Pre-Physical Therapy (PT) is not a degree-granting major, but rather a track for students who plan to attend physical therapy school after their undergraduate studies. Pre-PT students take a prescribed sequence of courses that prepare them for PT school, which is typically a two-and-one-half year professional program that awards the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, or D.P.T. Pre-PT students can major in any field they choose as long as they have completed the prerequisite courses and have taken the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Pre-PT students work with a pre-PT advisor who helps with course sequencing and academic preparation for PT school.
Physical Therapy programs do not all require the same courses. Be sure to research the schools to which you plan to apply and learn what their pre-requisites are.
Below are the pre-requisite courses for the UI's Physical Therapy graduate program:
- Biological Sciences: A complete introductory course, with labs, plus additional coursework for which an introductory course is prerequisite (12 semester hours).
- Physiology: A systemic human physiology course, preferably with a lab component (3 semester hours).
- Anatomy: Human or comparative vertebrate anatomy, preferably with a lab component (3 semester hours)
OR a two-course sequence of anatomy and physiology, preferably with a lab component (6 semester hours) can fulfill the Physiology and Anatomy prerequisites.
- Chemistry: A complete introductory series, with labs (8 semester hours).
- Physics: A complete introductory series, with labs (8 semester hours).
- Psychology: Coursework to reach 6 semester hours.
- Mathematics: A college-level mathematics course, at the level of trigonometry or higher (3 semester hours). The UI program will accept AP credit.
- Statistics: A statistical methods course (3 semester hours).
For the UI’s Physical Therapy graduate program: All science courses must include the appropriate laboratory instruction. The prerequisite courses must be taken for a letter grade. Credit awarded through the AP testing program may be applied to the mathematics requirement only. Pre-requisite coursework should be less than 10 years old to ensure recent content and academic success. GRE scores should be no older than five years.
- Additional courses beyond the minimums in any science
An essential part of the application process for PT school is gaining experience in the PT profession. It is recommended that students gain exposure in a variety of settings, both inpatient and outpatient. Students accomplish this by shadowing, volunteering, and/or working in a PT outpatient clinic, or in a PT department in a hospital or other healthcare facility. During the application process, students will be expected to show that they have a good understanding of what the PT profession is like. Gaining experience in multiple settings is a great way for students to decide if the Physical Therapy profession is right for them.
There are many different areas in which to specialize in Physical Therapy, such as Cardiopulmonary, Geriatrics, Neurology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Sports, and Women’s Health.
Learn more about Physical Therapy at these websites:
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA): www.apta.org
- APTA’s PT education site: https://www.choosept.com/
- UI graduate program in Physical Therapy: www.medicine.uiowa.edu/pt/
- Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS): www.ptcas.org
Most graduate Physical Therapy programs participate in the online application service, PTCAS. This service allows applicants to apply to several PT programs with just one application. PTCAS opens in early July, and school deadlines are often in the fall. Students typically apply in summer after their junior year, in order to begin a PT graduate program the following summer, immediately after their graduation from their undergraduate college.
Most PT programs also require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a standardized test of basic skills in math, verbal reasoning, and writing. Students usually take the GRE in spring or summer after junior year.
- The admissions profile of students admitted to the UI’s graduate Physical Therapy program in 2021:
- 47 students matriculated
- Mean Cumulative GPA: 3.75
- Mean pre-requisite GPA: 3.68
- Many students admitted to physical therapy programs have experience working or volunteering in a variety of healthcare/supported care settings (PT clinics, hospitals, home care, long term care centers, camps, group homes, etc).
- How to get started:
- Meet with your Pre-Physical Therapy academic advisor
- Attend the UI’s Pre-Physical Therapy Club meetings
- Start volunteering in a PT setting