Applying to Physical Therapy School

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The question most frequently asked of physical therapists is “how do I apply to physical therapy school?” As choosing a career is an extremely important decision, I understand the need for guidance in this quest.

Below are steps to help in the application process. Earning a degree in physical therapy is hard work, but the end result is well worth it. The profession offers job stability and a multitude of different professional career paths to take.


To be sure that this career is the right one for you, you should spend some time volunteering at a physical therapy facility. There are a wide variety of physical therapy settings, so volunteering in a few of these areas will help you decide what “branch” of physical therapy fits you best.

Volunteering with a physical therapist also helps you build a rapport with a certain therapist. This is important as most physical therapy programs will require a letter of recommendation from a physical therapist as part of the application. By spending several hours volunteering with a therapist, you will be able to obtain a letter of recommendation easier.

Finally, many programs require a certain amount of hours spent volunteering at a physical therapy setting. Therefore, this step may no be optional. Either way, it is an important step in determining your pathway to a career in physical therapy.

Deciding on a Degree is Easy

In years past, two post graduate physical therapy degrees were offered. These include the master’s degree in physical therapy and the doctorate degree in physical therapy. They differ in terms of length of training and depth of content.

The American Physical Therapy Association put out this statement in regards the degree now required to sit for the physical therapy licensure examination:

Professional (entry-level) physical therapist education programs in the United States only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to all new students who enroll. The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered to any new students in the United States. To practice as a physical therapist in the US, you must earn a physical therapist degree from a CAPTE- accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam.

Pick a School

Now that you are sure physical therapy is the career for you, it is time to choose a physical therapy school. There are many questions to ask when deciding on a school. Here are few things to consider:

  • Location – Where do you want to attend school? You may want to select a place close to your family, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to live.
  • Size – Do you want to attend a large university, or would a smaller school be the best setting for you?
  • State vs. Private – If finances are an issue, tuition at state programs are often less than those at private institutions.
  • Competition – You should select more than one school to apply to, as admission is often competitive. By applying and interviewing at more than one school, you will also be able to get a first hand feel for differences between programs.
  • Accreditation – Every program you apply to should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This committee establishes and applies standards that assure quality and continuous improvements in the entry-level preparation of physical therapists that reflect the evolving nature of education, research, and practice.

Currently many physical therapists use the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) to apply to PT school. This web-based service allows you to gather, store, and submit your physical therapy  school application in one online area. Pretty nifty!

Follow these steps, and you will be happy with your final decision. Good Luck!

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