10 answers

What major is most effective if I want to go to grad school for physical therapy?

Updated North Canton, Ohio

Universities offer a few majors/routes for undergrads that could work for PT grad school... which one puts me ahead?
#physical-therapy #undergraduate #major #college-major #college #academic-advising

10 answers

Emily’s Answer

Updated San Antonio, Texas

Most would say kinesiology. Biology is also popular. I was actually a psychology major and started a career in something entirely different before going back to school to get my pre requisites. As long as you you get the appropriate pre requisite courses and have a diverse resume and outstanding personal statement then your major should not be the deciding influential factor. Setting yourself apart from all the other individuals that go the “typical” exercise science route may actually highlight you as different and unique when applying.

DaRonne’s Answer


I would also agree with the advice given above. I graduated with a BA in Psychology. A person in my class in PT school majored in French, another in communications, another in engineering. Schools actually like people who might have what one may think is an odd degree tract for physical therapy. As mentioned in the previous answers, science GPA and overall GPA are paramount to successfully entering physical therapy school. Programs also look at service, activities (I played varsity sports, another person in my class led various student groups on their campus), and proactivity (shadowing hours or working as an aide in different settings).

DaRonne recommends the following next steps:

  • Shadow different therapists in different settings, create relationships to learn a variety of things and garner references; stay on top of your schoolwork but make sure to diversify your experiences by participating in different groups, events, activities; make sure you major in something you're truly interested in while also taking the required sciences and performing well in those classes

Robert E.’s Answer

Updated Fenton, Michigan

No single factor or major puts you "ahead" in an applicant pool outside of objective measures (overall GPA, sciences/pre-req GPA, GRE). Many of my classmates were non-traditional students transferring into sciences (education majors, performing arts, even music). Personally my background was in Exercise Science, and I found this to be in my advantage regarding some of the heavy anatomy and physiology based coursework.

The best means to maximize your chances of getting into a program is to get into a pre-PT program that matriculates students into their graduate program (most schools have this). These programs are listed as 4+3 or 3+3 curriculum and allow for preferential selection into the graduate program if your grades and scores meet their requirements. It also allows you to make a personal connection with faculty and professors within the department which always helps.

Robert E. recommends the following next steps:

  • Schedule a meeting with a DPT program faculty member or director in order to maximize your candidacy!
  • Get all of your volunteer/observation time done ahead of applying!
  • Excel in your undergraduate studies and focus on improving your GPA if necessary!

Jenna’s Answer

Updated Seattle, Washington

I studied Biology with a minor in Chemistry. I was advised to go this route because it vigorous program would better prepare me for the workload I would be faced with in a doctor of physical therapy program. I would agree that the work load and labs helped me develop strong study habits, learn how to read and write research papers, and provided a strong transcript for graduate programs to look at. In addition, I did require an extra psychology class and biomechanics which were not required for my major but were required for applying to graduate programs. Other friends studied kinesiology, however, some schools do not offer 4 credit anatomy and 4 credit physiology for this majors (theirs was 3 credits each and required them to take an extra class to meet the application criteria). Many of my friends in graduate school studied Athletic training which I believe prepared them very well for some of the skills we learned in school; for example, taping, splinting, and emergency sideline medical care. An athletic training undergraduate degree can also be helpful if you want to work with athletes on the field in conjunction with your physical therapy training. You can do this part time or as a way to promote yourself for your own business one day. Most important, which ever major you decided, look at the classes you will be taking for your undergraduate degree and compare them to a few DPT programs’ entry criteria to make sure you will have met all of those criteria by the time you graduate. This will save you a lot of extra work! Also, it is a good idea to establish yourself with a physical therapy clinic, hospital, or rehab center. Many schools require hours but most require a letter of recommendation from at least 1 physical therapist so it’s good to make those connections early. Good luck!

Jenna recommends the following next steps:

  • Compare the classes you will take for the major to the classes required for entry into DPT programs.
  • If there are classes that are required for a physical therapy program but not by your undergraduate program, you may need to get special permission to take a class required for other programs (this is usually an easy conversation with the dean of your program or the program whose class you are required to take).
  • Find a physical therapist, clinic, or hospital near school or your home to volunteer or work at.
  • Mix up your experience by volunteering at various settings or getting involved with non-profit organizations that help those with disabilities. It’s a great way to learn which area of the field you love and you get to help others!

Steve’s Answer



Hi I’m Steve. I’m a physical therapist in San Antonio Texas. I’m also a clinical instructor for student physical therapists. I may be able to answer your question.

There are many avenues to get to PT school. Most require an undergraduate degree, but some do not. Almost any degree will be ok as long as you’ve covered the basic requirements that are usually outlined in the application for each program. That being said, life sciences are very important. Anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biology and physics are super important when considering any medical graduate school.

For the programs that require an undergraduate degree, biology and biochemistry degrees rule the day. Degrees like kinesiology oddly enough don’t typically require the upper level life science requirements needed for PT school qualification. Just as important is your science GPA. So when you apply to PT school, you’re competitive with anything more than a 3.5 GPA. Lower than that and you risk no being competitive for a PT school slot.

Some programs are in the 3 plus 3 format. Meaning that you don’t need an undergraduate degree to get in, but as a college freshman you’re already in a PRE PT Program. You get all the pre reqs in your first 3 years then transition right into a doctoral PT program.

Hope that helps April

Best wishes,


Moinul’s Answer

Updated Paterson, New Jersey

The American Physical Therapy Association reports the most common undergraduate majors for physical therapists are exercise science, biology, psychology and kinesiology.

Very Helpful

Awah’s Answer

Updated Houston, Texas

Any science major is good but I would suggest Kinesiology, so you learn things early on and decide whether you want to continue on with you career choice.

Brian’s Answer

Applying to a school that has a combined undergrad and grad program is what I did and that allows you to not have to take the GREs or go through the whole application process in order to get into grad school. As long as you keep your grades up, you will already be in their grad program.

Otherwise I would say athletic training if you are interested in sports physical therapy, as many sports physical therapists will also be certified athletic trainers.

Kinesiology and exercise science are also undergrad majors I have also seen people have prior 5o physical therapy grad school

Alyssa’s Answer


Hi April,

I agree with Steve's answer above. I received my BS in biology prior to PT school. Degrees in life sciences are beneficial, as is a degree as an Athletic Trainer. In my experience, ATC applicants do well for PT school as well as for employment as a PT. I would avoid degrees that would not allow you to pursue other employment options should you decided PT isn't right for you.

I hope you find that helpful!


Alyssa recommends the following next steps:

  • investigate prerequisites for graduate schools you may be interested in and select your undergrad major accordingly

Jess’s Answer

Updated Austin, Texas

You can get your major in anything you want as long as you complete the pre-requisites required to get into physical therapy school. Most pre-requisites are in the science and kinesiology programs so most people get a major in biology, kinesiology, exercise science or other related majors. However, there are a lot of people who get their major in English, Business, or other interests and still get into physical therapy school.