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How can I be successful when applying to graduate programs for physical therapy?

This question is part of our professionals series.

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Subject: Career question for you

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Alan’s Answer

This is an excellent question! Graduate school is often the next step for those looking to maximize their career potential. The first thing to consider before applying for graduate school is to determine your commitment level. Most physical therapists are already working full-time jobs after receiving a bachelor's degree. Many working in the medical field work long hours and are usually trying to juggle a work-life balance such as family, friends, and personal health. For those continuing their education without any real work experience, the level of commitment is no different.

One consideration is online learning. There are many universities that offer fully online graduate studies, even in the medical field. This can be extremely helpful for those that are capable of learning with minimum to no supervision and still make A's and B's.

Another consideration is hybrid learning, which is a mixture of online learning and on-campus learning. This is how most universities teach these days since much of the subject-matter research can be done online from home. The learning and training that requires you to be on campus ensure you are getting hands-on training and first-hand education.

The last consideration is on-campus learning. This is the traditional method of study for graduate students, although, you will continue to have online learning for assignments that need to be completed outside of the classroom. In many cases, some level of on-campus learning is required for those working in the medical field due to the need to interact directly with patients, but not all.

Next, you should consider how you will finance graduate studies. Grants and loans are still an option, as long as you have not hit any caps. Researching scholarships is a good idea and if successful, will reduce how much you will have to pay.

The application process should start at least 6 months in advance of your anticipated start date. In many cases, you will need to submit an essay on any range of topics. It could be as simple as writing about why they should accept your application or something related to the degree you are seeking.

Never stop asking questions to college counselors, peers, and professionals as they can provide you with invaluable insight. Do your research on the university you are considering and make sure it is credible and accredited. Prepare yourself mentally for the journey through to graduation. The only grades that are acceptable and As and Bs... consider anything less an F. Retake classes you don't do so well in. Graduate degree holders are generally considered experts in their fields. And lastly, do not worry so much about the admittance process. Getting accepted may be easier than you expected.

Best of luck to you on the journey.
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Lisa’s Answer

Thanks for connecting with us in the Career Village; we need more Physical Therapists, so Kudos to you for pursuing this pathway!

Depending on your career objective, you can study to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy (typically 4yrs with residency or clinical experience ) or stop at master’s level (typically 2yrs). Both will allow you to function as a therapist.

One of the first things you can do is to do some research about schools that offer these programs, go to their virtual information sessions and see what they require for admissions. Meaning, in addition to an undergraduate degree, these programs may want specific courses completed before you’re admitted.

Then, you will need to get good grades in these required classes or exams needed for admissions into these programs. For example, these programs may want you to have completed biology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, physics, chemistry, and calculus, etc. as an undergrad. If not, you can still take them at a community college or through other accredited schools or avenues.

For exams, both the masters and doctoral programs may also want the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as part of their admissions process. You can prepare for this exam during our after your undergrad. degree.

Finally, depending on end goals, you may want to choose a program more closely aligned to your career goals. For example, you can choose a program that will prepare you to work with children or geriatrics, athletes or sports, orthopedics or neurologists. Again, doing some research on what’s possible in the field will be key in your process and how you will prepare.

I hope this helps and I wish you all the best as you move towards your career goals!

Lisa







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Krishna’s Answer

I don't have direct experience with applying for PT schools, but I applied to get a MBA and feel like there may be some overlap. Having good grades and courses relevant to the graduate program is a great place to start. The next step would be getting some volunteer experience under someone who already practices as a Physical Therapist. You may need to call therapists you don't know but if you are kind and explain what you're trying to achieve, there are people that are out there who would take you under their wing. Lastly, when you're applying, if the application has open ended questions, be sure to express clearly why you want to become a physical therapist. You don't need to say that you wanted to do it since the day you were born (in fact schools can see through that). You want to give your honest reason and be as authentic as possible.

Hope this helps!
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