Physical Therapy

A physical therapist works with patients who, through injury or illness, have suffered a loss of mobility and may be suffering from debilitating pain. The role of the physical therapist is to work with the patient to help reduce pain and/or restore function, and to promote quality of life. A physical therapist must enjoy physical activity, and working one-on-one with patients. Physical therapists may work in hospitals, long term care facilities, clinics, home health agencies, schools, fitness centers, work settings, and may even have a private practice.  Many physical therapists hold a master’s degree, however, few masters programs remain. Today nearly all physical therapy students are in programs which lead to the doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). For more on careers in physical therapy, visit http://www.ptcas.org/CareersEducation/.

The PhD degree in physical therapy would be appropriate for someone interested in research or an academic career in that area.

It is possible to enter a dual career program in physical therapy and athletic training. These programs generally require 6-7 years of study, and prepare one to work in clinics, high schools, and universities, and with professional sports teams, to treat and rehabilitate injured athletes. There are a limited number of dual degree programs but some offer a small number of graduate assistantships, which include a tuition waver and stipend.

Some students specifically are interested in sports medicine. In sports medicine, you work with athletes, assisting with their training and aiding in injury rehabilitation. Those employed in sports medicine can be not only physical therapists, but also MDs and certified athletic trainers. For a list of programs in sports medicine, and further information about the field, visit this web site: http://education-portal.com/schools_that_offer_sports_medicine.html.

Choosing a major

Physical therapy may be the exception to flexibility in choosing a major. Many of the courses in the Department of Health and Exercise Science are appropriate for students hoping to go into PT or sports medicine. Although majoring in HES is not essential, it is beneficial. If you have selected another major and decide later to become a PT, be sure to take all of the prerequisite courses, plus as many of the appropriate HES courses as electives.

To see a list of physical therapy required courses by program, visit this web site:

http://www.ptcas.org/ProgramPrereqs/

Required courses

The courses required for admission vary by program, but in general, they include:

  • Biology (two semesters, but some schools require an additional upper division course)
  • Chemistry (1-2 semesters. The second semester can be general chemistry II or organic I.)
  • Physics (two semesters)
  • Human Physiology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Psychology – some schools require an additional psych course, abnormal psychology
  • Statistics

Additional recommended courses:

  • Exercise physiology
  • Communication

Other useful courses:

  • Biomechanics
  • Nutrition

To see a list of required courses by program, visit this web site:

http://www.ptcas.org/ProgramPrereqs/

Additional requirements

GRE general test required

The application process

Nearly all physical therapy graduate programs participate in PTCAS (Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service). This service allows students to submit a single application which will then be delivered to the schools to which they have chosen to apply. To learn more about the PTCAS, visit http://www.ptcas.org/home.aspx.

Years of post-graduate education required:

Three years

List of schools that offer degrees in physical therapy

http://physicaltherapy.about.com/od/careersinphysicaltherapy/a/PTSchools.htm