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Preprofessional Studies in Health & Law
Pre-Physical Therapy Study
This section provides information for planning for admission to physical therapy (PT) programs, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure you mention your intention to follow a pre-PT preparatory program. You will be subscribed to the HPPLC mailing list and receive invitations to participate in events of interest to you.
Description of the Profession
Physical therapists (PTs) examine, diagnose, and administer treatment to individuals to restore function, relieve pain, and prevent disability following disease, injury, or loss of function; these examination and intervention activities are based upon research evidence. PTs can work in many different settings, and can develop specializations working with specific conditions. Physical therapy is one of the fastest growing health fields, and PTs are employed in many different settings. PTs must possess creative problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, patience, manual dexterity, physical stamina, and the ability to work closely with people from a variety of backgrounds.
The Degree Path
All physical therapists are required to earn a graduate degree (master’s or clinical doctorate) from an accredited physical therapy training program. The doctoral degree will eventually be the norm. The Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program on IU's Indianapolis campus (IUPUI). While IU Bloomington does not offer a PT program, hundreds of pre-PT students complete their undergraduate degree and admission requirements at IUB and then apply to DPT programs like the one at IUPUI.
To be eligible to apply to the DPT program, you must successfully complete certain prerequisite courses and other admission requirements. Before beginning the doctorate itself, you must successfully complete a bachelor’s degree and major of your choice. (Your prerequisite courses will be spread out across your undergraduate semesters.)
Admission Is Competitive
Admission to the IU physical therapy program is very competitive. The level of competitiveness across other PT programs ranges from moderately to highly selective. Statistics show that students who invest 30 hours outside of class on academics (e.g., studying, reading, getting help when needed) for every 15 hours spent in class are more successful than students who invest less time. If you choose to ignore this advice, be aware that you are making a decision to be less competitive for admission to programs for which you might otherwise be competitive!
Success in any graduate-level program requires you become as professionalized as possible as an undergraduate. We strongly urge you to consult and adopt the professional development model on the Health Professions and Prelaw Center web site.
Required Job Shadowing
Shadowing (or "clinical observation") is a requirement for admission to most DPT programs. Shadowing can also help you decide if a career in physical therapy is the best choice for you, or whether you need to explore other fields. Furthermore, extensive observation in a variety of settings can help you become a more competitive applicant to PT programs.
We strongly suggest you undertake some shadowing prior to beginning classes in the Fall, but then use your freshman year to acclimate yourself to college, and to the increased demands of IUB courses. After freshman year, continue with more shadowing.
HINT: Log your shadowing hours and take some notes during your experiences. Refer to the PT Clinical Observation page for more detailed suggestions.
Choosing Your Degree and Major
Almost any degree and major is a good choice for pre-PT students, and most PT programs have no preference as to what major and degree you earn! In addition, there does not need to be an obvious connection between your major and PT (applicants from a dozen different majors were admitted to the IU PT program last year). We recommend that you choose a major (and perhaps a minor or two) that interests you. It is also perfectly fine to be exploratory in the beginning, and to work with your academic advisor throughout the year to discover a major that is a good fit for you. (Consult University Division resources for information about specific majors or for information about exploring majors.)
Note that prerequisite courses are different from one physical therapy program to another. There is, however, a fair degree of prerequisite overlap across programs. By choosing from the courses listed below you can be confident that you will begin to lay a foundation that will enable you to apply to a variety of PT programs, which will in turn increase your opportunities to be admitted.
You can learn more about additional admission requirements later during the year. (Refer to the HPPLC Events Calendar for announcements about PT group advising sessions and other PT events held throughout the year. Also be sure to tell the academic advisor you meet at new Student Orientation you are interested in pre-PT so you will be put on the HPPLC pre-PT email list.) For now, though, it's important that you simply focus on doing thorough planning for your Orientation advising session and registration. Please consider the options below and follow the directions.
Your Course Load
A normal course load for preprofessional students is 14–16 credit hours, depending on the mix of classes. For the upcoming semester, if course availability permits, try to take 6–11 credits from the list below, and then fill in the rest of your schedule with courses pertaining to your potential major or exploratory interests. In your individual academic advising session during New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options for appropriate courses and plan an appropriate course load.
Physical Therapy Prerequisites
Arts and Humanities/Social Sciences
Usually two courses (6 credits total), from sociology, anthropology, art, history, and / or philosophy. List at least 8–10 courses total from these departments on your Academic Planning Worksheet (APW).
ANAT-A 215 (5 credits). A 215 has limited seating and may not be available. If so, you can simply take it later. (We urge you to follow the anatomy study tips.)
PHSL-P 215 (5 credits). Note that PHSL-P 215 is most appropriate if you have previously taken some anatomy and/or physiology in high school or college. P 215 has limited seating and may not be available. If so, you can simply take it later.
CHEM-C 117, C 118, or C 103 (5 credits each), depending upon your placement. See the UD Guide's CHEM-C 117 course description for important information about chemistry placement. You must take the Chemistry placement exam by June 1 to be eligible to enroll in C117. (If you already have credit for C 117, discuss further options with your Orientation advisor.)
PSY-P 101 (3 credits)
Human Lifespan Development
HPER-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 315 (each is 3 credits). PSY-P 315 may be more flexible during the PT admission process; ask you Orientation advisor to explain PSY-P 315 prerequisites.
Physics (two courses with lab)
PHYS-P 201 and P 202 or PHYS-P 221 and P 222 (10 credits total). Physics may be appropriate for some freshmen, but not for most. If you were very successful in a recent, challenging high school physics class, then, depending on factors such as your Math Skills Assessment, you should discuss with an academic advisor whether physics is an appropriate choice for the upcoming term. If so, P 201 and P 202 are normally the best choices.
Multiple course options. Most freshmen are not ready to take college-level statistics (which tends to be very different from high school stats). Consult with an academic advisor if you are considering enrolling in statistics during freshman year.
Required Additional Courses
Follow the directions for the APW for listing additional course options. The additional courses you list on the APW should not include the above required courses!
Additional Planning Notes
- Math and science courses must be major-level courses to count for PT admission. If placement exams recommend or require you to take a prep course or prerequisite prior to a required course, don't worry: with careful planning (and consultation with an academic advisor) you can still stay on track.
- Placement Credit and Exemptions: You may fulfill up to one IU DPT prerequisite with Advanced Placement (AP) credit. Other PT programs may not accept Advanced Placement (AP credit), credit-by-exam, or exemption from degree requirements in place of admission requirements, or may only accept such credit under specific circumstances. If you have placement credit and/or exemptions, you will eventually need to check with programs to confirm their policies.
Required Admission GPA versus Competitive GPA
Note that while a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.2 is required to apply to the IU PT program, a considerably higher GPA is likely necessary to be competitive for admission. Likewise, while a minimum math/science GPA of 3.2 is also required to apply (grades earned in prerequisite physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology), a considerably higher math/science GPA is likely necessary to be competitive for admission.