What it takes to become a physical therapist.
Physical Therapists are health care professionals whose work centers around movement ability, rehabilitation from injury or chronic physical limitation, pain reduction and prevention of disability due to disease or injury.
All programs for PT education are Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degrees, and must be fully accredited through CAPTE. A Bachelor’s degree and strong science curriculum provides the basic entry requirements to a DPT program. The DPT curriculum typical is three (3) years, and includes classroom studies (~80%) and clinical practice (~20%). Once you have completed your final clinical experience or with the last 90 days prior to earning your degree, you will need to sit for a licensure exam.
Schools will have a large number of pre-reqs in common, but each school may vary slightly in the number of terms they require, or have some program specific courses. In general, students should plan on competing a full year of General Chemistry (121-123 is adequate), Human Anatomy & Physiology, General Biology and General Physics. Additionally, 1-2 courses in Statistics, and 2-4 terms of Psychology, including Developmental and/or Abnormal Psychology are often requested. Courses in Kinesiology, Biomechanics and Motor Development are helpful, but not required.
It is imperative that for any professional field you want to enter, you understand the work and the day to day flow of the professional. Most DPT programs will expect a minimum of 100 hours observing PT, in both inpatient and out-patient settings. A few schools do not require hours but they are highly recommended. Schools vary on how these hours are to be documented.
In 2017, there were 19,025 applicants for 214 DPT programs who participate in the PTCAS (Computer Application System). 9,707 applicants were accepted nationally (~51%). The average national GPA for students accepted into DPT programs was 3.59, and their combined science /math GPA was 3.43. The primary majors of applicants accepted were in the field of Human Movement & included Athletic Training, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Science, & Kinesiology.
For Pacific University in OR, the profile of the incoming class of 2017 are as follows: 1145 applications for 50 seats; cumulative GPA 3.69, science/math GPA 3.58, last 45 credits GPA 3.85; average number of hours PT experience (shadowing etc.) 400-600.
Not all DPT programs require the GRE, so it will be important to research the schools you are interested in to know their specifics. Some schools that require it have a minimum score, others do not use it in ranking applicants. For Pacific, it is preferred, but not required.
Typically, in-state residents will pay much lower tuition at public institutions. Pacific in Forest Grove is ~ $35,000 a year. USC in California is upwards of $75,000 a year.
A full time, new PT could expect to enter the field at minimum salary of ~$59,000 and the median annual wage for physical therapists was $89,440 in May 2019. Average salaries vary by state.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Driving this growth is the increasing population of aging adults.