Pre-Physical Therapy Preparation at UHMānoa
(Text compiled from the American Physical Therapy Association website at www.apta.org, NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admission Guide: Strategy for Success, and the UHM 2011-2012 Catalog.)
Physical Therapy programs offered in Hawai'i: None
Physical therapists evaluate physical disabilities and help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent disabilities. A physical therapist’s responsibilities include the planning, evaluation, administration, and modification of treatment. Physical therapists advise and educate their patients, in addition to providing therapeutic and preventive care.
Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including private practice, outpatient rehabilitation centers, hospitals and clinics, sports facilities, skilled nursing facilities,, community and government health agencies, and home health agencies. Although most are involved in practice, some physical therapists conduct research or teach in higher education.
Although some programs still offer Master of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.) degrees, most schools have instituted an entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) degree in response to the profession’s increasing complexity and responsibilities.
Related fields include occupational therapy, rehabilitation counseling, athletic training, and personal training.
Becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy, or D.P.T., usually requires 7 or more years of education:
Bachelors Degree (ca. 4 years);
Physical Therapy School (usually 3 years);
Residencies or clinical fellowships (1+ years).
All accredited DPT programs require a completed baccalaureate degree and 2-3 years of specific course work that can often be completed within the baccalaureate. Generally, the DPT program is a 3-year curriculum of combined academic and clinical work. DPTs have the option to complete one or more residencies/fellowships to acquire more specialized training.
Students must graduate from an accredited program in order to be eligible to sit for the licensing exam, a state-administered national exam. Some states have additional requirements, but all physical therapists must be licensed to practice.
Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! It is imperative that you research the programs you are interested in attending; the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website, www.apta.org, includes a Directory of Accredited Physical Therapy Programs.
The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to physical therapy programs:
BIOL 171/171Lab and 172/172Lab
Introductory Biology I and II
CHEM 161/161Lab and 162/162Lab
General Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/151Lab and 152/152Lab
College Physics I and II
SOCS or PSY225
PHYL 141/141Lab and 142/142Lab
Anatomy and Physiology I and II
PSY 100 and 240 (or 371)
General and upper division Psychology
(usually developmental or abnormal)
In addition, PAC recommends the following UHM courses for students pursuing physical therapy:
Exercise and Sport Physiology
Additional requirements may include CPR certification or courses such as English composition, social sciences, humanities, communicology, computers (ICS 101), medical terminology (HLTH 110 and 125 at KCC), exercise physiology and kinesiology (KRS 205, 353 and 354/354Lab, 415, 416, 419, 420, 421, 463; HLTH 290/290Lab at KCC), human development and aging (PSY X4X, X7X at UHM, a variety of FAMR courses at UHM, or HLTH 270 at KCC), organic chemistry (CHEM 152/152Lab, or 272/272Lab and 273/273Lab), research methods (PSY 212), and cell biology (BIOL 275/275Lab).
Work or volunteer experience involving direct contact with people with disabilities, illness, or other disadvantages is essential. DPT programs may require anywhere from 30 to 200+ hours of observation or experience and may request that one of your letters of recommendation come from a licensed physical therapist. Some schools specify a minimum number of different settings for observation/experience, and may even specify a minimum number of hours in each setting. Be sure to check the specific requirements for each school!
Experience opportunities are available at hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, shelters, rehabilitation facilities, etc.; see UHM’s Pre-Health Advising Center for a list of possible contacts.
Tuition for physical therapy programs, as high as it is, covers only a fraction of the cost of educating a DPT, which means that each new student represents a huge investment. Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the curriculum and are likely to become good physical therapists.
Are you capable of completing the PT curriculum?
Admissions committees are looking for students who have:
- successfully completed the prerequisites
- earned a Bachelors degree
- a high overall GPA
- a high science/math GPA
- performed well on the GRE
- balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
Are you likely to become a good physical therapist?
Admissions committees look for students who have:
- the school’s designated observation/experience requirements
- familiarity with and detailed knowledge of the field
- demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
- high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
- demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
- a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
- a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- strong letters of recommendation
GRE Overview: Most accredited PT programs require applicants to take a standardized test called the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The revised GRE was introduced in August of 2011 and includes new types of questions featuring real life scenarios. The format allows you to edit, change your answers, and skip around within a section.
The GRE can be scheduled for almost any day of the year and is available only in computer-based format. The test requires approximately 4 hours to complete and assesses your skills in Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.
Appointments are scheduled first-come, first served basis. You can register three ways: 1) via telephone, at 1-800-473-2255 or 1-443-751-4820 or by calling the test center directly; 2) via online at www.gre.org; or 3) via mail, by sending a completed Authorization Voucher Request Form (found in the GRE Registration Bulletin) and registration fee payment to ETS-CBT/GRE Box 371859 Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7859.
Registration fee: $160
Payment for Computer-based Tests
- Credit/Debit Card (American Express®, Discover®, JCB®, MasterCard® or VISA®).
- Money Order/Certified Check/Voucher
- Personal check, payable to ETS-GRE. If paying by check, please comply with the following:
- Bank name and address must be preprinted on the face of the check.
- Check must have a preprinted check number.
- Candidate/ payee name and address must be preprinted on the check
- Check date CANNOT be over 90 days old.
- New bank account starter checks missing the preprinted name and address are not acceptable.
GRE Scoring: Scores for the Verbal and Quantitative sections range from 130 to 170 in one-point increments, with 170 being highest and 150 being the average. Scores for the Writing section range from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, with 6 being highest and 3 being the average. Your score report will be mailed to you, and will include not only your scores but also your percentile ranking. Starting November 29, 2011, you will receive your scores within 10-15 days.
Preparation: Your most important preparation for the GRE is your undergraduate courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills.
The application process for PT programs begins one year before students plan to start the program/PT school. Many physical therapy schools use the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), which allows PT applicants to use a single Web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple programs.
There are currently around 200 accredited physical therapy schools in the U.S.; students who are considering applying to specific schools should become familiar with their different requirements. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides summaries for each school, making it easy for students to compare.
There are three general steps in applying to physical therapy schools: the initial or primary application through the Physical Therapy College Application Service (PTCAS); supplemental materials for individual schools; and possibly an interview.
Most, but not all schools participate in PTCAS; to apply to those that do not, applicants must request applications directly from the individual schools.
Note: It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the school has received all materials and to verify that the application is complete! Applicants are responsible for all cost incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, and meals.
Hawai’i residents are eligible to participate in the Professional School Exchange Program (PSEP), a service of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In a competitive process, PSEP selects applicants to receive financial support from state funds; the students who are selected pay instate tuition if they attend a participating program on the west coast. WICHE applications become available in July and have a mid-October deadline.
Note: To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply one full year in advance of
matriculation, so in the summer after your junior year.
- The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
- advanced placement (AP) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- courses taken at a community college
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on acceptable science courses
- course work taken outside the U.S.
UHMānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to physical therapy schools.
|UHM's Pre-Medical Association||www.hawaii.edu/premed
|UHM's Biology Club||www2.hawaii.edu/~bioclub
|American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)||www.apta.org|
|Physical Therapists Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)||www.ptcas.org|
|CAPTE Physical Therapy Program Directory||www.apta.org/prospectivestudents/programs|
|APTA Student Assembly||www.aptastudent.org|
|Sports Physical Therapy||www.spts.org|
|Graduate Record Examination (GRE)||www.gre.org|
|Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)||www.wiche.edu ; www.hawaii.edu/wiche|
|Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program||http://preparingforgraduateschool.weebly.com/|