medical Terminology COM 1261 Effective Speaking MAT 1200 College Algebra w/Statistics and Angles , and a Psychology elective course- PSY 1811 General Psychology  or PSY 1821 Human Growth and Development . *Effective Speaking (COM 1261 ) OR the Psychology Elective (PSY 1811  or PSY 1821  ), OR the Humanities Elective may be completed after beginning PTA major coursework but prior to taking PTA 2210 
  2. Complete and submit the South College AS PTA Program Application and Checklist.
  3. Submit three (3) letters of reference utilizing the program’s reference form. These reference forms will be scored and must average seventy-five percent (75%) or better.
  4. Complete all required general education core courses and earn the minimum grade of “C” or higher.
  5. Complete BIO 1110 Anatomy & Physiology I , BIO 1120 Anatomy & Physiology I Lab , BIO 1130 Anatomy & Physiology II , and BIO 1140 Anatomy & Physiology II Lab  with at least a 2.50 grade point average. The necessary grades must be achieved on the first or second attempt (all postsecondary attempts counted) unless approved by department chair.
  6. Complete PTA 1010 Introduction to PTA , PTA 1030 Pathophysiology , and PTA 1500 Functional Anatomy & Kinesiology  with a grade of “C” or better earned on the first or second attempt only. A grade of “C” is equivalent to 75%.
  7. Submit proof of at least sixteen (16) hours of observation and/or work hours in a physical therapy setting using the form provided by the PTA program.

Transfer credit for Kinesiology or Pathophysiology classes to the South College PTA program from another institution will be considered on an individual basis. For a PTA class to be considered for transfer into the South College PTA program, the class must have been comparable in hours and content, must have been taken within the last five years, and a grade of “B” or higher must have been received for the class. For final transfer approval, a course description or syllabus may be required.

Functional Capacities (Technical Standards)

Applicants must also demonstrate the following functional capacities (technical standards):

Function Requirement Examples of Tasks for PTA
Vision Adequate to ensure safety of self and others in classroom and clinic settings. Observing patient behavior and appearance; directing patient’s and own movement inside and outside classroom and clinic; overseeing set-up and implementation of treatment activities.
Hearing Adequate to allow effective communication with patients and others in person and by remote means, and to ensure safety of self and patients. Face-to-face communication with patients and families who may have language, hearing, vision or cognitive problems, or be illiterate; telephone consultations with other professionals or families; attending to pages, overhead announcements, etc.
Tactile Sensitivity Adequate to allow effective evaluation and therapeutic intervention related to movement disabilities, and to ensure safety of self and others in the use of thermal, vibratory, and other sensory stimulation techniques. Palpation of muscle activity in muscle testing; recognition of “hot” areas related to inflammation; determining safe water temperature.
Gross Motor Strength and Coordination Adequate to ensure safety of self and others in class and lab sessions and clinic activities. Safe transfers of students and patients; safe and efficient mobility within the school and clinic setting; safe and efficient mobility within the community; safe and efficient transportation of treatment materials.
Fine Motor Strength and Coordination Adequate to allow use of measurement and evaluation devices common in physical therapy, and to ensure safe manipulation of patient’s bodies and of treatment materials. Measuring joint range of motion using a goniometer; setting controls on treatment equipment; performing manual facilitation and mobilization techniques.
Critical Thinking Ability Adequate to allow mastery of basic course content and to demonstrate sound judgment in simulated and real life therapy situations. Identifying cause and effect relationships in patient behavior in order to modify treatment approach; determining which behaviors could lead to unsafe situations; determining when to request additional support.
Interpersonal Skills Adequate to allow establishment of an effective working relationship with patients, families and other professionals. Interacting with difficult family members; defining physical therapy to physicians or other referral sources; working with a difficult co-worker; motivating a depressed patient.
Communication Skills Adequate to allow completion of course work and effective verbal and written communication with patients’ families, other professionals, and others. Class discussions and presentations; research papers; weekly progress note on a patient; discussing patient behavior and needs with patient and family; home programs and education materials for patients.

Students who believe they will not be able to meet one or more of these requirements without accommodation or modification must notify the AS PTA Department Chair and a determination will be made on a case-by-case basis whether reasonable accommodation can be made. In no instance will an accommodation be made which will put other students or patients at increased risk.

Academic Progression and Retention in the PTA Major

Students are required to earn a minimum overall course average of 75%. This grade is calculated based on all grading criteria listed in each course syllabus. Students earning less than the required test average and/or a 75% overall course average will not be allowed to continue in the current rotation of courses.

A criminal background check must be completed, and proof of immunizations must be provided during PTA 1010 Introduction to PTA . Proof of CPR training and a physician’s certification that student is in good general health and able to participate in clinical internships is required prior to PTA 2210 Clinical Experience & Documentation . A drug screening is required before beginning any clinical experience at a hospital or nursing home. Failure to provide substantive documents of these requirements may prevent clinical placement with subsequent lack of progression in the program.

Grading Scale

The grading scale used by the AS PTA program for all administered courses is as follows:

Letter Grade Q.P. Percentage Score Range
Below 68%

Program Termination

Grounds for termination from the AS PTA Program:

  1. Insufficient academic progress
  2. Nonpayment of costs
  3. Failure to comply with rules and/or Code of Conduct
  4. Falsification of application to the college
  5. Unsafe or unethical clinical behavior

Voluntary Withdrawal

If a student voluntarily withdraws, there will be no guarantee that he/she will be re-admitted. Before withdrawing from any class, the PTA student should see the PTA Department Chair to determine the best course of action, since withdrawing may interrupt or stop continued education in the AS PTA program.

Reapplication/Readmission to the Program

A student who is terminated from the program or voluntarily withdraws for any reason must undergo a reapplication/reinstatement process if he/she wishes to apply for readmission to the program. This process is delineated in the PTA Student Handbook made available to students during PTA 1010 Introduction to PTA  and is also available from a program advisor.

The Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant degree program is offered at the Knoxville, Nashville, Asheville, and Atlanta campuses.

AS Physical Therapist Assistant Curriculum: 122 Credits

Area I - Core Requirements: 45 Credits



  • Approved Humanities Elective Credits: 4.5

Personal Development

Social Science

Approved Psychology Elective Credits: 4.5
Students choose one (1) of the following courses:

Written Communication

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