Pre-Physical Therapy

Physical therapist working with patient.

Physical Therapy is a health profession widely applicable to many areas of health but focuses on the restoration, maintenance and promotion of physical function.  Physical therapists work with all ages from infants to elderly in many kinds of clinical settings from homes, hospitals, schools, fitness facilities and more.  Students interested in PT as a career typically major in exercise science, biology, kinesiology, or psychology but as long as the prerequisites are completed most majors would be acceptable.   A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is required to practice as a PT across most of the United States. For more information see the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website at

Physical Therapy School Prerequisite Courses

The requirements for PT programs vary considerably, so it is best to check each program you are interested in well in advance of applying.  The PTCAS application service maintains a single spreadsheet that lists all prerequisite courses for all schools that use PTCAS – find this list on the web at

In general most programs require:

  • One year of Biology with labs
  • One year of General Chemistry with labs
  • One year of Anatomy and Physiology with labs
  • One year of Physics with labs
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

Other courses required by a significant number of schools:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Calculus
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology

Other coursework that may be beneficial:

  • Kinesiology
  • Motor Learning
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology of Exercise
  • Exercise Prescription

Applying to Physical Therapy School

Graduate Record Exam (GRE): Many, but not all, Physical Therapy doctoral programs require an applicant to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. This exam is usually taken during the spring semester of the junior year.

Letters of Recommendation:  Identify at least one science professor and at least one non-science professor that might be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.  PTCAS will often have you submit only one faculty letter of recommendation, but it is best to be prepared.  Most PT schools will also require a letter of recommendation from a licensed physical therapist that has observed you professionally.  Schedule a meeting with the professors to directly ask them to write the letters. Don’t just drop in as the request might get shuffled off and forgotten. Be intentional about asking. Bring a list or short narrative of the work you completed in the classes taken under the professor. Professors see many students over the years and don’t always remember specific course assignments or course experiences like you will. Remind them of these experiences. Provide an estimated date for submission of their letters. Give your professors enough time to write a thoughtful letter.

Shadowing and experiences:  Some physical therapy schools have tight specific requirements on the number of shadowing hours, clinical experiences, and the documentation of these hours.  The following website,, is maintained by APTA and lists information on shadowing requirements and documentation at participating schools.

Personal statement: A personal statement is a well thought out explanation of why physical therapy is right for you based on the experiences that have led you to this conclusion.  Experiences from your life, work, research, or shadowing that are pertinent to explaining your call to physical therapy need to be included as part of this statement.  Journaling is a convenient way of keeping track of formative experiences and their impact on you as they occur.

Application timeline:  Applications are submitted approximately one year prior to entrance into physical therapy schoolApplications are built within and submitted to schools through the Physical Therapy Central Application Service (PTCAS).   The first day applications are received by PT schools is generally the first business day in July.

Physical Therapy Schools Attended by Butler Graduates

Recent Butler graduates have attended the following Physical Therapy Schools:

  • Bellarmine University
  • Brenau University
  • George Washington University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Hanover College
  • Indiana State University
  • Indiana University
  • Loma Linda University
  • Marshall University
  • Mount St. Joseph University
  • North Central College
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Trine University
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Utah
  • Utica College