Physical therapy (PT) is a health care profession designed to enhance the quality of life of patients through the assessment, evaluation and rehabilitation of a variety of anatomical and neuromuscular functions. Licensed physical therapists commonly provide services in a variety of settings, including but not limited to hospitals, private clinics, school systems, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and community health centers. There are currently 212 physical therapy programs at colleges and universities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, which have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). It is the vision of the profession that by the year 2020, physical therapy will be provided by doctors of physical therapy (DPT), recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to movement, function, and health. Further information can be found at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The Virginia Phyysical Therapy Association (VPTA) also provides great information. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredits physical therapy programs to assure quality. View CAPTE's list of accredited PT programs.
Choosing a Major
Students are not required to complete a particular major to be eligible for admission to a DPT program. When selecting a major, consider how you will complete both your JMU degree (major) as well as the pre-PT prerequisite courses; some majors include many of the prerequisites commonly associated with admission to DPT programs. Admissions committees are most concerned with the overall scope and quality of a student’s undergraduate performance and it is important that students select a major based on their interests and aptitudes.
Which JMU undergraduate majors are represented amongst successful applicants to physical therapy schools ('10 - '14)?
All physical therapy programs have a set of prerequisite courses and experiences that may be unique to the admission requirements particular program. JMU offers many of the prerequisite courses commonly required by DPT schools. Students should confirm the admissions requirements for each individual DPT school. The Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) provides a summary of course prerequisites for each institution.
The most commonly required courses for admission to PT school can be met at JMU with the following coursework:
- BIO 270: Human Physiology (4 credit hours)
- BIO 290: Human Anatomy (4 credit hours)
- CHEM 131/132 and 131L/132L: General Chemistry I & II (8 credit hours)
- PHYS 140/150 and 140L/150L: College Physics I & II (8 credit hours)
- MATH 220: Statistics (3 credit hours)
- PSYC 101: General Psychology (3 credit hours)
- PSYC 160: Life Span Human Development (3 credit hours)
- PSYC 250: Abnormal Psychology (3 credit hours)
- SOCI 110: Social Issues in a Global Context (3 credit hours)
- English: Composition, Literature, or Scientific Writing (ENG, HUM 200, WRTC; 6 credit hours)
DPT programs have varying requirements for admission. Many physical therapy programs require 4-8 additional credit hours in biology (BIO 114, BIO 214 are recommended); some programs require advanced biology (embryology, genetics, histology, immunology, microbiology) and/or advanced social and behavioral science coursework.
As part of the application process, students will be required to submit a transcript of all university course work. Overall grade point average (GPA), as well as the GPA in math and science courses, will often be used in the review of the application. Most PT programs have a minimum GPA requirement to apply; minimum GPA scores (>2.7) vary by institution and may be low when compared with the average GPA of applicants offered admission. Please refer to individual PT program requirements for further details. If you are interested, view physical therapy schools (DPT) that JMU alumni have received offers of admissions ('10 - '14).
A vast majority of physical therapy programs require applicants to complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE); some have minimum acceptable scores and deadlines for last acceptable test dates.
Most applications for physical therapy programs will need to be completed during the early fall semester of the student's senior year. Students should have all of the prerequisites completed by the time of application. Both the chemistry and physics requirements involve yearlong sequences. Other required courses, such as psychology, have sequencing requirements. Students need to carefully plan each semester to ensure that all requirements can be met within the chosen time frame. Should you choose to pursue this preparation timeline, you will experience a highly structured and challenging sequence of courses. Some students choose to extend their preparation timeline to allow for greater flexibility in scheduling.
Many physical therapy schools utilize the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). Information about participating schools, admission requirements, and the application process are available at the PTCAS website. APTA also provides great information on the physical therapist admissions process.
Students are encouraged to begin accumulating physical therapy volunteer experience and observation hours in a variety of physical therapy settings (e.g. acute care, rehabilitation, extended care, school, wellness, home health, industrial). Most physical therapy programs require observation hours and will require verification by a licensed supervising physical therapist (i.e. keep a log, some programs require as many as 200 hours).
Letters of Recommendation or Evlauation
Physical therapy programs typically require 1- 4 letters of evaluation (LOE). Establishing mentoring relationships with professors in the university setting as well as PT work place settings is important. Most physical therapy programs require at least one letter from a science professor and a physical therapist.
The Madison Advising Peers will return to the Pre-Professional Health office to assist students in Fall semester 2016!
The Pre-Physical Therapy Advisor is Dr. Louise Gilchrist in the Pre-Professional Health Advising office. Dr. Gilchrist is a practicing PT at Rockingham Memorial Hospital and works every-other-week as an advisor for pre-PT students at JMU. Schedule a meeting by calling 540-568-6555, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting PPH Advising in Roop Hall, G24.