Physical Therapists (PTs) provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients with injuries or disease. PTs work closely with patients and clients to restore, maintain, and promote their overall fitness and wellness for healthier and more active lifestyles. Patients may include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low back pain, fractures, head injuries, arthritis, heart disease, and cerebral palsy.
PTs take the patient’s/client’s history and conduct a systems review, and perform tests and measures such as strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function, to identify potential and existing problems. Based on the examination and the physical therapist’s evaluative judgment, PTs determine a patient diagnosis, prognosis, and plan of care that describes evidence-based treatment strategies and the anticipated functional outcomes. Finally, as a part of the plan of care, PTs determine the patient’s ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after injury or illness.
Physical therapist (PT) professional education refers to the didactic and clinical education that prepares graduates for entry into practice of physical therapy. (Education for the advancement of practicing physical therapists is termed post-professional). All PTs must receive a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapist program before taking the national licensure examination that allows them to practice.
—from the American Physical Therapy Association
Entry into this field is through earning either a Doctor in Physical Therapy (DPT) degree or Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degree.
Applications for most physical therapy schools are processed through the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). Consult PTCAS for a list of schools who do not use the service, and for which applications must be sent directly to the institution (e.g., Rutgers at Stratford and University of the Sciences).
Applications should be submitted in the year prior to the year for which you are seeking admission. Many schools have rolling admissions, so applicants would do well to apply as early as possible.
Students following the recommended pre-med schedule of courses will fulfill most of the prerequisites for schools of physical therapy; however, many schools also require Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology, and Statistics, including local programs at Jefferson and Temple. In addition, many PT schools require extensive observation hours of a PT, with those hours verified by a certified PT. Students are advised to consult early on with the schools they think they may apply to for specific course and observation requirements.
Entrance Exam Requirements
The GRE is required for admission to most PT programs.
Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation
Your adviser from the Health Professions Advising Committee may compose a composite letter from the letters of recommendation you solicit from professors, supervisors, research mentors, and others who know you in professional or service contexts; that letter will also contain a rating of you on behalf of the committee based on your academic record, service, experience, and other factors. However, some schools will not accept such a letter. In fact, most PT programs require at least one letter from a PT. Students should consult early and closely with their adviser to determine whom to solicit for letters of recommendation.
PT schools usually require personal, on-campus interviews, though how many applicants are interviewed and at what point in the application timeline those interviews take place varies widely. Members of the Health Professions Advising Committee conduct at least one mock interview with applicants the spring before they apply; subsequent mock interviews are readily available and heartily encouraged.
- Arcadia University
- Drexel University
- Thomas Jefferson University
- Rutgers University—Stratford
- Temple University
- University of Delaware
- University of the Sciences
- Widener University