How Do I Get Into PT School?

Photo of a physical therapist helping a man.
Your physical therapist may work in a variety of different settings.. Andersen Ross/Getty Images

One of the more common questions a physical therapist faces is, "How do I get into physical therapy school?" What does it take to become a physical therapist, and what steps should one follow to become a PT?

Becoming a Physical Therapist

In order to become a physical therapist, you must get your degree in physical therapy. Physical therapy programs offer either masters or doctorate degrees in physical therapy.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is pushing for all physical therapists to be doctoral level trained by the year 2020.

Before Applying to PT School

Before you even consider applying to physical therapy school, you should spend some time in the PT clinic to be certain that the profession is a good fit for you. Call a few clinics and ask to shadow a physical therapist for a few hours. You don't have to do anything there-just observe and see what a PT does all day long. Remember that physical therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, and schools as well, so you may want to spend a few hours in various settings to get a feel for the many different places where physical therapists work.

Many schools require that you obtain a professional letter of recommendation from at least one physical therapist, so it is a good idea to spend quite a bit of time with a PT in a professional setting so you can develop a rapport with him or her.

Once you've decided that PT is right for you, if may be a good idea to contact the APTA and inquire about different PT schools. Your personal situation may dictate where you go to school. Can you relocate to go to PT school? Do you need to find a school near your home? Can you work-at least part time- while in school?

All of these questions need to be answered while you decide where you want to attend PT school.

Applying to Physical Therapy School

Applying to physical therapy programs is often time consuming, however necessary. First you should determine what degree you want in physical therapy - masters or doctorate. Most programs are offering only the doctorate level programs. Next determine the geographical area you would like your physical therapy program to be in. This way you can narrow down your program search. Other important considerations include the size of the physical therapy program as well as the educational curriculum of different physical therapy programs.

Gathering up your information for PT school can be made a little  with the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) website offered by the APTA. This site assists you in gathering all of your necessary data you need to apply to PT school in one location. That way, you can apply to multiple programs with one online application.

Physical therapy programs are offered at both state and private institutions. This can be important financially, as private schools tend to be a little more expensive.

Review this list of physical therapy schools to learn more about the physical therapy program that each facility offers.

Edited by Brett Sears, PT, the PT Expert at About.com.

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