Is physical therapy the right career for you? How can you get a better idea?
The best thing to do is research everything you can regarding physical therapy and other related careers then imagining yourself in these roles.
You can also get can a better idea of what physical therapists do through observing or volunteering to help in facilities where physical therapy is offered. A valuable resource to check out as a prospective PT student is the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website at www.apta.org.
Also, if you currently attend or live near a university or college that has a Physical Therapy graduate program, most of the time you are welcome to visit and speak with the physical therapy faculty members and coordinate to sit-in on a class or two as a means of showing and researching your interest in becoming a PT.
In order to schedule your visit, just get in touch with the university’s physical therapy department via phone or e-mail.
Overview of Physical Therapy School Admission Requirements
Becoming a physical therapist requires a graduate level education – specifically, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Therefore, if you want to become a physical therapist, you have to initially get your bachelor’s degree. It’s possible to get accepted into a PT graduate program with any undergraduate major, so there is no required area of study. Most physical therapy programs recognize the importance of student diversity in all areas, including diversity of undergraduate studies, as a valuable asset to their department.
The majority of physical therapy schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA. There are a few particular prerequisite courses that you have to take as requirement, which you can take while completing your undergraduate degree or as a non-degree seeking student if you’ve already graduated with a bachelor’s. Certain majors may fulfill some of these PT program prerequisite courses as part of its core curriculum – otherwise, these classes have to be taken as electives. For example, Exercise Science majors usually are required to take Anatomy & Physiology and Chemistry I as part of their core curriculum – which also counts towards a portion of the PT program application requirements.
The 6 Prerequisites for Physical Therapy School
- Completion of bachelor’s degree from a 4-year university or college. You should major in any subject that makes the most of your skills and passion. There isn’t a favored or required major, however some undergrad programs offer pre-physical therapy tracks designed to set you up for faster entry into a graduate PT program.
- Minimum 3.0 GPA is usually required, though certain PT programs will accept lower. If you hold multiple degrees, the GPA of your most recent completed degree is used for your application. If your undergraduate GPA is below 3.0, but you have completed a graduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, it will count as meeting the minimum 3.0 GPA requirement.
- Taking and completing all required courses prior to enrolling in a Physical Therapy program. Most schools still allow you to apply if you haven’t completed all the prerequisite classes at the time of application – as long as the classes are completed before starting the PT program you will be good.
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score must be from within the past 5 years to be considered valid for application.
- Make sure to completely fill out the application forms for the PT programs you’re applying to. Many schools use the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) which allows you to fill out only one application and submit it to multiple schools.
- Work experience in a physical therapy setting as a volunteer (or employee) under the direction of a licensed PT is highly recommended and for some PT programs required. There is no minimum number of hours, however it’s necessary to convey your knowledge of the role of a physical therapist in your application and any interviews. At minimum 100 hours of experience/observation in one or two physical therapy practice settings is good for most programs you apply to.
Courses required for admission to Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs
The following prerequisite courses are just a general guideline and will vary depending on the school. It’s best to contact each school you’ll be applying to and find out the exact set of prereq’s.
- Chemistry I and II w/ labs or equivalent
- General College Physics w/ lab or equivalent
- Anatomy and Physiology w/ lab or equivalent
- Exercise Physiology w/ lab or equivalent
- Introduction to Applied Statistics or equivalent
- 2 courses in Psychology or Sociology
For most DPT programs, all prerequisite courses need to be taken for a grade with a minimum of a “B” or 3.0 in each course. If you have completed the required classes more than 10 years ago, you may be required to provide a letter explaining how you have kept this prerequisite knowledge current.
All application materials are due by a specified date in the year prior to enrollment into the physical therapy program. Again, it’s usually not an issue to be taking prerequisite classes while applying, however they must all be completed before starting a PT program. The admissions staff of physical therapy programs take into account the overall applicant. Acceptance is based on a good balance between undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, comprehension of the PT profession, application essay and details from your personal references. To improve your chances of being accepted into a DPT program, you have to make sure to meet all the minimum criteria and present a well-rounded application.
Infographic: What Prospective Physical Therapy Students Should Know
The following infographic lists 10 things that are definitely worth knowing as you research or prepare for application to physical therapy school.