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Pre-Physical Therapy

Last updated May 20, 2019

Study in physical therapy begins with a bachelor’s degree and is completed with a doctoral degree and certification as a physical therapist (PT). Admission to highly competitive graduate programs requires volunteer time or an internship with a professional therapist as well as a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) testing. A biology major with supporting courses in chemistry, physics, and psychology is recommended for students pursuing this career. Your faculty adviser will assist the student and developing a plan of courses to prepare for application to the graduate program.

Information for Prospective Students Interested in a Physical Therapy Career

What do Physical Therapists Do?

Understanding Your Undergraduate Path:

All physical therapy programs require a bachelor's degree from an accredited 4-year college or university. Students at Morningside College who identify as Pre-Physical Therapy typically major in Biology and/or Chemistry and then add appropriate prerequisites. Some Pre-Physical Therapy students have also chosen to pursue a major in Biopsychology.  Those are the most common but a student can really major in any subject and pursue physical therapy as long as they add the appropriate courses required for admission into their schools of interest. Each institution offering a Physical Therapy program has its own undergraduate prerequisites, so applicants should contact the school or college of their choice for specific requirements. It is highly recommended that you earn above a 3.0 cumulative GPA and know that you will need to complete a required amount of shadowing/volunteer clinical experience with a Physical Therapist. Be sure to consult with your Academic Adviser, Faculty Adviser, or an adviser at the school or college of physical therapy that you plan to attend. 

Prerequisite coursework generally includes (can vary depending on school):

  • General Biology with Lab
  • General Chemistry with Lab
  • General Physics with Lab
  • Human Anatomy with Lab
  • Human Physiology with Lab
  • Statistics and Calculus
  • Psychology and Social Sciences (Introductory Psychology, Abnormal Psychology and Developmental/Child Psychology.)

General Prerequisites

Suggested Four Year Plan for Biology Pre-Physical Therapy (4-3-2018)

See Suggested Four Year Plans by Major (Biology, Chemistry)

Admission to PT programs is competitive; to get into your school of choice, below are some things to keep in mind during your undergraduate path:

  • Earn a high overall grade point average -- above a 3.0 GPA
  • Volunteer or work as a Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Some schools require up to 150-hours of clinical experience prior to admission
  • Ask for letters of recommendation from physical therapists or science teachers
  • Most schools require a satisfactory score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Observation hours (30-40) in various physical therapy settings prior to application are recommended. Exposure to multiple types of physical therapy practices is desired and a consideration in the decision to offer admission. Some schools require verification of observation hours
  • You will have an interview
  • You need an essay and personal statement
  • Involvements to help become competitive in the application process include research, shadowing, and volunteer service hours

Applying for Physical Therapy School:

As defined on the PTCAS Webiste: "While physical therapists are only required to have a master's degree, most people entering the field today choose to earn a PhD in PT. The Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) is a service of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). PTCAS allows applicants to use a single application and one set of materials to apply to multiple DPT programs. Review the instructions and directory pages before you apply."

PTCAS website

Additional Resources:

American Physical Therapy Association

Bureau of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapists

Career Services – Graduate School Information

ExploreHealthCareers.org (Physical Therapy)

Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) FAQs