Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.
PTs examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings, and nursing homes. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.
Physical therapy is a dynamic profession with an established theoretical and scientific base and widespread clinical applications in the restoration, maintenance, and promotion of optimal physical function. For more than 750,000 people every day in the United States, physical therapists:
- Diagnose and manage movement dysfunction and enhance physical and functional abilities.
- Restore, maintain, and promote not only optimal physical function but optimal wellness and fitness and optimal quality of life as it relates to movement and health.
- Prevent the onset, symptoms, and progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities that may result from diseases, disorders, conditions, or injuries.
The terms "physical therapy" and "physiotherapy," and the terms "physical therapist" and "physiotherapist," are synonymous.
As essential participants in the health care delivery system, physical therapists assume leadership roles in rehabilitation; in prevention, health maintenance, and programs that promote health, wellness, and fitness; and in professional and community organizations. Physical therapists also play important roles both in developing standards for physical therapist practice and in developing health care policy to ensure availability, accessibility, and optimal delivery of health care services. Physical therapy is covered by federal, state, and private insurance plans. Physical therapists' services have a positive impact on health-related quality of life.
As clinicians, physical therapists engage in an examination process that includes:
- taking the patient/client history,
- conducting a systems review, and
- performing tests and measures to identify potential and existing problems.
To establish diagnoses, prognoses, and plans of care, physical therapists perform evaluations, synthesizing the examination data and determining whether the problems to be addressed are within the scope of physical therapist practice. Based on their judgments about diagnoses and prognoses and based on patient/client goals, physical therapists:
- provide interventions (the interactions and procedures used in managing and instructing patients/clients),
- conduct re-examinations,
- modify interventions as necessary to achieve anticipated goals and expected outcomes, and
- develop and implement discharge plans.
Physical therapy can be provided only by qualified physical therapists (PTs) or by physical therapist assistants (PTAs) working under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Source: Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, 2nd Edition (2003)
The course prerequisites for admission vary significantly across DPT education programs. Visit the institutional website or the PTCAS directory to determine what courses are required by each institution. DPT programs may require science courses to be completed in a 4-year university within 7-10 years prior to enrollment. The most commonly required course prerequisites are below:
* Some PT programs only accept anatomy and/or physiology courses completed in a biology, neuroscience, anatomy, or integrated physiology department. DPT programs may not accept a combined anatomy and physiology (A&P) course or those completed in other departments, such as kinesiology.
Typical Prerequisites for DPT Programs
Applicants must have completed their bachelor's degree.
Anatomy and Physiology
DPT programs typically require applicants to complete an anatomy or physiology course in a biology, neuroscience, anatomy, or integrated physiology department. Many programs will accept two combined anatomy and physiology (A&P I and A&P II) in lieu of separate anatomy and physiology courses. Some PT programs only accept anatomy and/or physiology courses completed in a biology, neuroscience, anatomy, or integrated physiology department. DPT programs may not accept anatomy and physiology (A&P) courses completed in other departments, such as kinesiology.
Biology (not botany or zoology)
Typically a year (2 courses) in biological science with lab is required.
Typically a year (2 courses) in general chemistry with lab is required.
Typically a year (2 courses) in physics with lab is required.
- 0% do not require a course in physics.
Some programs require calculus
Social and Behavioral Science
Applicants may be required to complete particular social and behavioral courses or may be permitted to complete any courses in the subject. Psychology is a type of social and behavioral science.
Programs commonly allow applicants to substitute specialized psychology courses (eg, abnormal) for general psychology courses.
Most programs require a course in statistics
Experience in a physical therapy in-patient setting is also required.
Minimum verbal GRE is 450, minimum quantitative GRE is 500, minimum cumulative GPA is 2.8 in last 60 semester units and minimum science GPA is 2.6. Selected, qualified applicants are invited to interview and an on-site interview is required for admission. There were 180 applicants for fall 2007 and 152 met pre-requisite requirements. The class admitted in the fall of 2007 had an average verbal GRE score of 480 and an average quantitative GRE score of 611, with a cumulative GPA of 3.39 and science GPA of 3.06. 50% of qualified applicants are offered admission to the program (3-year average).
The majority of DPT education programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission. Applicants must use the correct GRE code for each designated program. The GRE code for the DPT program may differ from the one for the main university. Visit the TESTS section of the PTCAS website for more information and list of GRE codes. Go to www.ptcas.org/Tests/
Physical Therapy Volunteer Experiences:
Many DPT programs require applicants to have a certain number of volunteer or paid physical therapy experiences working with patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. The program may specify the settings and types of experiences required. Applicants may also be required to have a licensed physical therapist verify the hours. This experience may be an important factor in the admissions process. See also www.ptcas.org/PTHours/
Centralized Application Service
The 2014-15 Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) application is now open! Please go to the PTCAS website at www.ptcas.org. The PTCAS customer service team is available to answer applicant questions at 617-612-2040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advisors are encouraged to create a test application account. Go to the PTCAS site and select the "Login to Application" button under Quick Links. Use the word "test" as part of your first and last name, so PTCAS staff may quickly identify it as a dummy account (eg, "TestRoss, TestLibby"). Do NOT e-submit your test applications.
- There are 12 new DPT programs in PTCAS for a total of 179 out of 218: Carroll U, East Tennessee State U, Georgia State U, Mary Baldwin C, Rutgers-South, Seton Hall U, U of Central Florida, U of Jamestown, U of Sciences in Philadelphia, U of Texas at El Paso, U of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and West Coast U.
- New PTCAS essay question: "APTA's vision for physical therapy is 'transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.' How will you embody this vision as a future physical therapist?"
- All references submitted electronically through the PTCAS Reference Portal (no uploaded or paper references).
- PTCAS Core Course Prerequisites were modified to be consistent with those adopted by the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) in 2012.
- The updated “Course Prerequisite Summary” for 2014-15 is now available at http://www.ptcas.org/ProgramPrereqs/.
New Coursework Entry Service Planned for Applicants
PTCAS will offer a new coursework entry service for applicants beginning in mid-July. Applicants who choose to use this optional service will pay PTCAS to enter transcript courses on their behalf. The coursework entry fee for 2 transcripts will be $50, and $100 for 3 or more transcripts. Applicants will pay the fee to PTCAS via credit card and will arrange for all official transcripts to be sent to PTCAS as they normally would. Once the transcripts and payment for the service are received, staff will enter the coursework within 5 business days and notify the applicant of completion, requesting review and approval. Applicants who opt to use this additional service will in no way be identified as such to the DPT programs they have designated on the PTCAS application. PTCAS will announce this optional service to applicants later this month.