Physical Therapy

Overview

Physical therapists work to restore and maintain body function.  They do this through testing current body function, including range of motion, strength, and balance, and then creating care plans that include treatments such as exercise, electrotherapy, and mobilization.  Patient education is also a key part of what physical therapists do, as they must teach patients how to cope with injuries or physical limitations, how to recover as speedily as possible, and how to prevent future injuries.  The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website is a great resource you can use to learn more about what it means to be a physical therapist.

Prerequisite Coursework

The coursework required by PT schools varies from school to school.  It is your responsibility to research the schools you are interested in and plan to meet their requirements.  Commonly required or recommended courses include biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and psychology.

Physical therapy schools do not use your undergraduate major as a selection criterion.  Because of this, you may choose any major you would like and still be accepted to OT schools if you finish the prerequisite coursework.

Applying

Physical therapy schools require applicants to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).  

In order to streamline the application process, APTA recently began providing the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), which allows students to submit one application to apply to multiple schools.  A majority of PT schools use application services, but not all schools are participating.  The PTCAS website is a great resource for researching which schools are participating and their prerequisite requirements or to begin an application.  To get a feel for where usu students have gone in the past and to see what GPAs were competitive, view our acceptance spreadsheet.

Letter of recommendation requirements vary from school to school.  Again, it is your responsibility to research the programs you are interested in and plan to meet their requirements.  APTA publishes a list of letter requirements for schools participating in the PTCAS to help you navigate these requirements.

One of the most important parts of the application is the interview.  Be sure to prepare thoroughly!

Extracurricular Activities

PT programs are looking for students who posses the character traits that will make them good healthcare providers.  Involvement in extracurricular activities is a great way to demonstrate these character traits, especially since supervisors in these areas are often the people who will be writing letters of recommendation for you.  It is particularly important that you observe practicing PTs, as nearly all schools require observation hours and a letter of recommendation from a physical therapist.