What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy treats disorders related to the musculoskeletal system by evaluating, diagnosing and providing treatment. The goal of physical therapy is to restore the functionality of patients who have been disabled through injury, illness, developmental defects, and aging. Physical therapists manage treatment plans and customizes them to fit the needs of each patient. Patients are most often recommended for physical therapy by their physician.

It takes three years of physical therapy training to earn the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. There are currently over 200 accredited physical therapy programs in the US.

Choosing a Major

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), there are any number of alternative undergraduate degrees that a student can obtain to be eligible to apply to a physical therapist program. Of most importance is the need to satisfactorily complete the pre-requisite courses for those programs being considered, as part of fulfilling the undergraduate degree requirements.

Pre-requisites at Wheaton

The below pre-requisites are based on recommendations made by the APTA. Keep in mind that requirements for individual schools of physical therapy may vary. Courses listed represent courses that are most common. Go to the Accredited Physical Therapy Programs to check specific pre-requisite courses. Some schools will require more courses, others less.

Physical Therapy Pre-requisite Outline

Advanced Placement (AP)

AP credit may on some occasions be used to satisfy the English writing (Eng 101) and/or mathematics requirements. It is highly recommended that AP science courses not be used to satisfy any of the science pre-requisites since health professions schools expect you to have the classroom experience of taking science lab classes at the college level. If you do accept credit for an AP class in a required science course, the expectation is that you will take an upper-level science courses/labs in the science department to satisfy the health school requirement. AP credit equivalent to Wheaton’s English 101 will waive writing requirement, but students still have to take a 200-level English course.

Summer courses

Though there is nothing that says a student cannot take pre-requisite science courses in summer school, students should remember that many of the health professions schools prefer that science classes be done during the semester to demonstrate the ability to take laboratory courses while registered for a full course load. Students considering taking a pre-requisite science course over the summer should consult with Dean Trayford.

Pass/Grade/Fail option

Required pre-physical therapy courses can never be taken pass/fail. Students should also think carefully when considering taking any other classes under this option. Health profession schools want to see if you are successful in many different areas of study, not just in the pre-requisite courses. Therefore, students are discouraged from taking any classes under the pass/grade/fail option. If there is a good reason for using this option, consult with Dean Trayford. Remember, take all science courses for a grade.

Study Abroad

Health professions schools consider a student who studied abroad in a very positive light, particularly if the experience can be combined with health-care-related experiences. Students interested in studying abroad should definitely do so. It is important to plan ahead when thinking about studying abroad. Discuss your plans with Dean Trayford. Keep in mind though that pre-requisite courses should not be taken during study abroad. Most schools will not accept pre-requisite requirements taken at a for­eign institution.

Grade point average and standardized test

Many schools require a minimum of a 3.0 in science courses and overall to apply, but expect to have a higher GPA to be competitive. Many schools have an expectation of at least a 500 on both the verbal and math portions of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

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