Is Physical Therapy School For Me?

What do Physical Therapists do?

Physical Therapists (PTs) diagnose and treat people with movement related disabilities, injuries, diseases and conditions. PTs work closely with their patients to develop treatment plans that help improve their movements and manage their pain. PTs also work with patients to prevent movement related conditions from worsening and to assist them regain full range of motion. PTs work in diverse settings including private practices, hospitals, schools, sports facilities, outpatient clinics and rehabilitation centers. PTs can also further their education by obtaining post graduate clinical residencies and fellowships as well as becoming board certified specialists. Specialization is available in different areas like sports medicine, pediatrics, or neurology, in addition to other areas.

In order to practice as a physical therapy students must complete advanced degrees from accredited programs, either Master’s level (Master of Physical Therapy, MPT), or Doctorate (Doctor of Physical Therapy, DP T), before taking the national licensure examination.   Typically DPT programs can be completed in 3 years. It is important for students to research physical therapy programs as only graduates from CAPTE-accredited programs are eligible to take the licensure exam, which is required in order to practice. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has a list of CAPTE accredited programs on their website for reference.

In order to be a competitive applicant for MPT and DPT programs, students must complete specific prerequisite undergraduate coursework, in addition to maintaining a minimum GPA, and have verified experience in the field through volunteer or paid opportunities working with practicing physical therapists. Physical therapy programs that require field experience are usually specific regarding the length of time and types of experiences they are looking for in applicants.  In order to be considered competitive most applicants complete a form verifying the minimum number of hours of relevant healthcare experience they’ve obtained and have it signed by the physical therapist they were working with. It is best to know the kinds of previous healthcare experience a program requires before you apply.

Here are some ways you can find out what Physical Therapists do:

  1. Research online resources through the Career Center’s Career Exploration Physical Therapy pages.
  2. Talk to physical therapy students, physical therapy faculty and physical therapy school representatives.
  3. Attend physical therapy school Information Days and Campus Tours.


Top 10 Tips for a Career in Physical Therapy

  1. Major in the field which interests you the most, while showing good academic ability in science.
  2. Explore the physical therapy field; be sure you know the positive and negative aspects of being a physical therapist and the future of the physical therapy profession.  Field experience is a requirement for many physical therapy programs.
  3. Pursue extra-curricular activities which interest you.  Begin to develop a unique self that will make you attractive to the physical therapy admissions committee.  Leadership and communication skills are most important, particularly the ability to work with others of diverse interests and backgrounds. 
  4. Keep your grades as high as possible.  An upward trend in grade performance will be noted, especially when you are trying to overcome a less than spectacular year.
  5. Be sure to start looking for people who can write you letters of recommendation.  Be sure to choose those individuals who know you and your work well and who you have close relationships with, e.g. shared interest in academic and /or professional matters.
  6. Develop your sociocultural skills and ability to read, write and think.  Only part of being a physical therapist is science. Highly developed interpersonal and communication skills are key to being a competitive applicant for a physical therapy program.
  7. Pursue an academic interest in depth, e.g., research. Keep in mind that research need not be in a laboratory.
  8. Make the most of your experience at Berkeley. Make friends, do things and keep alert of opportunities.
  9. There are many paths to becoming a physical therapist.  People of different backgrounds, experiences and ages, etc. all get there.
  10. Lastly, be sure to talk to as many as people as possible about the physical therapy profession (PTs, PT students, and PT school representatives) and keep current on physical therapy issues from researching the physical therapy profession.


Back to Physical Therapy School home

Back to Health Careers home