Physical Therapy

A Few Facts About the Profession

  • Employment is expected to increase much faster than the average, as growth in the number of individuals with disabilities or limited functioning spurs demand for therapy services.
  • Job opportunities should be particularly good in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings.
  • After graduating from an accredited physical therapist educational program, therapists must pass a licensure exam before they can practice.
  • Nearly 6 out of 10 physical therapists work in hospitals or in offices of physical therapists.

What does a Physical Therapist do?

Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. Their patients include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.

This information comes directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Dept. of Labor. For additional information on the physical therapy profession, training, employment, job outlook, and salaries go to Use the A to Z menu and click on the link for physical therapist.

Undergraduate Preparation

Undergraduate Preparation

Choosing a Major

There is no formal “pre-PT” major. Physical Therapy schools are interested in broadly educated students who have developed excellent writing and speaking skills, possess analytic and synthetic thinking ability, and are enthusiastic, life-long learners. Understanding of the social aspects of rehabilitation medicine is just as important as understanding the science. Your major will not determine your success in applying to PT school. Your interests should determine your choice of major. Majoring in an area that you enjoy is more likely to lead to academic success than pursuing a field for which you have little enthusiasm. Regardless of your major, it is necessary to demonstrate a mastery of science; proficiency in other areas will not compensate for lack of science ability.

Prerequisites Coursework

Entrance requirements for the Physical Therapy Education Program include:
  • Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree from an accredited college
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • To obtain credit for volunteer/work experience each applicant must complete 100 hours specifically in physical therapy AND must obtain a confidential volunteer/work evaluation form documenting as such from a supervising physical therapist.  The confidential volunteer/work evaluation form must be from a physical therapist who supervised the applicant for 50 or more of the 100 volunteer/work hours.
  • The Physical Therapy Educational Program also requires completion of one reference form in addition to the volunteer/work evaluation form.  A current or former instructor, advisor, or non-physical therapist supervisor should complete this reference form.
  • Completion of all specifc prerequisite courses based on semesters prior to starting the program.


Semester Hours

English Composition


Mathematics (algera or above)




Chemistry (for science majors, must include lab)


Physics (for science majors, must include lab)


Biology (mammalian or vertebrate for sciences majors, must include lab)


Human Anatomy and Physiology 221 and 222 with labs (for science majors, must include lab, general physiology to include the endocrine system, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiopulmonary, renal/urinary, and reproductive systems)


General Psychology


Abnormal Psychology

Child Growth and Development


Social sciences: Three semester hours from any of the following: anthropology, economics, history, sociology, or political science


Humanities from at least two categories: education, fine arts, speech, foreign language, literature, or philosopy


Recommended electives: biochemistry, biomechanics, biostatistics, calculus, embryology, exercise physiology, kinesiology, microbiology, histology


CPR certification through the American Heart Association's BLS for Healthcare Providers course

All applicants must have computer proficiency with word processing, presentation development and spreadsheet/data management software.

Volunteer Service

Students are required to do VOLUNTEER SERVICE in a Physical Therapy setting prior to applying to professional school. You must be dependable and your activities should extend over a significant period of time. The PT program at the Medical Univeristy of South Carolina requires 100 hours of supervised volunteer experience (check the specific requirements of other schools of interest).The experience component of your applicant profile is increasingly important for some programs, so you should make the most of this opportunity. Also, you should ensure that someone familiar with your performance can serve as a reference.

Tests and Application

Tests and Application

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The GRE® (Graduate Record Examination) General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study. The GRE Subject Tests gauge undergraduate achievement in eight specific fields of study and is often required for admission into a master's degree program.

More detailed information about the GRE can be found at


Design an Academic Plan

It is important to know your timetable and plan accordingly.


Fall Semester

Explore various majors and declare as early as possible. As soon as you declare your major, you will be assigned an academic advisor within that department. Make sure to identify that you are a pre-health professions student on the major declaration form. Make an appointment with your advisor to discuss professional goals and determine an academic game plan to ensure you will have taken all courses needed to prepare for standardized admissions tests in your field of interest by the time you take the exam (usually around the end of your junior year). Most medical laboratory programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) which is not subject specific. As soon as you get settled into your classes, contact the Pre-professional Health Advisor, to make an advising appointment to discuss professional goals and discuss the necessary prerequisites, shadowing/volunteer work etc.

Spring Semester

Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your progress. Search for shadowing and volunteer opportunities in your field of interest.

First Summer

Shadowing/Work/ or volunteer to gain insight into your career choice.



Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor to discuss your Spring schedule. Visit the Center for Student Learning and get acquainted with the GRE.

Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor to discuss Spring schedule. Get organized, order review booklets and practice tests to prepare for standardized exams. Explore various professional schools and determine to which ones you will apply. Pay close attention to appllication deadlines.

Spring Semester

Discuss your academic progress with your advisor. Meet with the Pre-Health Professions advisor to determine if your GPA is competitive and whether or not this is the year you should apply to professional school. (Contact the Pre-Health Advisor) Collect materials needed to fill in application and start working on application essay. Apply and study for standardized admissions tests. Check the deadlines and do not miss them. Practice, practice, practice taking the standardized admissions test. Take the standardized admissions test and request that scores be released to the College of Charleston, schools to which you are applying. Request letters of evaluation from faculty and health professionals who know you well.

Third Summer

Organize application materials and make sure that everything is complete Retake the GRE, if necessary.



Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor. Get a degree audit and apply for graduation. Make sure your application materials are organized and submitted within the deadlines (earlier is always better than later when submitting application materials). Prepare for interviews (if applicable) Interview and wait. Search for sources of financial aid.

Spring Semester

Send updated transcripts directly to the professional schools to which you have applied. Sometimes it takes more than one try to get accepted. If you don't get accepted the first time, discuss options with the pre-health advisor.

Letters of Recommendation

As part of the application process to various PT programs, you will be required to provide letters of reference (usually 3). Different programs may ask for these letters to come from specific individuals, such as science professors and a licensed physical therapist. Check with the schools to which you will be applying to make sure that you are satisfying their criteria. If the application is done online, there are usually recommendation forms provided. You want to make sure the appropriate forms accompany any letters that are submitted on your behalf. Not using the recommended forms can delay processing of your application.

Online Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be a science major to go to apply to PT school?

No. Your major is not important as long as you complete the pre-requisite course work to satisfy the admissions requirements and prepare for the standardized admissions test in your field of interest.

Will majoring in science give me an advantage in applying to PT school?

Not necessarily. Most perfusion programs are looking for well rounded students who have an aptitude for science. They do not give preference to science majors.

Should I minor or take a double major?

Only if you are truly interested in another field of study. There is no evidence that those students who have a second major or minor have a better chance of accepted than those who do not.

Should I take a commercial prep course before taking the GRE?

There is no hard evidence that commercial courses produce significant gains in test scores. These courses may benefit students who need the extra motivation to buckle down and study. They do provide the opportunity to take multiple full length practice test in real time situations. However, motivated students can do the same on their own or in a study group. There are plenty of practice materials available and practice exams are even offered by the GRE The Director of the Center for Student Learning at the College of Charleston works with students to prepare for standardized tests, both individually and in groups.

Can I take required courses in the summer and/or at another institution?

In general, it is best to take your required courses at your primary academic institution and during the regular school session. Professional schools want to know that a student can handle science courses while taking a normal academic load. If you have a compelling reason, for taking a course during the summer, for example to be able to get the proper course sequence, then do so. You should try, at least, to take the course at your primary institution or one with equivalent academic rigor. Taking your science courses in a piecemeal fashion and at a two-year institution may be looked on with suspicion by health professions schools. You should also check with the appropriate department to see that the credits from another institution will transfer.

Can I get into PT school in less than 4 years?

The two PT programs in South Carolina require an undergraduate degree to qualify for admission.

Have a question you think should be addressed here? Contact Us