Physical therapists are specialists in the assessment and treatment of pain and functional deficits related to sensory and motor function. Treatment plans include the assessment of movement and the design of individualized therapeutic exercise and functional training plans. Therapists may use a variety of treatments option, including manipulation, heat, ice, electrotherapy or ultrasound to reduce pain and improve motor function. PTs may also prevent disability by designing exercise and wellness programs to prevent functional motor loss. The patient range is largely geriatric, but there are also specialists in pediatrics and sports medicine. The Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) is three years after undergrad.
Job Market: The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate is 21% (Much faster than average).
Base Salary: $91,010 per year $43.75 per hour
Prerequisites vary slightly from school to school; this list will cover the requirements at many schools. It is a good idea to make your own list of 5-6 schools and create a spreadsheet from the information provided in the PT School Program Directory.
- Chemistry 2 semesters
- General Biology 2 semesters
- Genetics or Cell Biology
- Anatomy with lab
- Physiology with lab (lab is taken in a later semester than the lecture.)
- Physics 2 semesters
- English 1-2 semesters
- Developmental Psychology
- Communications (like SCPP Medical Counseling Skills)
Preparation Outside the Classroom
A knowledge of the field is helpful in the application process. Observing as a volunteer or technician in a PT unit or nursing home is required, and you need to document all of your hours. Working with Sports Medicine or team management on campus is another good way to obtain experience. Remember to work with at least two different age groups (most patients are geriatric, so be certain to work with older patients). Health care is a life of service and PT programs are also looking for a consistent interest in the well-being of others, particularly vulnerable groups like those in poverty, asylum seekers, those with disabilities, etc.
Applications are submitted through a central applications service for 119 of the 244 schools, the PTCAS. The website will also give information about Non-PTCAS schools.
The optimal application timeline is generally from August to October.
Committee letters are not required, and for most schools, three to four individual letters are required. See individual school sites for details. At this time the GRE is the standardized test required by most schools; you will have results sent to the individual schools.
You should apply to 5-7 programs.
- The American Physical Therapy Association has a site on PT careers and a “day in the life” video. apta.org/PTCareers/Overview/
- SSLPs – Several of the SSLPs have a clinical slant and are technically paid internships. Internal opportunities postings are found on the SCPP home page with a link to opportunities. socialconcerns.nd.edu/sslp
- Irish Compass – Connect with an alumni mentor https://irishcompass.nd.edu/
- Go Irish – Career Center Services can help with preparing to find summer and short-term post-baccalaureate work to prepare for your application. undergradcareers.nd.edu/about
- Is health care right for you? Visit https://explorehealthcareers.org/field/physical-therapy/
- Occupational Outlook Handbook