We're excited that you're considering a career in physical therapy.
Before you submit your question to a current student, please review these frequently asked questions:
What is the best PT program in the US?
Review the information provided under the header "Ranking" on the Physical Therapist Education Overview page.
How do I choose a PT program?
Review the guidance provided under the header "Choosing the Right Program" on the Physical Therapist Education Overview page.
How do I improve my chances of being admitted to a PT program?
Review the information provided under the header "Preparing for the Admissions Process" on the Physical Therapist Admissions Process page.
How do I find PTs or clinics that allow pre-PT students to visit and observe?
Review the information provided under the header "Other Admission Requirements" on the Physical Therapist Admissions Process page.
What college major should I choose?
Review the information provided under the header "College Major" on the Physical Therapist Admissions Process page.
Where do I find individual program requirements (including prerequisites) and application information?
Start by reviewing information on the PT Education page. Then contact the individual program as necessary.
Should I retake the GRE or repeat a class, if I didn't do well the first time?
It's generally a good idea to retake prerequisite science courses and the GRE, if you didn't do well the first time. Before you decide to repeat, be sure you are well prepared and confident in your ability to perform better the next time and the course or exam is required for admission to the program. Programs may average your grades and scores, or only consider the highest or most recent attempts. Applicants who achieve high scores or grades the first time may be at a competitive advantage in the admissions process as compared to those who don't. Each program will evaluate your academic history differently. Contact programs directly for additional information.
What's the difference between a Masters of PT (MPT) and Doctorate of PT (DPT)?
Review the information provided under the header "Physical Therapist Degrees" on the Physical Therapist Education Overview page.
I already have a related degree in healthcare. Can I finish the PT program in less time?
A degree in a related discipline does not typically reduce the time it takes to complete the PT degree. Applicants who have earned a degree in a related field must still complete the entire PT education program. Please contact PT programs directly to determine if you are eligible for course waivers.
Would it help me in the PT admissions process to first become a licensed PTA?
Review the information provided under the header "Does It Help to Be a PTA First" on the Physical Therapist Admissions Process page.
If I have a criminal record, can I enroll in a PT program and be licensed as a physical therapist?
PT education programs may ask applicants to disclose any previous felony or misdemeanor incidents as part of the application process. A criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from enrolling in a PT program; however, failure to disclose any past or pending charges may be grounds for dismissal. Criminal background checks and/or drug tests are used to verify your eligibility to participate in clinical education, confirm your eligibility for PT licensure, and ensure patient safety. Contact PT programs directly for institution-specific criminal background check policies. Also review the APTA criminal background checks report (.pdf) and information on the PTCAS website.
You may also want to contact the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) at www.fsbpt.org to determine whether a criminal record may prevent you from obtaining a PT license in a particular state in the future.
Can I complete my prerequisite courses online?
Before enrolling in an online college course, contact your selected PT programs in advance to determine if distance or online courses are accepted. Generally, online courses must be offered by a regionally accredited institution and award college credit. Massive open online courses (MOOCS) or other distance courses that do not offer college credit are typically not accepted. PT programs may not accept an online science course unless it includes a lab component. Admission policies vary significantly.
Can I complete a PT degree program online or part-time?
Only a few PT programs offer distance, weekend, and part-time formats. Visit the CAPTE directory of PT programs and use the 'A5' key code to filter the list.
What financial aid is available to PT students?
Review the Federal/State Scholarship Resources and Private Scholarship Resources. Then contact individual education programs.
What are the differences between PTs and OTs?
Physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs) both serve important functions as members of the rehabilitation team. Both PTs and OTs have completed challenging professional education programs; are licensed healthcare professionals; and provide patient evaluation and hands-on treatment. Physical therapist education is at the doctoral level while occupational therapists may earn a master's or doctoral degree. While both PTs and OTs seek to help individuals attain the highest possible level of function in the presence of or after injury or disease, the PT's focus is typically on restoring movement, including, ambulation, sport, and fitness through the use of therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and activity training. PTs have a very broad scope of practice and can usually see patients without a physician referral, OTs use everyday activities as part of their treatments to help patients return to normal activities of living, like bathing, preparing meals, driving a car, working, etc. They also may specialize in fitting arm and hand braces. For more information on OTs, go to www.aota.org.
Can I complete my course prerequisites at a community college?
Most PT programs will accept courses completed at a regionally-accredited community college. There may be exceptions for certain courses, such as anatomy, physiology, and other advanced (junior/senior level) courses. PT programs may consider the following factors during the admissions review process:
- How well did you do in your community college courses?
- How heavy was your course load while enrolled?
- Were you also working or managing other responsibilities while enrolled?
- What is the reputation of the community college?
- How well did you do in any advanced courses taken at a 4-year institution?
Can I specialize as a PT?
Yes! Review the information provided under the header "Furthering Your Education (After Graduation)" on the Physical Therapist Education Overview page.
Ask a PT Student
Didn't find the answer to your question?
G. William James is a current student in a physical therapist education program at Elon University and serves as director of membership for the Student Assembly Board of Directors. Email William.