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What specific classes or credits do I need to complete in order to become a physical therapist?

Hi, I am a sophomore in high school and I am really interested in physical therapy. At first I was looking into athletic training but I wanted to set a higher goal for myself, such as becoming a physical therapist. I am a very active teen and I love staying healthy. I think job would be a very good fit for me. #physical-therapy #physical-therapist

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Isabel’s Answer

Sophia. I remember being in your shoes some time ago and I became an Athletic Trainer in hopes of becoming a Physical Therapist. I am now practicing as a Physical Therapist Assistant. These 3 professions do have overlap and most of the time per-requisites/course requirements are already completed going the route of PTA->ATC->PT pending 1-4 additional courses required per specificity of school program which you can always appeal with coursework already taken. Physical Therapist Assistant is an Associates Degree that can be achieved within 12months, 15months, or 24months depending on the program that you choose(the less time to obtain the degree, the higher the cost). Athletic Training is now a Masters Degree, so going this route may impede your overall dream of becoming a Physical Therapist which is now a standard Doctorate Degree across the USA; however, with differing time frames for completion depending on the educational program.
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Linda’s Answer

I am excited about your interest. After high school, you will need a bachelor's degree that incorporates prerequisites for a doctoral program. There are so many options for DPT programs in the US. You could start looking at the university programs near you to assist you with choosing an undergrad degree. You might want to reach out directly to program directors or a local PT to begin connecting to the profession. For more information about the profession, you could also look at the National Physical Therapy Association website.
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Heather’s Answer

Hi Sophia -This is my first time answering questions, so I hope that this helps. I agree with Maria you will need to look at the pre-program and graduation requirements at the school(s) you are thinking about attending. First you will need to decide if you are going to do a 4 year degree or a 3+ 3 year degree. I graduated over 10 years ago and I believe that there was only a few schools that were only a Masters level left, the rest had all converted to a DPT program. The basics in science are typically a must for application into any pre- PT program. Remember if you do not get a degree in something that requires all of the pre-required classes; you will still have to take them. Each school will ask for pretty much the same classes. Some might ask for an extra lab, or they might want a higher level anatomy. Some PT schools are 2 years 6 terms, (going to school through the summers) while others are 3 years two terms (summers off) or 3 terms (work through the summers). Make sure that you do your homework and pick the school that is right for you and your needs. I went to a Problem Based Learning model. It was great for me, since I was an adult returning to college. Since it is your first time in a graduate program, it might be very difficult for some students. It is not a typical lecture based style. Make sure you look at the way the program is taught, not just the price.
Best of luck for you and your future!

Heather recommends the following next steps:

Research the schools see if they offer a 3+3 program or a 4+2 or a 4+3 program
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Maria Cecilia’s Answer

Hi Sophia - thanks for your interest and question. I am in agreement with the other answers provided. You will definitely need to look at the pre-program and graduation requirements at the school(s) you are thinking about attending. The basics in science are typically a must for application into any PT program. Because schools are now Master's or Doctorate level programs (I graduated many more years ago and have a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy), you will definitely want to be sure that you meet all the requirements, not only for getting into PT school, but also for receiving those higher level degrees. Overall, you will need to do a bit of leg work , especially if you plan on applying at several educational institutions. Best wishes and good luck!!
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Kevin’s Answer

Hey Sophia! Like Linda stated, every school is a little different, but in general, most Physical Therapy programs require classes in Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics during your undergraduate study. You can technically major in anything that you would like in College, and Athletic Training and Exercise Science are both great options as they do align well with the pre-requsites required for most physical therapy programs. The main application website is called PTCAS when you apply to PT school, and you can take a look at a variety of programs and their requirements. I would suggest doing well in all of your science classes, as when I applied in 2012, the system actually separates out the GPA you get in all of your Science Classes from your overall GPA. Hope that helps!
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