Pre-Health Program

Physical Therapy

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What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical therapy involves using physical methods (e.g., manipulation, traction, massage, exercise, etc.) to assess, diagnose, and treat injury, disability or disease. The physical therapist works with patients to help improve their strength and mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical impairment. They are experts of movement and function of the body and perform testing of muscle function, strength, joint flexibility, balance and coordination, posture, motor function, quality of life, and activities of daily living. After examination, physical therapists will design a health plan that involves short and long-term functional goals that will improve the patient's well-being. Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practice and may specialize in areas such as sports medicine, orthopedics, neurologic rehabilitation, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, women's health, and geriatrics. Additional areas of focused clinical practice include acute care, education and clinical education, health policy and administration, oncology, and research.

Emerging Trends in the Physical Therapy Profession

PT is a dynamic and progressive profession with continued advances in evidence-based and innovative practice, education, lifelong learning and public advocacy. As of 2016 all entry-level PT programs will be required to award the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. As of 2015 there are 211 DPT programs in the U.S. Time magazine listed PT as the sixth most recession-proof job. US News & World Report has repeatedly included physical therapists among its best 100 jobs in terms of employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance, and job security: 2014 (#7), 2013 (#8), 2012, and 2009. also included physical therapists among its list of the top 10 "Fastest Growing Jobs" in November 2012 and ranked the profession as one of the 100 "Best Jobs in America" in 2013. PT is a field that is growing in diversity as well. 68 percent of physical therapists are female. Most PTs work in private outpatient office or group practice.

Perks of the Profession

  • Excellent Income: The median salary for PTs in private practice is $82,390 with the potential to reach over six figures.
  • Satisfying: Many PTs enjoy the independence and autonomy of owning their own practice and the flexibility of determining their practice hours (thus allowing more time for personal life).
  • Diverse Career Outlook: New physical therapists are needed in private practice and as teachers in academic settings. Because of our aging population, opportunities for physical therapists specializing in geriatrics are abundant.
  • Flexibility: Many PTs work part-time, making it easier to balance a career with family life.
  • Great Employment Rate: With just a 0.2 percent unemployment rate, PTs are experiencing some of the best employment conditions.

Download the Physical Therapy Fast Facts (PDF)

For more information on Physical Therapy check out this APTA Presentation

Choosing Physical Therapy as a Career

With the increasing demands of physical therapists, individuals interested in pursuing this health profession must be independent thinkers with high-level problem-solving skills. Recently, this health profession has transitioned from a master's level education to a doctoral level. It is anticipated that by 2010, 99 percent of the physical therapy programs will be accredited to award the professional Doctoral of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

Students interested in pursuing physical therapy as a career should possess attributes that include excellent interpersonal, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills. Students should also be comfortable working with individuals of all ages and have a sincere interest in improving the health and wellness of patients. With today's population living longer and remaining active later in life, physical therapists are in a dire demand. There are many reasons students choose physical therapy as a career:

  • Excellent income: the median salary of physical therapists in private practice is $82,390 ( depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location, and practice setting. Some make over $100,000 (
  • Satisfying professional career: many physical therapists enjoy the independence and autonomy of owning their own practice and the flexibility of determining their practice hours (thus allowing more time for personal life)
  • Career outlook is excellent: new physical therapists are needed in private practice and as teachers in academic settings. Because of our aging population, opportunities for physical therapists specializing in geriatrics are abundant.
  • Full-time/part-time flexibility: many physical therapists work part-time, making it easier to balance a career with family life
  • Best employment rates: with just a 0.2 percent unemployment rate, physical therapists are now experiencing some of the best employment conditions


More than 150,000 physical therapists are licensed in the United States today. All physical therapists must receive a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapy program before taking a national licensure examination that allows them to practice. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.

Nearly 80 percent of active physical therapists practice in outpatient clinics or offices, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing, extended care, or subacute facilities, homes, education or research centers, schools, hospices, industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments, or fitness centers and sports training facilities. Most other physical therapists work in hospital settings.

As of 2016, all entry-level PT programs will be required to award the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. As of 2015, there are 206 DPT programs in the U.S. Ohio has a variety of DPT programs throughout the state, of which include: The Ohio State University, University of Dayton, Ohio University, University of Cincinnati, College of Mount St. Joseph, University of Toledo, Cleveland State University, University of Findlay, Walsh University, and Youngstown State University.For more information on physical therapy school admission statistics, please visit the American Physical Therapy Association website.

Core Prerequisites

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology: ANT 3100, 3120
  • Biology: BIO 1120, 1150
  • Physics: PHY 1110, 1120
  • Chemistry: CHM 1210, 1220
  • Statistics: STT 2640
  • Psychology: PSY 1010
  • Lifespan Development: PSY 3410
  • Exercise Physiology: BIO 3530

Humanities courses recommended includ, but are not limited to English, sociology, cultural studies, and art or music history. Science courses typically must include laboratory. Most programs have specific requirements in addition to the core set of admission requirements that go beyond required coursework.

In addition to course work, many programs require experience or observational hours. Letters of recommendation (including one from a physical therapist) and a competitive GRE score are often required as well.

Physical Therapy at Wright State University

Wright State University offers all the courses necessary to meet the requirements for entry to PT programs. In addition, most courses are offered two or three times per year. A pre-professional advisor is also available to assist students with program variations, information on the application process, and current trends within the profession.

There are many undergraduate fields of study that will prepare students for the PT graduate programs. Among the most common at Wright State are applied physiology, biology, athletic training, and psychology.

Ohio has a variety of PT programs throughout the state. Requirements needed for admission into these programs vary and students should meet with the professional advisor to review prerequisites for each school.

In addition to the prerequisites, students will need to complete a standardized test assessing communication and reasoning skills (GRE or MCAT); gain exposure to a variety of physical therapy experiences; obtain letters of recommendation (with one being from a physical therapist); maintain GPAs (cumulative and science) above a 3.00 (average acceptance GPA is a 3.5). On average, 4.9 applications are received for each available class seat.

DPT Programs in Ohio

  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Dayton
  • Ohio University
  • University of Cincinnati
  • College of Mount St. Joseph
  • Walsh University
  • Youngstown State University
  • Cleveland State University
  • The University of Toledo
  • University of Findlay


The GRE is an exam made up of three areas of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. Each area is divided up into two sections or tasks.  

They are broken up as follows:

Area Time Topics Covered Scoring
Verbal Reasoning 30 minutes per section analyze & evaluate written material, analyze relationships in parts of sentences, word association 130-170 in one-point increments
Quantitative Reasoning 35 minutes per section arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis 130-170 in one-point increments
Analytical Writing 30 minutes per section analyze an issue, analyze an argument 0-6 in half-point increments

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I apply to physical therapy school?

    Although each school has its own application deadline, students interested in applying to physical therapy programs should complete their applications between September and early December, approximately one year before they hope to matriculate. For additional information on programs and their deadlines, visit the Directory of Physical Therapy Programs website at or contact the Pre-Health Advisor.

  • How do I decide on a physical therapy program to attend?

    Students should explore and research a number of physical therapy programs. Deciding what program is best for you is a personal one made after evaluating factors such as geographic location and size of school, cost, class size, licensure pass rates, employability, design and length of program, and degree awarded. Students are encouraged to contact current physical therapy students, as well as recent graduates, to gain information about the variety of factors a program a school has to offer. Viewing a school's website page can also be very helpful.

  • What undergraduate degree should I obtain to gain admission to a physical therapy program?

    There isn't one specific degree that a student must follow to be eligible to apply to physical therapy programs. However, it is important to satisfactorily complete the required prerequisite courses for each school as part of the undergraduate degree curriculum. For assistance, the student can meet with the Pre-Health Advisor to ensure the proper courses are completed and the times they are offered.

  • What is an acceptable GRE score?

    Each physical therapy school is different and students should research each school's website for statistical data. Applicants are encouraged to be familiar with the format and the subject content of the GRE before sitting for the test. If a student doesn't perform well on the GRE, they are eligible to sit for the exam again when they are ready.

  • Are sample tests available?

    Students can purchase study materials and/or courses to help prepare for the GRE. Please see the Pre-Health Advisor for literature regarding these materials and courses. It is important to remember that to do well on the GRE, a considerable amount of time (several weeks to months) should be reserved for studying material on a daily basis.

    For information on when and where you can take the GRE, visit the website or call 1-800-473-2255.

  • How many letters of evaluation are required for physical therapy school?

    Generally, most physical therapy programs will require at least 3 letters of recommendation. It is important for a student to be familiar with each programs requirement, as some will require letters from physical therapists, science professors, and employers.

  • What is the physical therapy school interview like?

    Not all physical therapy schools interview their applicants. Generally, those schools that do, only invite applicants that are seriously being considered for matriculation. Applicants will be expected to discuss their motivation for physical therapy, their personal and professional goals, and their assessment of current health care issues. Interviewing formats vary and can either be one-on-one or in a small group. Applicants are usually provided with information about the school's interviewing process before the interview. Most students will be taken on school tours, meet with current students, and discuss financial costs with an advisor.

    For assistance in preparing for the interviewing process, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor or the Career Services office to schedule a mock interview.

  • What can students do to enhance their chances of admission to a physical therapy program?

    Candidates should have a high overall GPA and a high GPA in prerequisite course work. Admission officers also look favorably on an applicant's volunteer experience as a physical therapy aide, letters of recommendation from physical therapists or science professors, a sincere commitment to the profession, and excellent writing and interpersonal skills. Students should get involved in:

    • Leadership and teamwork positions, such as in student organizations, charity organizations, fundraiser activities, etc.
    • Activities that demonstrate your ability to manage multiple tasks while performing well academically
    • Shadowing hours with a physical therapist

    "Quality and persistence are far more important than quantity"

  • When will I find out if I am accepted into physical therapy school?

    Physical therapy schools usually begin notifying students of acceptance in January.

  • What is the difference between a physical therapist and a physical therapist assistant? Is the physical therapist assistant program a stepping-stone to a physical therapist program?

    A physical therapist requires graduate level work (either a master's or doctoral degree) and successful completion of a national exam. A physical therapist assistant is generally completion of college level courses within two years (associates degree). A physical therapist assistant will assist the physical therapist in carrying out treatments on a patient.

    The physical therapist assistant curriculum differs from that of the physical therapist and does not provide the needed prerequisites required for physical therapist education.

  • Does Wright State have a pre-physical therapy student organization?

    Currently, the University does not have a student organization targeted specifically to pre-physical therapy students. However, many of our exercise science/pre-PT students are members of either the Biology Club or the PreMedical Society. These organizations provide mentoring, educational speakers, volunteer and community service, and social activities. If you are interested in joining either of these organizations, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor.

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Contact Information

Pre-Professional Health Program Coordinator Rob Cowles