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What are the steps or educational requirements to become a Physical Therapist?

I am a Sophomore in High school and went to college career fairs for the career physical therapy and ever since, have taken the interest in becoming a Physical Therapist. I understand how a physical therapist operates and what they do, but I am interested in learning how to become one in the future whether it's through college or internships . As I am coming closer to graduation, I want to understand what educational requirements I have to do to become a physical therapist so I could look for great colleges for this career and prepare my future. #physical-therapy #physical-therapist #physical #therapy #medicine

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Ashlee’s Answer

Hi Isis, I am an Academic Advisor, and help students get into professional programs. With that being said, in order to apply for professional DPT (doctor physical therapy) programs you'll need to complete a Bachelors degree (preferably in Biomed/Health Sciences/Pre-Physical Therapy, but not necessarily), and have as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible. In addition, I would recommend completing as many job shadowing/observational contact hours as possible as well as volunteering as much as you're able to. In addition, you'll also want to complete the required pre-requisite courses like Anatomy and Physiology, Statistics, Psychology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Micro Biology. However, these vary school to school, so it's a good idea to google the program you want to get into and their pre-req courses. For example, if you type in google: "cal state dpt prereqs," the first link that pops up allows you to select location (I picked Sacramento because I have folks there :) and then their "approved pre-req course list" is on the right hand side of the page. These pre-req classes are extremely important to complete, prior to applying to any program, otherwise you may not get in the first go-around until these classes are completed (and that's what you're trying to avoid). Most DPT programs also require you to complete the GRE entrance test before applying as well as require professional recommendation letters from faculty you worked with as an undergrad. I would also highly recommend working with your Faculty on completing any research and publications you can as well. Finally, whatever program you end up focusing on, I also recommend working with your faculty/staff advisors on all the steps to get to your ultimate career goal. I know this is a lot of info, but it's all important. Remember: you can do it!

I am a PT (graduated almost 4 years ago, wow) and this has the most comprehensive information! You can major in anything as long as prerequisites are completed. While kinesiology or biology gives you a leg up in many cases, my class had a wide variety of majors, including psychology, theology, pre-law, and business. Most programs require somewhere around 100 hours of observation in at least two settings (in a hospital and in a clinic, for example). Morgan Kolencherry

I really appreciate your feedback Morgan! All of this info is how I've gotten so many students into professional programs like Baylor/TAMU/UNTHSC etc. However, I really appreciate an actual Professional PT, like yourself, providing Isis with more detailed information. You're awesome! Ashlee R.

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David’s Answer


I am not a Physical Therapist but I am a Speech Therapist and have worked with Physical Therapists for years. To begin, you need to get into college. You'll take a lot of science and biology with some schools also requiring physics. Beginning of your senior year, you'll begin preparing to apply to graduate school. This will require a high GPA, letters of recommendations, probably volunteer experience, etc. PT school is three years as all PT's are now required to have a doctorate (DPT). The final year if I remember correctly is all spent in rotations acquiring experience. You will then have to pass boards in order to acquire licensure.

Best of luck,


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Aleksi’s Answer

Hi Isis,

Great question! I'm glad you are starting to look into this so early in your schooling. Much like med-school, PT school is a competitive field to get into. You will want to start completing the prerequisites courses likely within your 1st or 2nd year of college. The responses provided have given you thorough information. I have been a physical therapist for almost 3 years now. I completed my schooling at the University of Minnesota. I wanted to provide you their list of prerequisite courses, which I took straight from their admissions page. This can be found at https://med.umn.edu/rehabmedicine/about/divisions/physical-therapy/doctor-physical-therapy/admission-standards

General Biology, with lab
A second Biology course of the student's choice, with lab
Human Anatomy – lab strongly recommended
Human Physiology - lab strongly recommended
General Chemistry – two semesters, with lab
General Physics – two semesters, with lab; content must include mechanics and electricity
General Psychology
Abnormal Psychology
Statistics - ANOVA and regression analysis content strongly recommended
Calculus (Pre-Calculus not acceptable; Intro to Calculus or Short Calculus acceptable)
Medical Terminology

On this website I also found some data regarding averages of GPA and GRE test scores for the past 4 years.
For example:

Class of 2022
Number of applicants: 210
Class size: 52
Acceptance rate: 24.8%
Overall undergrad GPA: 3.70
GRE Verbal: 153.64
GRE Quantitative: 155.07
GRE Analytical Writing: 4.28

Remember these are averages so some individuals will be higher and some will be lower. The important thing is to be a well-rounded applicant. And it's okay if you have to apply a second time! Don't get discouraged, just stay dedicated and make sure to talk to the admissions staff to see how you can strengthening your application! Much like others have said you will want to gain a wide variety of shadowing opportunities looking at different populations, settings and injuries/conditions. PT schools want to make sure that you are committed to the 3 year long program.
You're already taking the steps to be successful and are on the right path! Hope this helps and best of luck!

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Maryann’s Answer

Colleges requirements can be a bit different. Mostly you are required to do a Bachelor in Science. You need to acquire a specific GPA to enter the Physical Therapy School to achieve the Doctoral degree. It's a very demanding school.
Best wishes.

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Estelle’s Answer

Hi Isis!

I'm not a PT, but I am a physician and surgeon and work with PTs all the time!

From what I understand, PT program takes about 3 years to complete. This is after ~4 years of college, taking the required pre-requisites, and taking an entrance exam.

I think that PTs are a vital part of the healthcare team and I wish you the best!