Physical Therapy Pathways

CSUEB Pre-Healthcare Advising

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: 

  • Meet with a patient and assess their concerns and issues with movement and function.
  • Diagnose a patient's primary issues by observing their movement, and listening to the patient.
  • Review notes from a patient's medical history, which is provided by a physician, surgeon or specialist.
  • Create and build a plan with the patient to address areas of concern (for example: knee pain and how to lessen that pain over time); highlighting goals and outcomes of the plan.
  • Use a variety of techniques during each session, such as exercises, hands-on therapy, stretching, and different equipment to help alleviate a patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and move towards their health goals. They may recommend a wheelchair, crutches, walker or cane for a patient.
  • Record a patients’ progress in recovery, and change the modality or plan based on the progress seen in sessions.
  • Collaborate and guide the families and/or caregivers about the patient's plan for recovery. Provide resources for coping with the challenges they might experience. 
  • Develop wellness classes or programs for patients and their families to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

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:

  • Kinesiology
  • Physics
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology

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:

  • specialist certification or completion of a residency in a specialty area
  • substantial clinical experience in a specialty area
  • demonstrable clinical skills within a particular specialty area.

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.

The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy Board of California

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)

Seats: 74

California State University, Fresno

Average GPA (Overall): 3.60 (their minimum is 3.0)

California State University, Long Beach

Average GPA (Overall): 3.70 (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 36

California State University, Northridge

Average GPA (Overall): 3.71 (their minimum is 2.7)

Seats: 32

California State University, Sacramento

Average GPA (Overall): 3.81 (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 32

Chapman University

Summer Class-2021

Average GPA (Overall): 3.48  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 40

Fall Class-2021

Average GPA (Overall): 3.62  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 40

Loma Linda University

Average GPA (Overall): 3.7  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 70

Mount Saint Mary’s University

Average GPA (Overall): 3.37  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 35

Samuel Merritt University

Average GPA (Overall): 3.39 (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 50

University of California, San Francisco/San Francisco State University

Average GPA (Overall): 3.57  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 50

University of Southern California (Hybrid & Residential)

Average GPA (Overall): 3.57  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 148

University of St Augustine for Health Sciences - California (Residential & Flex)

Average GPA (Overall): 3.18  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 65/ 30

University of the Pacific

Average GPA (Overall): 3.56  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 36

West Coast University

Average GPA (Overall):  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 44

Western University of Health Sciences

Average GPA (Overall): 3.38  (their minimum is 3.0)

Seats: 54

Pre-reqs chart:

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. 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.

The scores required for admission for each program can be found under the program information

Under the ‘Program Requirements’ tab

Note that during the COVID-19 pandemic many schools are changing requirements. Check for updates here,

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) 885-3621

  • Build partnerships with AACE, Community Engagement Office and Internships Coordinator Mariaelena Marcano
  • Topics that students might need guidance on: how to shadow a PT in their clinic, how to effectively interview (although interviews are becoming less common)

Students pursuing a career in physical therapy are encouraged to do one or more of the following:

  • Conduct an informational interview, shadow, or observe a physical therapist. Exposure to a number of different areas may help you with clarity of career choice. 
  • Find healthcare-related volunteer opportunities. Volunteer experience is part of the application requirements for DPT programs. Typically, it ranges from 50-100 hours in any type of physical therapy setting. Contacting facilities and asking for volunteer opportunities is the best approach.  
  • Non-PT volunteer experience is a good way to add another layer to your application. It’s another way of demonstrating that you have the qualities the profession is looking for by volunteering for community events.
  • Find a healthcare-related Internship or Job.

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.

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.

Start your application process at least 3-6 months before the admissions cycle begins. Review the ‘Quick Start Guide’ on the PTCAS website:

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.

Personal Statement

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.

  • Keep the topic general - not specific to one program
  • Do NOT exceed 4500 characters (INCLUDING spaces)
  • Use your own words
  • Use simple formatting

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.


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. 

Supplemental Applications

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.

Cal State East Bay Semester Conversion:

You should not convert your quarter credits to semester credits.

GPA Calculation

PTCAS calculates multiple GPA’s, refer to this website

You MUST submit ALL courses taken EVEN if you have repeated a course.

Choosing a major at CSUEB

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?


Preparation for a Healthcare pathway

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? 

What does it mean when a program requires a prerequisite be taken at a “regionally accredited institution”? Would my transfer credit from highschool or community college be considered? 

When should I start taking my prerequisite courses? 

Finding healthcare experience(s) while at CSUEB

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? 

Graduate program applications

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”?

The linked presentation provides a compehensive approach to applyimng to PT schools.