Doctor of Physical Therapy

In the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health program at NWHSU, you will take the credits you need to be competitive in your physical therapy school application. Through coursework and attentive advising, you will feel more than prepared for the academic setting of physical therapy school.

Pre-PT students in the PBPH program will work with Dr. Thoen to design an appropriate academic plan and complete a strong application.

Becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy

Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. Physical therapists’ practice in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, people’s homes, schools, sports and fitness facilities, workplaces, and nursing homes.

To practice as a physical therapist in the U.S., you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam. The length of professional DPT programs is typically three years.

Primary content areas in the curriculum may include, but are not limited to, biology/anatomy, cellular histology, physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, pathology, behavioral sciences, communication, ethics/values, management sciences, finance, sociology, clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, cardiovascular and pulmonary, endocrine and metabolic, and musculoskeletal.

Approximately 80% of the DPT curriculum is classroom (didactic) and lab study and the remaining 20% is dedicated to clinical education. PT students spend on average 27.5 weeks in their final clinical experience. More information.

Preparing for PT School

You are not required to select a particular undergraduate major in order to be eligible for admission to a DPT program. The most common undergraduate majors among PT students include exercise science, biology, kinesiology, and psychology.

DPT programs may require preprofessional (pre-PT/undergraduate) science courses to be completed in a four-year university/college within the 7 to 10 years prior to enrollment. Be prepared to identify what classes you have taken (or will take) to fulfill the program’s course requirements.


The most commonly required course prerequisites are:

  • Anatomy / A&P 1 with lab
  • Physiology / A&P 2 with lab
  • Biology 1 (not botany or zoology)
  • Biology 2 (not botany or zoology)
  • General Chemistry 1 with lab
  • General Chemistry 2 with lab
  • General Physics 1 with lab
  • General Physics 2 with lab
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

Learn more about academic prerequisites

Applying to PT School

You will use the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) to submit a single application for any DPT programs you are interested in. The PTCAS application opens at the end of June/early July.

Application Portal

Application components

The application includes four main components:

Essay prompts differ year to year. PTCAS usually releases the prompt for the upcoming cycle on their Twitter and Facebook pages in the spring.

2020-2021 Prompt: “Every person has a story that has led them to a career. Since there are a variety of health professions that “help” others, please go beyond your initial interaction or experiences with physical therapy and share the deeper story that has confirmed your decision to specifically pursue physical therapy as your career.”

In addition to the PTCAS essay, most programs require you to write supplemental essays. These are additional essays that will let the program know a little bit more about you. These essays could be long or short, depending on the program.

Letters of Recommendation 
Most physical therapist programs require one to four letters of reference as part of the admissions process. You may need to submit references from a particular individual, such as a physical therapist, science professor, or academic advisor

Committee Letter Request form

PTCAS calculates a standardized set of GPAs to help programs evaluate applicants using uniform criteria. PTCAS GPAs may differ from those calculated on your transcripts due to the grade standardization process. Programs may use the PTCAS GPAs or calculate their own.

Repeated courses are included in GPAs, even if they are later repeated for a higher grade or excluded from the GPA on the transcript. Failed courses are included in GPAs, even if they are later repeated for a higher grade or excluded from the GPA on the transcript.

GPA includes all undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate, and professional courses.

  • Undergraduate Cumulative: GPA includes post-baccalaureate undergraduate courses.
  • Graduate Cumulative: GPA includes graduate courses only.
  • Each Institution Attended: GPA may differ from the college or university transcript due to grade standardization process.
  • Science: GPA includes anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics courses.
  • Combined Science and Math: GPA includes all courses in the science GPA, plus math.
  • Course Subject: Separate GPA for every PTCAS course subject.

GPA Calculator Spreadsheet

GRE (required by many but not all)
The GRE is a general standardized exam that is used for graduate programs in many different fields.  Typically, you will only take the general GRE not a subject specific GRE.

The general GRE has 3 sections:

  • The Analytical Writing Assessment, or “essay” section, measures whether you can articulate your thoughts and responses to complex ideas in a clear and reasoned way.
  • The Verbal section tests your ability to analyze written material, as well as relationships among component parts of sentences, including words and concepts.
  • The Quantitative reasoning section tests your basic quantitative skills, as well as your ability to reason and solve problems with quantitative methods. You’ll see questions covering basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. You will not see trigonometry, calculus, or any other high-level math.

The Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are each scored on a scale of 130 to 170. The mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151, and the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153.

The Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and the mean score is 4.0.

The GRE is a Multi-Stage Test, which means that your performance on the first section of the scored Verbal and Quant sections will determine the level of difficulty of the subsequent Verbal and Quant sections. The raw score from each section is the number of questions you answered correctly.

Your raw score is then converted to a scaled score through a process called “equating.” For example, if you perform very well on the first Verbal section, you will receive the most difficult second section in Verbal, but you’ll also have access to the highest potential score range. If you perform less well on the first section of Verbal, you’ll see a less difficult second Verbal section, but you’ll also have access to a lower score band or “potential.”

For the Analytical Writing section, each essay receives a score from at least one human reader, using a 6-point scale.

Studying for this exam is highly recommended. There are free online options as well as a host of programs that have in-person classes, online classes, and individual tutoring. We recommend taking several full-length practice tests prior to your exam date. While you should practice for the test, as it tests general knowledge, you can take it during your course work.

Resources and Opportunities

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