Physical therapists, also known as PTs, help people who have injuries or illnesses improve their movement and manage their pain. They are an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries. Physical therapists help determine if the patient can function independently and develop a treatment plan that will improve function and prevent further injury.
No particular major is required for entrance into a physical therapy program. Pre-Physical Therapy is a career goal that includes a set of course requirements that prepare you to succeed as a physical therapist. You should choose a major you enjoy, and one in which you will excel.
- 2 semesters Anatomy & Physiology with labs (some schools may also require general biology)
- 2 semesters General Chemistry with labs
- 2 semesters General Physics with labs
- 2 semesters Psychology (General Psychology and Life Span Development are recommended)
- 1 semester Statistics
- Other recommended courses: English composition, exercise science, college algebra and medical terminology
- Some programs require a specific number of hours in Social Science and Humanities coursework
Generally, a grade below a C is not acceptable for prerequisite courses
Becoming a PT
Physical therapists need a doctoral degree (DPT) and must pass a licensure exam before they can practice. Applicants to PT programs should already have a bachelor’s degree in any major and some health care-related work experience. The majority of programs require experience specifically in the physical therapy field. However, admissions requirements vary from program to program.
Physical therapy programs are generally three years of full-time study. PTs may apply to and complete residency programs after graduation. Residencies last nine months to three years, depending on the area of specialty. All states require physical therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. After gaining some work experience, some PTs choose to become board certified in a particular clinical specialty, such as pediatrics or sports PT.
Aptitude Test and Application
Pre-Physical Therapy students generally take the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE. It is usually taken in the spring of your junior year, or the following summer. Application is made through a centralized service called PTCAS (Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service). There are more than 150 PT programs that participate in PTCAS.