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Physical Therapy School Preparation - Experience

  • It is important you have an understanding of the physical therapy field through experiences you have gained in student groups, volunteering or work experience.
  • Like many other graduate and professional programs, physical therapy schools like to admit applicants who are well-rounded and have a clear, firm commitment to their goals.
  • In general, a well rounded applicant will have a solid GPA, and have participated in and made significant contributions in their extracurricular activities such as a student organization, volunteering/working in a healthcare setting (i.e. hospital, hospice, community clinic), research, etc.
  • Additionally, the admissions committee will want to know specifically why you are pursuing a career in the physical therapy profession.  Having a minimum number of direct patient contact hours is a requirement for many physical therapy programs.

A list of physical therapy programs, including admissions deadlines, entrance requirements, credentials awarded, fees etc. can be found on the APTA website, under “Program and Applicant Data Reports” and is available to students for free.  Additionally students can also find information on individual school requirements for physical therapy experience on the PTCAS website.

Students are encouraged to do one or more of the following to gain exposure to physical therapy and the healthcare field.

  1. Conduct an informational interview, shadow or observe a physical therapist.
    1. Apply for an Externship with a Cal Alum during Winter Break through the Career Center’s Externship program.
    2. Search for PTs through PT related professional organizations such as the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
    3. Become involved in pre-health on-campus student organizations.
  2. Find healthcare related volunteer opportunities.
    1. Health & Medicine Volunteer Opportunities
    2. Tang Center
    3. Cal Sports Volunteer Internships
  3. Find a healthcare related Internship or Job.
    1. Internship Opportunities in Health & Medicine
    2. Take additional vocational coursework to earn a certificate so you can work as a paraprofessional (i.e., paramedic, community health worker, medical assistant, or phlebotomist) in a healthcare setting.  There may be internship or job opportunities that involve everything from translating in a foreign language to getting paid to assist emergency room professionals with the administrative details of patient care.
    3. Health & Medicine Job Opportunities

Getting exposure to the physical therapy profession can make you a competitive applicant and help you to begin to identify what skills, values and interests you enjoy in this profession.


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