Physical Therapy Assistant Schools in California — Frequently Asked Questions

Physical therapy assistant schools in California are located in Southern California in the greater Los Angeles region and in San Diego, and in Northern California near San Francisco and in Sacramento. At the time of writing, there are six schools offering accredited programs. Prospective students are strongly recommended only to consider accredited programs, and only graduates from such courses are eligible to apply for professional licensure in most states in the US.

Who accredits physical therapy assistant programs?

PTA programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, also known as CAPTE. Since 1983, it has been the only agency recognized by the US Department of Education to grant accreditation status to physical therapy programs at entry level. Its directory lists over 250 programs at physical therapist assistant schools across the US. Accreditation benefits everybody connected with the profession, both practitioners and the public, because it offers a measure of quality assurance regarding the standards of a course, takes account of ongoing developments in the profession, and allows would-be students to make a better informed choice about which schools in the state of California or elsewhere they wish to attend.

Physical Therapy Assistant Schools in California    Frequently Asked Questions

Accreditation is a voluntary process and is not about ranking schools. The process involves careful examination of the program’s guidelines and criteria, external and internal reviews, and a number of on-site visits by qualified inspectors. You can find out more information about what goes into the process by visiting the website of CAPTE.

Are all PTA schools in California public colleges?

Not all. Four of the currently accredited programs are offered by public institutions (Cerritos College, Ohlone College, Sacramento City College, and San Diego Mesa College), and the other two by private schools (Concorde Career College and Loma Linda University). See contact details below for further information.

What sort of degree does a PTA require?

Graduates of California physical therapy assistant programs are awarded an Associate’s degree. Courses normally last a little under two years, divided into four or five semesters, and the curriculum content is divided between academic professional education and mandatory clinical experiences at a number of approved PT locations.

What sort of students will be accepted into a PTA program?

Each college will have its own criteria for admission. Program entry is usually selective and is dependent upon a range of academic and other requirements. Before an applicant can embark upon the principal professional classes of a program, they will usually be expected to have completed pre-requisite courses of general education to a satisfactory standard, such as grade C or above. These courses may include English, mathematics, biology, anatomy and physiology. Other humanities or fine arts courses may also be required.

It is also usual for a college to require applicants to have completed a compulsory period of work experience or observation in physical therapy or a related area. It may also be necessary to complete this period in more than one location or setting.

Schools will also likely look for evidence of physical fitness as it relates to the kinds of work normally performed by physical therapy assistant. Other relevant skills may include certification in CPR or basic life support. Colleges usually offer a number of information sessions, and may make attendance at one of these orientation meetings a precondition of acceptance.

What do PTA students learn?

The technical, professional component of PTA programs covers a wide variety of topics, normally beginning with an introduction to the practice of physical therapy. Courses include topics such as:

  • Pathology
  • Kinesiology
  • Disorders requiring physical therapy treatment
  • Gait and functional activities
  • Orthopaedics
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Medical Ethics
  • Clinical Experiences

Do I need a licence to work as a physical therapist assistant?

In almost every state in the USA, a PTA must be licensed to practice. In California, licences are issued by the Physical Therapy Board of California. You can find more information about licensing requirements by visiting their website at

College Information

Cerritos College
Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Health Occupations Division
11110 Alondra Boulevard
Norwalk, CA 90650

Contact: Marijean Piorkowski – Program Director
(562) 860-2451 ext 2550

Concorde Career Colleges
Physical Therapy Assistant Program
12412 Victory Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA 91606

Contact: Robert Plotke – Program Director
(818) 766-1587

Loma Linda University
Physical Therapist Assistant Program
School of Allied Health Profession
Loma Linda University
Loma Linda, CA 92350

Contact: Jeannine Mendes – Program Director
(909) 558-4634

Ohlone College
Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology
Physical Therapist Assistant Program
39399 Cherry Street
Newark, CA 94560

Contact: Sheryl S. Einfalt – Program Director
(510) 742-3105

Sacramento City College
Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Science and Allied Health Division
3835 Freeport Boulevard
Sacramento, CA 95822

Contact: Elizabeth Chape – Program Director
(916) 558-2298

San Diego Mesa College
Physical Therapist Assistant Program
7250 Mesa College Drive
San Diego, CA 92111

Contact: Laura Crandall – Program Director
(619) 388-2839

N.B: since 4/28/10, the PTA program at San Diego Mesa College has been on probationary accreditation. The College expects that full accreditation will be reinstated in November 2011.

Students should keep up-to-date with these developments and other issues relating to physical therapy assistant schools in California by consulting college websites and information available from CAPTE.

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