The UAAC encourages all pre-phyiscal therapy students to meet with a health professions adviser during their freshmen or sophomore year to discuss their plan to pursue a career in physical therapy. Click here to schedule an appointment!
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- Professional Responsibilities
- Resources: Learn More About Physical Therapy
- Professional Education
- Applying to Physical Therapy Programs
Do the following words/phrases describe you? If so physical therapy may be a good fit:
- Enjoys working with people
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Strong communication skills
- Would like to work with other health care professionals
- Interested in assessing, restoring, treating and enhancing patients' physical functions.
- Would like a well-compensated career ($66,200 national median salary)
- Improve patients' strength and mobility
- Restore function
- Relieve pain
- Prevent or limit permanent disabilities
- Help people reach their health goals
- Work closely with the patient and other health care providers
- Provide instruction and home programs to patients
Resources: Learn More About Physical Therapy
- Degrees Offered: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)
- Years of Study: most programs are 2 to 3+ years
A B.S./B.A. degree is required for admission to the majority of programs. Graduates of accredited PT programs must pass a state licensure exam in order to practice.
Applying to Physical Therapy Programs
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Courses required for admission vary significantly from one institution to another. The following courses are mentioned frequently as being required and/or recommended by over 50% of PT programs:
- Anatomy and physiology (minimum one course)
- Chemistry (minimum one course)
- Physics (minimum two courses)
- Statistics (minimum one course)
- Biology (minimum one course)
Other courses that may be required less than 50% of the time by PT programs:
- English composition
- Social science
- Exercise physiology
- Human development
- Organic chemistry
- Research methods
- Cell biology
For information on specific physical therapy programs' requirements:
- List of PT programs and their course requirements
- Chart for all PT programs admission requirements - "Course Prerequisites Summary"
Some courses may not be available at Northwestern University and may have to be taken elsewhere. We encourage you to meet with a health professions adviser to discuss PT programs and course requirements.
Physical therapy students come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Applicants are not required to major in "pre-physical therapy" or any other specific major in college to be eligible for admission to a PT program. However, because PT programs vary so much in required coursework, students should begin researching possible programs early to determine if their choice of major will fulfill all or most of the PT program requirements.
Choosing a Physical Therapy Program
Choose a physical therapy program carefully based upon factors that are important to your own learning needs. Consider program content, geographic location, faculty; facilities, experiential training opportunities, class size, student demographics, extracurricular opportunities, and cost.
For state-supported public institutions, legal residence may have a significant impact on admissions decisions. Private institutions may offer out-of-state and foreign applicants a greater number of positions as compared to state-supported, public institutions.
1. Academic ability
- Successful completion of prerequisite coursework, usually with a grade of C or above.
- Most PT programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, but accepted GPA averages are much higher.
- Most programs require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.
2. Physical therapy exposure and experience
Many schools require volunteer or paid experience working with patients in a physical therapy setting. Volunteer experiences allow applicants to test their career decision and be confident that PT is a good fit. Applicants who have researched and gained direct exposure to the profession will also be better prepared to write a compelling application essay and respond to interview questions.
Obtaining PT experiences:
- A list of PT shadowing resources can be obtained from the University Academic Advising Center.
- The Extracurricular Opportunities section of this web site may also contain information about other organizations that may provide exposure to physical therapy.
3. Letters of Reference
Most physical therapy degree programs require 1-3 letters of recommendation, and may require that these letters come from particular individuals, such as a physical therapist, professor, or academic advisor. Ultimately, applicants should check each school's specific directions regarding letters of recommendation.
Although the University Academic Advising Center offers a recommendation file service, this service may not be the best option for submitting letters of recommendation for physical therapy programs.
- If asked to interview for a physical therapy program, you should be prepared to discuss why you are pursuing a career in the physical therapy profession and how you perceive the role of the physical therapist in health care.
- You are most likely to be rated on how you present yourself and interact in a group, your knowledge of the profession, and your motivation to pursue a career in physical therapy.
- Some PT programs do not interview their applicants.
- Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)
Many (but not all) PT programs use this centralized application service.
- Direct Application
Some PT institutions may require you to apply directly to their programs
- Supplemental Application
Some PT programs that use PTCAS may also require applicants to complete supplemental applications for their specific programs.
Check PTCAS for a list of program deadlines