Physical therapy (physiotherapy in many English speaking countries) is a health care profession which provides services to individuals and populations to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout life. This includes providing services in circumstances where movement and function are threatened by aging, injury, disease or environmental factors. Functional movement is a central element in what it means to be healthy.
Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing quality of life and movement potential within the spheres of promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation. This encompasses physical, psychological, emotional, and social well being. It involves the interaction between physical therapist (PT), patients/clients, other health professionals, families, care givers, and communities in a process where movement potential is assessed and goals are agreed upon, using knowledge and skills unique to physical therapists. Physical therapy is performed by either a physical therapist (PT) or an assistant (PTA) acting under their direction.
PTs utilize an individual's history and physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and establish a management plan, and when necessary, incorporate the results of laboratory and imaging studies.
Physical therapy has many specialties including cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, neurologic, orthopedic and pediatrics to name some of the more common areas. They practice in many settings, such as outpatient clinics or offices, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, education and research centers, schools, hospices, industrial workplaces or other occupational environments, fitness centers and sports training facilities.
Physical Therapy has three options: Physical Therapist, Physical Therapy Assistant, and Physical Therapy Aide. Below is a brief summary distinguishing the three positions.
Physical Therapist (PT)
A Doctorate level position currently, but started as a Bachelor’s degree and progressed to Master’s and then doctoral level. PTs are trained to be able to evaluate orthopedic and neurological conditions resulting in pain and loss of function. PTs are also trained to decipher a medical condition and appropriately refer to another appropriate healthcare provider. PTs are skilled in the treatment of orthopedic and neurological problems, and specialized in educating the public in how to self manage and improve these problems. This position requires the graduate from an accredited PT program to then pass a licensure examination to prove competency in all areas of physical therapy and basic medicine.
Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)
As Associate’s degree is required, as well as proof of competency as an assistant to a physical therapist through a licensure examination. A PTA is trained to be able to carry out a treatment plan established by a PT once a person has been evaluated by a PT. They are able to perform such manual therapy as massage and assisting patients in range of motion exercises, and depending upon the state, may perform joint mobilizations. They are also able to administer all electrotherapeutic modalities and traction available to physical therapists. PTA’s are not able to evaluate or discharge a patient in therapy.
Physical Therapist Aide (PT Aide)
No college education or license required to perform this position. PT Aides are able to assist a PT or PTA in carrying out daily treatment including exercises, but are no allowed to perform manual therapy techniques or set up electrotherapeutic modalities or traction devices.
Physical Therapy programs are offered as a master's (MPT, MSPT, MS) or doctoral (DPT) degree from an accredited physical therapy program. In order to be admitted to a DPT, MPT, MSPT, or MS program you must first either fully obtain, or have been working at least three years towards an undergraduate baccalaureate accredited degree.
After graduating you must then pass a state-administered national exam. Upon passing the exam you will need to meet any additional requirements your state licensing board may have, before they will allow you to practice.
Typical Undergraduate Course Requirements for PT School Admission
Each program differs from state to state and each has a specific curriculum that you'll need to complete in order for admission. Please see the following Admissions Chart (from the APTA website) for specific undergraduate course requirements for your school of interest. Here is a summary:
- Most schools require a Bachelor’s degree prior to starting PT school.
- Most schools require prerequisites to have been taken within 7 years.
Biology – 8 semester hours (full year)
Chemistry – 8 semester hours (full year)
Physics – 8 semester hours (full year)
Anatomy – 4 semester hours (some allow anatomy & physiology)
Physiology – 4 semester hours (some allow anatomy & physiology)
Math – 6 semester hours (usually 1 statistics course required)
Psychology – 6 semester hours
Social Sciences – 3 semester hours
- Medical terminology
- Technical writing
* The following is for Pacific University:
Bachelor’s degree required.
|CONVERSION OF HOURS (Semester hours vs. Quarter hours)|
|Note: All quarter hours must be converted into semester hours.||1 semester hour = .67 quarter hours |
Example: 5 semester hours = 3.33 quarter hours
|BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE - 12 semester hours||2 General Biology courses (a full-year sequence).Botany portion may be excluded. |
1 Human or Vertebrate Anatomy course with lab AND
Note: Sequential courses combining anatomy and physiological are acceptable.
|PHYSICS - 8 semester hours||A standard year of General Physics (calculus based not required)|
|CHEMISTRY - 8 semester hours||A standard year of General Chemistry (Organic or Inorganic Chemistry courses will not be accepted).|
|STATISTICS - 2 semester hours||1 course from one of the following departments: Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, or Mathematics.|
|PSYCHOLOGY - 6 semester hours||1 General Psychology course AND 1 additional course in Psychology|
|ENGLISH and WRITING - 8 semester hours||1-2 Lower division courses AND |
1-2 Upper division courses
A combination of writing intensive coursework offered outside of an English or Writing department may be considered.
|HUMANITIES - 6 semester hours||2 courses taken from the following areas: Fine Arts, Humanities, History, Philosophy, Religion, Music, Foreign Language, and English (in addition to English prerequisite).|
|SOCIAL SCIENCE - 6 semester hours||2 courses taken from the following areas: (in addition to Psychology prerequisite) Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Economics, History, and Anthropology. |
At least 3 semester hours must be outside of Psychology.
|RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL COURSEWORK||Pharmacology, Medical Terminology, Spanish, Abnormal Psychology, Development Psychology, Aging and Disabilities, Public Health, Technical Writing, or Communications.|
Important Sources of Information
Currently there is no national standardized PT examination for entrance to PT or PTA programs. However, some schools may require the GRE for admission into the program.
Please see the following Admissions Chart (from the APTA website) for entrance exam requirements for your school of interest.
Pacific University does not require the GRE for admission into the program.
Admission is highly selective and enrollment in the DPT program is usually limited.
There are over 200 accredited PT programs and over 250 accredited PTA programs in the US. There are currently 3 accredited programs outside of the US: 2 in Canada and 1 in Puerto Rico. Four new programs are in development for a Doctorate in PT (DPT) and 44 new programs are in development for PTA.
Please see the APTA website for specific admission requirements for your school of interest. Important information provided in chart: volunteer hours requirement, GRE requirement, Overall & Science GPA requirement, Application Due Date, number of Recommendations requirement, and Pre-Requisite Semester Hours requirement. Here is a summary:
BS: Most schools require a Bachelor’s Degree for admission
Volunteer Hours: most schools require some volunteer hours shadowing in a PT clinic. Hours vary from school to school but average somewhere between 50 -100 hours.
Entrance Exam: most schools require the GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
GPA (Overall & Science): vary from school to school but average 3.0
Application Due Date: vary from school to school but usually in fall or winter of year preceding enrollment
Recommendations: most schools require 2-3 letters of recommendations; usually at least 1 from a PT
The following is for Pacific University:
Volunteer Hours: 100 hours
Entrance Exam: none
GPA (Overall & Science): 3.0
Application Due Date: 12/5
Recommendations: 3 letters
Pacific Universities Class of 2011 Profile
|Last 45 Semester GPA||3.7|
|Incoming Class Size||40|
| Where have students come from? |
Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Canada, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
“Local PT & PTA Schools”
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there were 211 accredited physical therapist programs in the US in 2009 – of those 15 offered the Master of Physical Therapy (MS/MPT), and 196 offered the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Most programs are in transition to a DPT program. Four (4) new programs are in development for a Doctorate in PT (DPT). In addition, there are currently 3 accredited programs outside of the US: 2 in Canada and 1 in Puerto Rico.
In the United States, there are approximately 237 accredited two year programs for Physical Therapy Assistants and 44 programs in development.
Note: New schools are becoming accredited faster than we can keep up with. For the most accurate list of PT and PTA programs please visit the APTA website. The APTA Web site contains the only official Web directory of schools and programs accredited in the field of physical therapy by CAPTE and is updated at least weekly. Schools, programs, degrees and other information are listed only after satisfactory completion of the CAPTE accreditation process.
|"Local" Accredited* PT Programs:|
|* CAPTE Accredited: Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)|
|California:||Azusa Pacific University
California State University, Fresno
California State University, Long Beach
California State University, Northridge
California State University, Sacramento
Loma Linda University
Mount St Mary's College
Samuel Merritt University
University of California, San Francisco/San Francisco State University
University of Southern California
University of St Augustine for Health Sciences
University of the Pacific
Western University of Health Sciences
University of Colorado Denver
|Idaho:||Idaho State University|
|Nevada:||University of Nevada, Las Vegas|
|Washington:||Eastern Washington University
University of Puget Sound
University of Washington
|"Local" Accredited* PTA Programs:|
|* CAPTE Accredited: Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
Please see Definitions at top of page.
|Oregon:||Mount Hood Community College|
Loma Linda University
Sacramento City College
San Diego Mesa College
|Colorado:||Arapahoe Community College
Morgan Community College
Pima Medical Institute/Denver Campus
Pueblo Community College
|Idaho:||Idaho State University - College of Technology|
|Nevada:||College of Southern Nevada|
|Washington:||Green River Community College
Spokane Falls Community College
Whatcom Community College
Post-graduate Licensing Information / Requirements
All states require physical therapists to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination before they can practice. Each state regulates licenses for physical therapists independently.
Books Available at the LRC
- Introduction to physical therapy, Michael A. Pagliarulo
- Physical and occupational therapy services: practitioner's guide
- Exploring tech careers: real people tell you what you need to know
- Mosby's basic science for soft tissue and movement therapies / Sandy Fritz, Kathleen Maison Paholsky, M. James Grosenbach
Contact a PT & Shadowing Experience OpportunityRecovery Zone Physical Therapy
2846 Eberlein Ave
Klamath Falls, OR 97603