You will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree and fulfill the prerequisites for physical therapy school. There are colleges and universities that allow you to obtain a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. Other colleges across the country have undergraduate degree programs geared toward a career as a physical therapist. Some refer to them as a “pre-physical therapy” program. They allow you to go above and beyond fulfilling the prerequisites and provide you with a great foundation for physical therapy school.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in sports medicine, The College of Saint Benedict at Saint John’s University in St. Joseph, Minnesota, gives you the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s in pre-physical therapy. The program has basic classes along with others in sports medicine and exercise physiology. You would also have an opportunity to do an internship with the United States Olympic Committee and live with Olympic athletes at one of their training centers.
Also, if you are interested in working as a physical therapist in a medical facility, you may want to consider earning your pre-physical therapy degree at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. It is close to nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals. And Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, provides a pre-physical therapy program with the basic coursework in addition to general education courses. The advisers also work with students so they can set up the requirements for getting into physical therapy school.
Remember that these programs are specifically to prepare you for physical therapy school, so make sure you know this is the career you would like to pursue if you decide to enter a physical therapy program.
While each physical therapy school will have its own requirements you have to meet to get in, there are common undergraduate courses they all require. The core classes needed to get into any physical therapy school include anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, psychology, and statistics.
Anatomy is the study of the body’s organs, muscles, and bones and is the foundation for anyone going into the health care field. You likely will have to take both a lecture and lab course. You will also have to know how the body should move, and that is why kinesiology is a requirement. Like anatomy, it will involve a lecture component and a laboratory component. Physiology is a study of all the major systems (nervous, endocrine, and reproductive) of the body and how they should function. Psychology is important because you will be interacting with different people every day, and it will provide you with an understanding of their emotions and behavior. Statistics will teach you how to collect and analyze data, which is helpful in research. Physics and organic chemistry are also classes you will likely have to take.
For the most part, you can get a bachelor’s degree in anything and get into physical therapy school as long as you meet the prerequisites. Most schools have similar requirements, but if you are interested in going to a specific school, it is important to be aware of their requirements. The majority will be in the sciences, so it would be best to major in a science such as biology, physiology, anatomy, or kinesiology to help you in meeting the requirements and provide you with a solid foundation for the classes in physical therapy school.
Master’s Degree from an Accredited Program
To be licensed and practice as a physical therapist you will need to obtain a master in physical therapy from an accredited physical therapy school. It will usually take three years, and you will start out with the basic classes such as biology, physics, chemistry, and human anatomy. These classes give you the foundation for other classes like biomechanics, neuroanatomy, pathology, rehabilitative medicine, and human growth and development. This is why it is beneficial as an undergraduate to take basic sciences classes and maybe even some higher level courses before you apply to physical therapy school.
The different specialties of physical therapy will be covered in school as well. They include cardiopulmonary physical therapy, which is therapy aimed at rehabilitating patients with conditions such as coronary heart disease and asthma. Other areas of study will include neurological physical therapy, physical therapy and psychosocial issues, musculoskeletal disorders, and physical therapy research. These classes will give you a broad education so you have knowledge in all areas of physical therapy, while also giving you the opportunity to decide if you want to focus on a particular specialty. In addition to classroom work, there will be clinical coursework and internships that will give you the opportunity to apply the knowledge you learned in the classroom to a clinical setting.