Physical Therapy

Guidelines for Entry Level Masters and Doctoral Programs

“The physical therapist (PT) provides services aimed at preventing the onset and/or slowing the progression of conditions resulting from injury, disease, and other causes. The physical therapist provides these services to people of all ages who have functional conditions resulting from back and neck injuries, sprains/strains and fractures, arthritis, burns, amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, birth defects such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida, injuries related to work and sports, and others” (The American Physical Therapy Association).

Although many of the 120,000 practicing PTs work in hospitals, nearly 80 percent of PTs practice in outpatient clinics or offices, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing, extended care, home, education or research centers, schools, hospices, industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments, fitness centers and sports training facilities.

Physical therapists attain their skills through extensive academic and clinical education. One may earn a masters in physical therapy (MPT), or a post-baccalaureate degree, that is, doctor of physical therapy (DPT). There are 142 accredited professional (entry-level) DPT programs; the length of the majority of these programs has been extended beyond the traditional two-year masters program. The final or culminating clinical education experience is typically extended beyond the average of 15 weeks; some are 1 year in length. One of the key differences between the two is that DPTs do not need a referral from a medical doctor to treat patients, MPTs do. Research MPT and DPT programs, and decide what programs work best for you. There are currently 234 PTA programs across the country.

Admission into physical therapy programs is most often based on prerequisite course work, an interview, and essay. In addition, most programs also require direct observation of the field through internships or volunteer work (anywhere from 20 – 100 hours).

Addresses of accredited physical therapy programs are available from the Pre-Health Secretary, and are also available online from The American Physical Therapy Association (http://www.apta.org/). Because the requirements for physical therapy programs are so diverse, it is best to contact at least 10 different programs and learn their specific requirements—in relation, of course, to which track you choose to follow, MPT or DPT. If you have decided physical therapy is your career of choice, take note of the list below.

Things to plan for:

  1. Research schools of interest
  2. Take required classes for schools of choice
  3. Observe physical therapists in the workplace
  4. Plan to take the GRE and note the various deadlines for the GRE. Most students who apply for acceptance in the fall semester after graduation take the entrance exam in the spring-summer of their junior year.
  5. Note each prospective school's application deadline 
Most Doctoral Physical Therapy Programs Require:
Subject
Course Rubric and Number
Biology (1 Year) BIOL 117 & BIOL 118
Chemistry (1 Year)  CHEM 107 & CHEM 108
Human Anatomy & Physiology (1 Year) BIOL 251 & BIOL 347 (or BIOL 252)
Physics (1 Year) PHYS 121 & PHYS 122
Psychology (1 Semester) PSYC 111
Statistics (1 Semester) MATH 147 or MATH 148 or PSYC 243
English (1 Year) Any course in English (ENG), Rhetoric (RHET), Writing (WRIT), Creative Writing (CW) or Comparative Literature (COLI) departments.

Additional requirements may include some of the following courses. The lists of requirements below are by no means all inclusive. Please contact the schools you are interested in applying to or review the prerequisite requirements on each school's admissions websites.  Click here for an up to date listing of accredited physical therapy programs. 
Subject
Course Rubric and Number
Additional Psychology (1 Year) PSYC 220 or PSYC 223
Calculus (1 Semester) MATH 221
Organic Chemistry (1 Semester) CHEM 231
Cell Biology (1 Semester) BIOL 311
Research Methods (1 Semester) HDEV 300, PSYC 344 or SOC 305 
Social Science (at least 1 semester) Any course from a social science department (ie: ANTH, ECON, GEOG, HIST or SOC).
Humanities (at least 1 semester) Any course from a Humanities Department (ie: COLI, ENG, PHIL)
Human Development (at least 1 semester) Any HDEV course
Computers (1 semester) Any CS course

 

For more information about Physical Therapy Programs, contact:

American Physical Therapy Association
1111 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-1488
703/684-APTA (2782)
800/999-APTA (2782)
TDD: 703/683-6748
Fax: 703/684-7343

Last Updated: 7/15/14