University of Iowa

Pre-Physical Therapy

The Pre-Physical Therapy program of study is not a degree-granting major.  Rather, Physical Therapy education is typically a two-and-one-half year graduate program.  Students attend Physical Therapy school after they have completed an undergraduate degree at a four-year college.  Pre-Physical Therapy students may choose any major, as long as they successfully complete all the required courses to be admitted to a Physical Therapy graduate program.


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:

  • Mathematics: trigonometry course or higher (3 semester hours). The UI program will accept AP credit.
  • Biological Sciences: a complete introductory one-year course, with labs, plus additional coursework to reach 12 semester hours.
  • Chemistry: a complete introductory one-year course, with labs (8 semester hours).
  • Physics: a complete introductory one-year course, with labs (8 semester hours).
  • Physiology: A systemic human physiology course (3 semester hours).
  • Psychology: coursework to reach 6 semester hours.
  • Statistics: a statistical methods course.

 Recommended courses:

  • Additional courses beyond the minimums in any science

An essential part of the application process to PT school is gaining experience in the PT profession.  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 is also 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.  It is recommended that students gain exposure to two or three different settings in PT, both inpatient and outpatient.


Learn more about Physical Therapy at these websites:

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 2018:
    • 42 students matriculated
    • Mean Cumulative GPA: 3.75
    • Mean pre-requisite GPA: 3.65
    • The majority of admitted students had accumulated over 100 hours of PT experience through shadowing, volunteering, and/or working in a PT setting during their undergraduate years.
  • 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
    • Attend the UI PT program’s annual fall conference, “Physical Therapy As Your Future”