Physical Therapy

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy uses physical methods to assist patients of all ages with functional problems from injuries or illnesses. The goal of physical therapy is to help restore function, improve movement, manage pain and prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs.  Physical Therapists (most graduate programs now offer a Doctor in Physical Therapy DPT) treat patients with injuries, disabilities and disease, and can work with a variety of populations with a wide range of functional problems. Physical therapists spend time learning the functional limitations of their patients in order to make individualized treatment plans and to monitor improvement.  Physical therapy treatments vary by patient and some physical therapists specialize in a particular type of care (by patient age or type of therapy).  Physical therapists often move with their patients (demonstrating exercises and stretches) and spend a large portion of their days on their feet.

Physical Therapists typically do the following:

  • Take patient history, observe movements and perform tests to identify existing problems in function and movement
  • Create a treatment plan based on diagnoses and prognoses
  • Use exercises, stretches, equipment or other therapies to help improve function, movement and manage pain.
  • Evaluate and monitor patient progress (may lead to modification of interventions)
    • Educate patients and families about recovery from injury or illness and promote overall fitness and wellbeing
    • Work with other healthcare professionals for referrals and overall patient care

Explore these resources and organizations about physical therapy:

Source: United States Department of Labor: Occupational Outlook Handbook.  6 April 2012. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 23 June 2013 <>.



  • Individual PT programs will have their own, unique, course requirements for competitive applicants.
    • Review admission requirements for each PT program to which you are interested in applying. PTCAS has a list of accredited programs with specific admission requirements.
    • Students should check with the website and admissions office of schools where they plan to apply before their senior year, to progress smoothly from their undergraduate experience directly to PT school.
  • Most programs will require a cumulative and science GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Please check with the schools you plan to apply to regarding their policy on AP Credits. Some schools may or may not accept AP Credit.  If they do accept credits, an additional upper level course with a lab may be required.
  • Please see a PHMO advisor to create an academic plan that meets your timeline and goals.

PT Programs MAY require the following pre-requisite coursework. This is NOT an exhaustive list, as requirements vary by program. Remember that it is the applicant's responsibility to ensure completion of all pre-requisites. Check the PTCAS Summary of Prerequiste Courses for individual program requirements.

  • Biology 141 and 142 with labs 
  • Chemistry 141 and 142 with labs
  • Physics 141 and 142 with labs
  • QTM 100 or Math 107
  • Anatomy with lab
  • Physiology with lab
  • 6-8 semester hours of college English/writing (CWR classes in the English language can fulfill this requirement)
  • Some exposure to Psychology, Sociology, and/or Anthropology 

Application Process

Admissions Exam: Graduate Record Exam (GRE) taken within 5 years of application. This exam is not required for all schools, so check individual schools' requirements. 

Application Service: Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)

Application timeline/deadline:  While there is a centralized application service, application deadlines and supplemental applications vary from school to school (beginning in January).  Some programs have early admissions options. In addition, some schools will offer visitation/interview dates.

Letters of Recommendation:  Physical Therapy programs may have specific requirements for the number and type of references you list; however PTCAS will allow up to four evaluator names. Typically students will need at least one academic reference.  Some schools may require a letter from a practicing Physical Therapist (or someone who is familiar with work in a physical therapy setting). Emory’s Career Center offers a Credentials File to collect letters of recommendation that will be sent to the appropriate professional schools. 

Personal Statement: The PHMO offers personal statement workshops on particular dates during the semester. Check the PHMO newsletter for upcoming events. Once you complete a draft of your personal statement, you may submit your draft to the Career Center Document Critique Service for feedback.