Physical Therapy

Guidelines for Doctoral Programs

"The physical therapist (PT) provides services aimed at preventing the onset and/or slowing the progression of conditions resulting from injury, disease and other causes. The physical therapist provides these services to people of all ages who have functional conditions resulting from back and neck injuries; sprains/strains; and fractures, arthritis, burns, amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, birth defects such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida, injuries related to work and sports; and others" (American Physical Therapy Association).

Although many of the 120,000 practicing PTs work in hospitals, nearly 80% of PTs practice in outpatient clinics or offices; inpatient rehabilitation facilities; skilled nursing; extended care; home care; education or research centers; schools; hospices; industrial, workplace or other occupational environments; fitness centers; and sports training facilities.

Physical therapists attain their skills through extensive academic and clinical education. There are over 150 accredited professional (entry-level) DPT programs. The final or culminating clinical education experience is typically extended beyond the average of 15 weeks; some are 1 year in length.

Admission into physical therapy programs is most often based on prerequisite course work, an interview and an essay. In addition, most programs also require direct observation in the field through internships or volunteer work (anywhere from 20–100 hours).

Addresses of accredited physical therapy programs are available online from the American Physical Therapy Association. Because the requirements for physical therapy programs are so diverse, it is best to contact at least 10 different programs and learn their specific requirements. If you have decided physical therapy is your career of choice, take note of the list below.

Things to plan for:
  1. Research schools of interest
  2. Take required classes for schools of choice
  3. Apply through PTCAS
  4. Observe physical therapists in the workplace
  5. Plan to take the GRE and note the various deadlines for the GRE. Most students who apply for acceptance in the fall semester after graduation take the entrance exam in the spring-summer of their junior year.
  6. Note each prospective school's application deadline

Online courses: Some ​professional​ schools do not accept online science courses, especially those with online labs. It is the student's responsibility to check the requirements for each school to which they are applying.

Most Doctoral Physical Therapy Programs Require:
Course Rubric & Number
Biology (1 year) BIOL 113, BIOL 114, and BIOL 115*
Chemistry (1 year)

Option A: CHEM 104, 105, & 106*

Option B CHEM 107-108

Option C: CHEM 111 and 341 

You must choose among options A, B, and C. You may not switch between sequences.  Be sure to check with your intended major to learn if there is a preferred sequence for that major.

Human Anatomy & Physiology (1 year)  BIOL 251 & BIOL 347
Physics (1 year) PHYS 121 & PHYS 122 (or PHYS 131 & PHYS 132)
Psychology (1 semester) PSYC 111
Statistics (1 semester) MATH 147 or PSYC 243 or BME 340 (only available to students in the Biomedical Engineering Program)
English (1 year) Any two courses in the following departments: English (ENG), Rhetoric (RHET), Writing (WRIT), Creative Writing (CW) or Comparative Literature (COLI).


  1. BIOL 115 or its FRI equivalent.
  2. CHEM 106 or its FRI equivalent.

Additional requirements may include some of the following courses. The lists of requirements below are by no means all inclusive. Please contact the schools you are interested in applying to or review the prerequisite requirements on each school's admissions websites. Click here for an up to date listing of accredited physical therapy programs.

Additional requirements/recommendations may include:
Subject Course Rubric and Number
Additional Psychology (1 year) PSYC 220 or PSYC 223
Calculus (1 semester) MATH 224 & 225
Organic Chemistry (1 semester) CHEM 231
Cell Biology (1 semester) BIOL 311
Research Methods (1 semester) HDEV 300, PSYC 344 or SOC 305
Social Science (at least 1 semester) Any course from a social science department (ie: ANTH, ECON, GEOG, HIST or SOC).
Humanities (at least 1 semester) Any course from a Humanities Department (ie: COLI, ENG, PHIL)
Human Development (at least 1 semester) Any HDEV course
Computers (1 semester) Any CS course

For more information about physical therapy programs, contact:

American Physical Therapy Association
1111 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-1488
703/684-APTA (2782)
800/999-APTA (2782)
TDD: 703/683-6748
Fax: 703/684-7343

In July 2019, Binghamton University welcomed Michael Buck as founding director of the Division of Physical Therapy within the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences.