Last Updated on March 27, 2023 by Spynaija
Physical therapy is a rewarding career that involves helping people overcome physical impairments, disabilities, and pain. If you’re considering pursuing a degree in this field, it’s important to choose a reputable school with a comprehensive curriculum and excellent clinical experience opportunities. There are many physical therapy schools in the United States, each with its own unique strengths and admission requirements.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best physical therapy schools in the United States and their various admission requirements. We’ll explore the factors that make these schools stand out from the rest, and we’ll also provide tips on how to increase your chances of getting accepted into your desired program.
Job Outlook for Physical Therapists
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physical therapists is excellent. Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow by 18 percent by 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by the aging baby boomer population, which is expected to require more physical therapy services as they age and require treatment for chronic conditions.
In addition to the aging population, advancements in medical technology and an increased focus on preventative care are expected to increase the demand for physical therapy services. As more people seek to prevent injuries and manage pain without medication, physical therapy is becoming a more popular treatment option.
Salary Expectations for Physical Therapists
Physical therapy is a high-paying field, with a median annual salary of $95,620 as of January 2023. However, salaries can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and specialty. Physical therapists working in metropolitan areas tend to earn higher salaries than those in rural areas, and those with advanced certifications or specializations may also command higher salaries.
Potential Career Paths for Physical Therapists
Physical therapists have a range of potential career paths available to them, depending on their interests and goals. Some common career paths for physical therapists include:
- Outpatient Clinics: Physical therapists may work in outpatient clinics, providing therapy to patients who are recovering from injuries or surgeries.
- Hospitals: Physical therapists may work in hospitals, providing therapy to patients who are recovering from illnesses or surgeries.
- Sports Medicine: Physical therapists may work in sports medicine clinics or with professional sports teams, providing therapy to athletes recovering from injuries.
- Rehabilitation Centers: Physical therapists may work in rehabilitation centers, providing therapy to patients who are recovering from accidents, illnesses, or disabilities.
- Private Practice: Physical therapists may open their own private practices, offering therapy services to patients in their community.
- Education: Physical therapists may become educators, teaching physical therapy students or providing continuing education courses to practicing physical therapists.
Admission Requirements and Application Process
Physical therapy is a highly competitive field, and admission to physical therapy programs is often quite competitive. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy, it’s essential to understand the admission requirements and application process for physical therapy schools. Below are the admission requirements and application process for physical therapy schools, including prerequisites, standardized tests, and application timelines.
Prerequisites for Physical Therapy Programs
Before you can apply to a physical therapy program, you’ll need to complete a set of prerequisite courses. These courses typically include:
- Anatomy and Physiology: You’ll need to complete courses in anatomy and physiology to gain an understanding of the human body and its systems.
- Biology: You’ll need to complete courses in biology to gain a foundational understanding of living organisms and their functions.
- Chemistry: You’ll need to complete courses in chemistry to gain an understanding of chemical reactions and how they affect the body.
- Physics: You’ll need to complete courses in physics to gain an understanding of the laws of motion and how they apply to the body.
- Psychology: You’ll need to complete courses in psychology to gain an understanding of human behavior and the impact of illness and injury on mental health.
- Statistics: You’ll need to complete courses in statistics to gain an understanding of research methods and data analysis.
It’s essential to note that the specific prerequisites for physical therapy programs may vary depending on the school, so it’s important to research the requirements for the programs you’re interested in.
Standardized Tests for Physical Therapy Programs
In addition to completing prerequisite courses, you’ll also need to take standardized tests as part of the application process. The most commonly required tests for physical therapy programs include:
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE): The GRE is a standardized test that assesses your skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): The TOEFL is a standardized test that assesses your proficiency in English if English is not your first language.
It’s important to note that the specific tests required for physical therapy programs may also vary depending on the school, so it’s essential to research the requirements for the programs you’re interested in.
Application Timelines for Physical Therapy Programs
The application process for physical therapy programs typically involves several steps and can take several months to complete. The specific timeline for the application process may vary depending on the school, but in general, it’s important to start early and stay organized. The following are the typical steps in the application process:
- Complete Prerequisites: Make sure you’ve completed all the prerequisite courses required for the programs you’re interested in.
- Take Standardized Tests: Take any required standardized tests, such as the GRE or TOEFL.
- Request Recommendations: Request letters of recommendation from professors, employers, or other professionals who can speak to your abilities and potential as a physical therapist.
- Write Personal Statement: Write a personal statement that highlights your experience, qualifications, and goals as a physical therapist.
- Submit Applications: Submit your applications to the physical therapy programs you’re interested in, along with any required materials such as transcripts, standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation.
- Interview: If you’re selected for an interview, be prepared to answer questions about your qualifications and goals as a physical therapist.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Physical Therapy School
Below are some of the important factors you need to consider when choosing a physical therapy school across the country.
Curriculum and Faculty of Physical Therapy Schools
When it comes to pursuing a career in physical therapy, attending a reputable school with a comprehensive curriculum and experienced faculty is crucial. The curriculum and faculty of physical therapy schools play a vital role in preparing students to become skilled and knowledgeable physical therapists. Let’s walk you through the importance of curriculum and faculty in physical therapy schools and what to look for when selecting a school.
Importance of Curriculum in Physical Therapy Schools
The curriculum of physical therapy schools is designed to provide students with the theoretical and practical knowledge they need to become competent and effective physical therapists. A well-structured curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, and therapeutic interventions. A strong curriculum also includes hands-on clinical experiences, which allow students to apply their knowledge in real-world situations.
A good physical therapy curriculum should be evidence-based, which means that it should be grounded in scientific research and best practices. It should also be flexible and adaptable, allowing for updates and changes as new research and technology emerge. In addition, a curriculum should prepare students to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is required to become licensed to practice physical therapy in the United States.
Faculty Qualifications and Experience
The faculty of physical therapy schools plays a significant role in the quality of education and training students receive. Experienced and knowledgeable faculty members can provide students with valuable insights and guidance, as well as offer mentorship and support. When selecting a physical therapy school, it’s important to consider the qualifications and experience of the faculty members.
A good physical therapy faculty should have a diverse range of expertise, including clinical practice, research, and teaching. Faculty members should have terminal degrees in physical therapy or related fields, and many should have professional experience working as physical therapists. A faculty with a mix of tenured and adjunct professors can provide students with both academic rigor and real-world experience.
Another important factor to consider is the faculty-student ratio. A low faculty-student ratio allows for personalized attention and support, as well as more opportunities for mentorship and research collaborations. A faculty that is active in research can also provide students with opportunities to engage in research projects and gain valuable experience in this area.
In addition to qualifications and experience, faculty members should be accessible and approachable, willing to answer students’ questions and provide guidance and support. Faculty members who are involved in professional organizations and advocacy groups can also provide students with networking opportunities and connections in the field.
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a physical therapy school is accreditation. Accreditation is a process that ensures that a school or program meets certain educational standards and has been approved by an independent accrediting agency. Accreditation is important because it demonstrates that the school or program has been reviewed by experts in the field and has met the necessary standards for quality education.
The two main accrediting agencies for physical therapy programs in the United States are the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). It’s important to choose a school that is accredited by one of these agencies to ensure that you receive a high-quality education.
Another important factor to consider when choosing a physical therapy program is the program structure. Physical therapy programs can vary in length and format, so it’s important to choose a program that fits your needs and schedule. Some programs are offered as traditional four-year bachelor’s degrees, while others are offered as two-year master’s degrees or three-year doctorate degrees.
You should also consider the program’s coursework and clinical experience requirements. Look for programs that offer a well-rounded curriculum and ample opportunities for hands-on clinical experience in a variety of settings.
Location is also an important factor to consider when choosing a physical therapy school. Consider the location of the school in relation to your home, family, and personal preferences. Some students prefer to attend a school close to home, while others prefer to attend a school in a different state or region. You should also consider the cost of living in the area and the availability of clinical experience opportunities.
What is the cost of tuition for physical therapy school?
Tuition costs for physical therapy school vary depending on the program and the institution. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the average tuition for a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in the United States is around $30,000 per year for in-state students and $40,000 per year for out-of-state students.
Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States
Here are some of the best physical therapy schools in the United States and their various admission requirements:
1. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California (USC) offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program that is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country. The program is focused on evidence-based practice, which means that students learn the latest research and techniques in the field. USC’s DPT program has an impressive 100% graduation rate and a 98% licensure pass rate. The program is a three-year, full-time program that provides students with a comprehensive and hands-on education. In addition, applicants are expected to acquire a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 to be accepted into the program.
2. University of Delaware
- Average cumulative undergraduate GPA: 3.74.
- Average science prerequisite GPA: 3.70.
- Average GRE scores: 73rd percentile (Verbal); 59th percentile (Math)
The University of Delaware’s Department of Physical Therapy is another top program in the field. The program offers a DPT degree and is known for its innovative research and commitment to clinical education. Students are provided with ample opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field through clinical internships and rotations. The program is a three-year, full-time program that includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience.
3. University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh’s DPT program is highly regarded for its faculty and curriculum. The program is designed to prepare students for a variety of career paths, including research, teaching, and clinical practice. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and clinical experiences at top medical centers in the Pittsburgh area.
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
Undergraduate degrees MUST be conferred and final transcripts received two months (July) prior to the start of the program
- A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale)
- Demonstrated evidence of adequate exposure to the field of physical therapy and an appreciation of the breadth, depth, and scope of practice. This can be accomplished through either volunteer or paid work experience in a physical therapy setting; there is no minimum number of hours required, however, 20-50 hours are recommended. It is preferable for applicants to show evidence of their willingness to work with a variety of patients in different physical therapy settings.
The GRE is not required for application submission and is not part of our application review. Learn More
4. Emory University
Emory University’s DPT program is a three-year program that provides students with a strong foundation in the field of physical therapy. The program emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration, which means that students have the opportunity to work with professionals in other fields, such as medicine, public health, and nursing. Emory’s DPT program has a 100% licensure pass rate and a high job placement rate.
Interested applicants must acquire a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university at the time of application. A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (4-point system) is required.
5. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa’s DPT program is known for its exceptional faculty and clinical experiences. The program places a strong emphasis on evidence-based practice and provides students with opportunities to engage in research and community service. Students can also take advantage of the university’s strong partnerships with healthcare organizations throughout Iowa.
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- A minimum GPA of 3.0
- A minimum GRE score of 300
- Three letters of recommendation
- Completion of specific prerequisite courses in anatomy, physiology, and biology.
6. Northwestern University
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine offers a highly regarded DPT program. The program is known for its commitment to interprofessional education, which means that students work with professionals in other fields, such as medicine and nursing, to provide comprehensive care. Students also have access to state-of-the-art facilities and clinical experiences at top medical centers in the Chicago area.
Applicants must successfully complete a bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited college or university by the time of application for the DPT program and must have acquired a minimum cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
In addition, standardized test scores such as GRE and GMAT are not required for the DPT program. However, if an applicant feels that such a test score would bolster their application, the score may be submitted. Learn More
7. Duke University
Duke University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in the field. The program places a strong emphasis on clinical education and provides students with opportunities to work with patients in a variety of settings. Duke’s DPT program also offers a variety of research opportunities for students interested in pursuing academic or research careers.
The DPT program at Duke University does not have a minimum GPA requirement. However, applicants with a GPA of 3.2 and above are the most successful. Also, the program does not have a minimum GRE score, so to get in, you need a high GRE score to be competitive.
8. University of Colorado
The University of Colorado’s DPT program is focused on providing students with a strong foundation in clinical practice and research. The program emphasizes evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary collaboration. Students have access to a variety of clinical experiences and research opportunities, as well as state-of-the-art facilities.
GPA. Qualified applicants have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher (based on all course attempts). GPA is one of several important factors in admissions decisions. It is important to consider that the average cumulative GPA of admitted applicants is above 3.6. Learn More
9. University of Utah
The University of Utah’s DPT program is designed to prepare students for careers in clinical practice, research, and teaching. The program emphasizes a holistic approach to patient care and provides students with opportunities to engage in research and community service. Students can also take advantage of the university’s strong partnerships with healthcare organizations throughout Utah.
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
- A minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher.
- A minimum GRE score of 300.
- C- grades in prerequisite coursework will NOT be accepted.
- Completion of specific prerequisite courses in anatomy, physiology, and biology. Learn More
10. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s DPT program is known for its commitment to research and innovation in the field. The program emphasizes evidence-based practice and provides students with opportunities to engage in research and community service. Students also have access to state-of-the-art facilities and clinical experiences at top medical centers.
- Minimum GPA: 3.0 GPA or higher in the undergraduate degree.
- 3.0 undergraduate GPA in all prerequisite courses.
Physical therapy is a rewarding and challenging profession that requires a solid education and extensive training. Attending a top physical therapy school can provide you with the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to succeed in this field. By exploring the rankings, curriculum, faculty, clinical opportunities, and other factors of the best physical therapy schools in the US, you can make an informed decision about your education and future career. Whether you’re interested in research, clinical practice, or teaching, there’s a physical therapy school that can meet your needs and help you achieve your goals.