Becoming a Physical Therapist


Some physical therapy education programs offer a master's degree. However, a growing majority of program offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. According to the Association of Physical Therapy Programs (ATPT), close to 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. offer physical therapist education programs: approximately 80% offer the DPT; another 20% are planning to convert to a doctoral program.

Early Preparation

Physican therapy education programs differ in the prerequisite courses that they require, so it is important to study the requirements of programs you would like to attend. The APTA reports that about two-thirds of the PT programs require a baccalaureate degree for admission. More than 50% of the PT programs require applicants to have one or more courses in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, statistics, psychology, general biology and an undergraduate degree. More than 75% of programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 Applicants are encouraged to have some volunteer experience as a a physical therapy aide.

It is not necessary to go through a physical therapy assistant program before applying to a physical therapy program. In fact the physical therapist assistant curriculum does NOT provide the prerequisites required for physical therapy education. If you already are a physical therapy assistant, you might want to consider a PTA to PT Bridge Program.

Master's and Doctoral Curricula

Professional, entry-level, physical therapist education programs are offered at both the doctoral (DPT) and the master's (MPT, MSPT, MS) levels. By the year 2020 the APTA would like the majority of practicing PTs to have a DPT degree.

All of the certified master's and doctoral programs provide a core curriculum that includes classroom-based courses as well as clinical experiences in acute care, oupatient care, rehabilitation, and other specialty areas. The
APTA website is the best source of information about the educational programs.