Physical Therapists (PT) are healthcare professionals who care for patients of all ages (from newborns to the elderly), and are concerned with improving the mobility and function of the body. Patients may seek out a Physical Therapist after an injury, or to improve function because of a disability or a disease.
Physical Therapists work in collaboration with physicians, surgeons as well as other specialists in the medical field. Some PT’s specialize in certain fields like orthopedics or women’s health.
Some typical responsibilities of a Physical Therapist:
Bachelor's degree and complete all pre-PT requirements, including prerequisites (tab4), the GRE (tab5), and experiences (4+ years) (Tab 7)
Your bachelor’s degree does not have to be in pre-physical therapy but it is recommended to be in the health-related field. Most graduate schools require students to have prerequisite courses completed in subjects such as chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, psychology, and statistics. Therefore, selecting a major with a heavy emphasis in science would be ideal. Here are some common majors for physical therapy:
Accredited DPT Program (3 years)
A graduate degree is required for a career as a Physical Therapist. The current entry level degree is an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The degree prepares students for licensure as physical therapists. The program typically lasts three years. Students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher throughout the program. A typical physical therapy curriculum consists of 80% classroom and lab study, and 20% clinical education.
Become licensed in the state you wish to practice
All states require PTs to become licensed. To be eligible for licensure the DPT degree must be successfully completed. Licensing requirements are set by individual states but all include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The NPTE is a computerized, multiple-choice exam. Applicants may take the exam three times in a twelve-month period. The Practice Exam and Assessment Tool (PEAT) allows applicants to practice taking the test using an exam that resembles the NPTE.
Optional: Complete residency (1 year)
After becoming licensed there is an opportunity to continue learning and expanding the knowledge in the field. One way of doing this is by applying to a clinical residency program for additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. Completing a clinical residency program is ideal if you are looking to work in a specific setting or with a specific population. These programs typically last one year. A residency experience prepares you to become a board-certified clinical specialist. Residency experience tends to be very rewarding since this is the time that you get to practice your profession in the way you hoped you would.
Optional: Complete fellowship (length varies)
Another way to continue learning and expanding the knowledge after becoming licensed is by taking part in a fellowship. Fellowship is a post-professional, funded, and planned learning experience in a focused area of clinical practice, education, or research. A fellowship is designed for the graduate of a residency or board-certified physical therapist to focus on a subspecialty area. Clinical fellowship program applicants must have the following qualifications:
Choosing PT Programs
There are a variety of factors that go into choosing which PT programs to apply to, including tuition, location, environment (i.e. urban), class size, focus or mission statement, etc. Spend some time researching schools online and create a spreadsheet that tracks the factors most important to you.
Remember that PT is a licensed profession and ALL programs will cover the required content to prepare you for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE®). If you plan on attending school in a state that is not the state you want to practice in, check out this website. https://pt.fsbpt.net/UserJourneyMap
The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy https://www.fsbpt.org/Secondary-Pages/Exam-Candidates
Physical Therapy Board of California https://www.ptbc.ca.gov/index.shtml
There are over 200 accredited PT programs in the U.S., with 15 programs in California.
List of programs that use the Physical Therapy Centralized Application System (PTCAS)
California PT Programs: Seat number, Average GPA for 2018 class, and program information
Azusa Pacific University
Average GPA (Overall): 3.5 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.60 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.70 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.71 (their minimum is 2.7)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.81 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.48 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.62 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.7 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.37 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.39 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.57 (their minimum is 3.0)
University of Southern California (Hybrid & Residential)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.57 (their minimum is 3.0)
University of St Augustine for Health Sciences - California (Residential & Flex)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.18 (their minimum is 3.0)
Seats: 65/ 30
Average GPA (Overall): 3.56 (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): (their minimum is 3.0)
Average GPA (Overall): 3.38 (their minimum is 3.0)
We have linked a comprehensive prerequisite chart that PTCAS created for students interested in Physical Therapy programs in the United States. This chart is a useful tool to show you the types of coursework required before graduation from CSUEB, and can serve as a general guide. We strongly recommend that you research the prerequisites required for the specific programs you would like to apply to in the future. Discuss with admissions counselors and your CSUEB faculty advisor, early and often!
NOTE: The numbers in the columns indicate the number of times each subject appears in the Physical Therapy program requirements for admissions. Sometimes the numbers mean a year-long sequence of a subject (like BIOL), a block of courses, or a course option for prerequisites required in a program. Please research your specific programs’ requirements and discuss with your advisor before making class decisions.
Many programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE®) general test. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/ Take the GRE early in case you want to retake the exam.
Exam dates and codes for each program are here.
To find free on-line GRE prep info go to this link. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/khan_academy
The scores required for admission for each program can be found under the program information https://ptcasdirectory.apta.org/39/List-of-PTCAS-Programs?qst=
Under the ‘Admissions Requirements’ tab
Note that during the COVID-19 pandemic many schools are changing requirements. Check for updates here, https://ptcasdirectory.apta.org/8/Community-Feed
If you’re passionate about helping people and making a difference in their lives, working in the health field can be one of the most rewarding career choices there is. Not only do you receive great job satisfaction from helping others but working in the health field will also provide a competitive earning potential, job security, and opportunities for advancement. If you are unsure about what type of career you are interested in the health field the following sites could help you get started:
You may also find it helpful to speak with one of our career advisors at AACE. You can do so by booking an appointment through AACE.
Phone: (510) 885-3621Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Students pursuing a career in physical therapy are encouraged to do one or more of the following:
The majority of Physical Therapy programs use the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). The PTCAS website has a wealth of information so bookmark it as a reference. https://ptcasdirectory.apta.org/39/List-of-PTCAS-Programs
The PTCAS admissions cycle begins late June/early July and closes early June the following year.
Not all schools and programs participate in PTCAS. If a program does not use PTCAS, you will need to apply through their specific program application found on the admissions website. A list of those schools is here. https://ptcasdirectory.apta.org/39/List-of-PTCAS-Programs?qst=non-participating
Start your application process at least 3-6 months before the admissions cycle begins. Review the ‘Quick Start Guide’ on the PTCAS website: https://help.liaisonedu.com/PTCAS_Applicant_Help_Center/Starting_Your_PTCAS_Application/Getting_Started_with_Your_PTCAS_Application/01_Quick_Start_Guide
Application Timeframe: The entire process could take 6 months to a year. Preparing early will alleviate stress and allow you to present the strongest application possible.
Things you can do PRIOR to setting up a PTCAS account.
The personal statement prompt for the 2020-2021 application cycle:
"Every person has a story that has led them to a career. Since there are a variety of health professions that "help" others, please go beyond your initial interaction or experiences with physical therapy, and share the deeper story that has confirmed your decision to specifically pursue physical therapy as your career."
In addition to updating the personal essay prompt, clarifying instructional text will be added to the top of the essay page within the application, reading:
"DPT program faculty and admissions committees are looking for you to use this essay to persuade the reader that the physical therapy professions is the right fit for you. Please keep this in mind as you complete your personal essay."
PTCAS allows 4500 characters (including spaces) for your personal essay.
The personal statement is your first chance to provide PT program admissions committees with subjective information about your qualifications and your reasons for choosing a particular career. In other words, the personal statement is your initial opportunity to present yourself as an interesting and unique applicant who deserves a closer look.
Note the key hints on the PTCAS website.
Letters of Recommendation
Plan ahead and cultivate professional relationships. You will need 2-4 Letters of Recommendation depending on the program. Determine the requirements of your programs of interest here. https://ptcasdirectory.apta.org/5256/Reference-Requirements-by-Program
Some PT programs require interviews, and interview formats vary by school.
Examples of interviews include one-on-one conversation with faculty, physical therapists, or a panel of interviewers.
Locally Samuel Merritt does NOT require an interview and SFSU/UCSF has a day with group interviews.
Most schools will also require a supplemental application. A supplemental fee is usually required and the cost will vary among schools.
It is YOUR responsibility to check the requirements for each school to ensure all have been fulfilled. Failure to submit required materials by each school's deadline may jeopardize the applicant's eligibility for admission consideration.
Here is a link to programs supplemental requirements and fees. https://ptcasdirectory.apta.org/5255/Supplementals
Cal State East Bay Semester Conversion:
You should not convert your quarter credits to semester credits. https://help.liaisonedu.com/PTCAS_Applicant_Help_Center/Filling_Out_Your_PTCAS_Application/Academic_History/04_Transcript_Entry
PTCAS calculates multiple GPA’s, refer to this website https://help.liaisonedu.com/PTCAS_Applicant_Help_Center/Submitting_and_Monitoring_Your_PTCAS_Application/Verification_and_GPA_Calculations_for_PTCAS/3_Calculating_Your_GPAs
You MUST submit ALL courses taken EVEN if you have repeated a course.
Do I have to choose a science major to go into a health care graduate program?
How do I find out which major is best for pre-dental, pre-med, pre-vet (etc.) programs after I graduate?
Should I also pursue a minor at CSUEB? Should I double major?
If I retake a prerequisite course, will it replace the original grade on my transcript?
I am considering withdrawing from one of my pre-healthcare prerequisites, but I don’t know how this will impact me. Who should I talk to about this?
How do I find out if I should pursue a healthcare career?
Would it be acceptable to take prerequisites at a community college for my intended post-bacc graduate programs?
When should I start taking my prerequisite courses?
Where can I look on the CSUEB website for healthcare-related volunteer opportunities or internships?
How many hours should I complete to be competitive on my graduate program applications? Is it important to gain healthcare experience, or can I count the hours helping others (generally) in my community?
I have a lot of experience being in hospitals due to a family member's illness; will this suffice as experience in the healthcare setting for program applications?
How do I learn more about the entrance exams for the field I want to go into (pre-med, Physical Therapy, etc.)?
When should I start studying for those exams?
What are the recommended steps I should take during my undergraduate career at CSUEB?
When do I need to start applying?
What if I take a “gap year” after I graduate from CSUEB, will this look bad on my graduate school applications?
Who should I ask for letters of recommendation?
What are “supplemental applications”?