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Preparing for Admission to Physical Therapy School

This is a summary. Check individual program details at the PTCAS Directory.


Note: Most PT schools require a 3.0 or higher GPA for admission, and accepted students generally have a 3.5 or above

Take these for sure (required by most PT schools as prerequisites for admission):

  • Principles of Biology I (BIO 135)
  • Anatomy and Physiology I (BIO 270)
  • Anatomy and Physiology II (BIO 275)
  • General Chemistry I (CHEM 151)
  • General Chemistry II (CHEM 152)
  • Physics I + Lab (PHY 111 & 112)
  • Physics II + Lab (PHY 113 & 114)
  • General Psychology (PSY 190)
  • Upper level psychology (PSY 3XX-use PSY 310 or 360 for Exercise Science major below)
  • Statistics (MATH 220)

Consider these courses as well (required by some PT schools):

  • A second Biology course (37% of PT schools require two courses in Biology)
  • Exercise Physiology (16 % of schools)
  • Medical Terminology (14% of schools)

Many PT schools also specify coursework in math, writing, communication, and humanities, but these will be covered if you complete your general education requirements.

Additional courses to earn a major if you complete all the courses listed above, your general education courses (and earn 120 total credit hours):

Biology (Pre-professional/Health Science Emphasis):

  • General Genetics (BIO 283)
  • Evolution (BIO 340)
  • Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 381)
  • Trigonometry and Analytic Geometry (MATH 115)
  • Scientific Literature Skills (BIO 201)
  • Thesis I (BIO 398)
  • Thesis II (BIO 498)
  • 10-13 hrs approved electives

Exercise Science (Pre-Health Professions Emphasis):

  • First Aid/CPR (EXSS 102 or certification)
  • Developmental Psych (EDU 142, PSY 212 or 222)
  • Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries (AT 166)
  • Foundations of Physical Fitness (EXSS 226)
  • Sports Nutrition (EXSS 283)
  • Kinesiology and Biomechanics (EXSS 305)
  • Psychology of Exercise and Sport (EXSS 318)
  • Sport Law and Legal Issues (EXSS 334)
  • Motor Learning (EXSS 360)
  • Exercise Prescription (EXSS 420)
  • Capstone in EXSS (EXSS 403 or 499)


Physical Therapy schools routinely either require or recommend a certain number of observation hours with a licensed doctor of physical therapy, from a certain number of different settings. The number of hours and settings varies. Here are some examples from four schools in Iowa:

  1. Record a minimum of 30 total hours observing in at least three of the following areas: pediatrics, geriatrics, inpatient acute/subacute care, neurological rehabilitation, orthopedics, sports medicine (total of 90 hours).
  2. Applicants are required to observe physical therapists at work in various settings. We require that you spend at least 100 hours observing licensed physical therapists. In addition, you must spend at least 20 hours in each of the following three settings: Acute Care, Neurological Rehabilitation, and Orthopedics. We encourage applicants to observe in other settings as well. A minimum of 80 completed hours of observation is required to be considered for an interview.
  3. We require applicants to complete hours in 2 or more PT settings to include at least one outpatient and one inpatient setting. For a definition of the types of settings, please see the PTCAS Observation Hours section. Fifty hours of observation to be completed by the time your application is submitted, but we have no requirement for number of hours in each setting.
  4. Applicants are encouraged to obtain a broad exposure to physical therapy in more than one clinic setting. The suggested minimum of 50 hours would optimally include experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Most PT schools require you to take the GRE, and most students that are admitted to PT schools have verbal and quantitative scores >150. Some schools also require a minimum score on the writing portion of the exam. You must input the codes of the schools you are applying to in order to send your GRE scores.

Application Timelines

Deadlines for application vary between October and February for most programs, with a few as late as May. Applications for most schools are submitted via a centralized application system, PTCAS, located at