Physical Therapy

A physical therapist (PT) is responsible for:

  • Diagnosing a patient's dysfunctional movements through observance and listening to concerns
  • Outlining goals and planned treatments
  • Using exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy and equipment to ease a patient's pain and increase mobility
  • Evaluating progress and modifying treatment plans as needed
  • Educating patients and their families on how best to cope during recovery
a human figure running on a treadmill

Degree Program

According to the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) Physical Therapist (PT) Education Overview:

"Professional (entry-level) physical therapist education programs in the United States only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to all new students who enroll. The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered to any new students in the United States. To practice as a physical therapist in the U.S., you must earn a physical therapist degree from a CAPTE-accredited* physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam."

* The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)

Course Prerequisites

Prerequisites for admission vary significantly across PT programs. Visit the school website or the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) program directory to view specific requirements for each institution. You can also view the PTCAS Comparison of Course Prerequisites that lists the required and recommended course prerequisites by program and criteria to meet the prerequisites.

For example, some PT programs only accept anatomy and/or physiology courses completed in a biology, neuroscience, anatomy or integrated physiology department. PT programs may not accept a combined anatomy and physiology (A&P) course or those completed in other departments, such as kinesiology.

The most commonly required course prerequisites may include the following:

  • School dependent: Anatomy and Physiology I (EXNS 2210, fall)/Anatomy (BISC 2581 - 3 credits)
  • School dependent: Anatomy and Physiology II (EXNS 2211, spring)/Physiology (BISC 3122/3123 - 4 credits)
  • Biology 1 & 2 (BISC 1111, BISC 1112)
  • Advanced Biology - some examples include:
    • Cell Biology (BISC 2202)
    • Embryology
    • Genetics (BISC 2207/2208)
    • Histology
    • Immunology (BISC 3212)
    • Microbiology (BISC 2336/2337)
    • Molecular Biology (BISC 4132)
  • Chemistry 1 & 2 (CHEM 1111, CHEM 1112)
  • Physics 1 & 2 (PHYS 1011 and PHYS 1012 or PHYS 1021 and PHYS 1022 or PHYS 1025 and PHYS 1026)
  • Psychology (PSYC 1001)
  • Advanced Psychology - some examples include
    • Abnormal (PSYC 2011)
    • Developmental (PSYC 2013)
    • Rehabilitation
    • Sports Psychology
  • Statistics (STAT 1051, 1053, 1111, or 1127)
  • English Composition (UW1020 and WID requirements)

Application Requirements



Most PT programs require that applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). You should take the GRE at least six weeks before the application deadline.

GPA and Extracurricular Experience

According to data published by PTCAS (PDF), the average overall GPA for students accepted into physical therapy programs was 3.57 in 2017-2018.

In addition, many programs require applicants to have a certain number of hours of volunteer or paid PT experience working with patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. The program may specify the settings and types of experiences required. Applicants may also be required to have a licensed physical therapist verify the hours. This experience may be an important factor in the admissions process. For more information, please see the APTA's Physical Therapist (PT) Admissions Process.

Application Process

Most professional PT programs participate in the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), an online application process. Applicants who wish to apply to a non-participating PTCAS program must apply directly to the institution using that program’s local application. View the PTCAS program directory to see which programs participate in PTCAS.

Apply Early

PTCAS typically opens in late June/early July. Application deadlines vary, and it is your responsibility to know the deadlines for each school to which you apply. Some schools have a rolling admissions process, so apply well in advance to have the best chance of admission.

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