Office of Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Physical Therapy

General Information

A physical therapist (PT) is a healthcare professional, who commonly provides non-invasive treatment for musculoskeletal injuries and diseases, but may be involved in treatment of other body systems as well. In addition to treatment of existing problems, they may also provide therapies and strategies to maintain function and/or prevent future injury from occurring. Most PTs are found in primary care settings, such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. There are also options to specialize in a variety of subspecialties such as orthopedics, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiology, sports medicine, and neurology. The PT field is rapidly growing as demand steadily increases and interest in the profession expands. Many people are attracted to the ability to provide healthcare and earn a good salary.

Physical therapy programs award either the Masters in Physical Therapy (MPT) or Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. The current trend is toward the doctorate, and it is estimated that by 2013, ninety-nine percent of programs will be accredited to offer the DPT.

Following graduation from an accredited program, all states require passing a state licensing exam before a physical therapist can begin practice within that state. Regular continuing education is usually required to maintain a valid license.

There are currently twenty accredited PT programs in New York State, as listed below:

Find additional schools in the U.S. Click here.

Requirements

The following list summarizes the typical requirements for entry into an accredited PT program:

  • Complete a bachelor's degree
    PT programs are graduate programs; therefore the student must first finish a bachelor's degree. There is no special preference for B.A. vs. B.S. degrees, or for any particular undergraduate major.
  • Complete the prerequisite coursework
    Although there is a common core of classes that most PT programs require, each PT program has the freedom to add classes to the common core and/or control the level of the coursework (i.e., majors-level vs. non-majors level courses). There will usually be a minimum GPA necessary to apply to the PT program (see school websites for the minimum GPA requirements).
  • Take the admissions test
    The standard admissions test for most PT programs is the GRE General exam. There will usually be a minimum score necessary to apply to the PT program (see school websites for the minimum score requirements). Most programs have time limits on GRE scores; typically, scores must be current within the last five years. Visit http://www.gre.org/ for more information and also to register for the exam.
  • Become familiar with the practice and profession of Physical Therapy:
    It is essential to be familiar with the practice of physical therapy and understand the profession and its demands. Some PT programs even require a minimum amount of experience hours in physical therapy settings. Successful applicants usually acquire a broad background shadowing/observing/volunteering in locations where physical therapists work, frequently exceeding 100 hours of experience. It is recommended to see physical therapy practiced in a variety of settings and specialties, to broaden knowledge of the profession and diversity within the profession.
  • Letters of Reference from licensed practicing PTs
    1-2 letters of reference from licensed PTs that have directly supervised you (as an employee, volunteer, or observer) may be requested. The PT programs expect you to be familiar with the PT profession, including issues facing the profession, the ethics of practice, and the daily challenges of practice. Shadowing/observing licensed PTs in a variety of clinical settings is strongly encouraged to gain this professional knowledge.
  • Community Service: Some community service is recommended. Community service does not have to be health-related.

Pre-Physical Therapy Prerequisite Courses

The following represent the core prerequisites for the majority of physical therapy schools.  You should make every effort to know the prerequisites for every school that interests you:

General Biology-one year      BIO 166 & 167 (with labs)
General Chemistry-one year   CHE 166/167 & 168/169 (with labs)
General Physics-one year  PHY 166 & 167 (with labs)
Anatomy & Physiology-one year  BIO 181 & 182
Statistics – at least one semester Psychology-at least one semester

Admissions Process

There are two-three steps for admission: the primary application, the secondary (supplemental) application, and the interview.

Primary Application

In 2008, an online application service (Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service, PTCAS) opened. Approximately half of the PT programs in the U.S. currently participate in PTCAS. If a program is using PTCAS, you must apply to the school through PTCAS. For a list of participating schools, and other instructions, visit the PTCAS website.

If you are applying to a non-PTCAS program, visit the school's website for specific instructions on how and when to apply.

At some schools, the primary application process will require two separate applications: an application to the graduate school of the parent institution, and also an application directly to the Physical Therapy program itself. In this circumstance, the student must be accepted by both the graduate school and the PT program in order to begin official enrollment into the PT curriculum. Consult school websites for specific instructions and the necessary applications. Some schools post their applications online.

Graduate school applications, if required, are usually obtained directly from the parent institution's graduate school admissions office.

Secondary Application

Each PT program will handle this stage differently. Typically, the 'secondary' will request more information, including short essays, and an additional fee. Not all schools use a secondary application.

Interview

After processing primary and secondary applications, the top applicants will be invited for an interview. This is the final step of the admissions process. Following the interview, an applicant may be accepted, rejected, or placed on a waiting list. Some schools do not require interviews.

Resources & Links

Last modified: Nov 28, 2011

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