Requirements and Curriculum

For many years physical therapy was available as a bachelor's degree, but in the late 1990's the bachelor degree programs in physical therapy were replaced by 2-year Master’s degree programs that required students to have completed their bachelor’s degree prior to entry. The majority of physical therapy programs have since transitioned to three-year doctorate programs (DPT). For a list of physical therapy programs in the United States please visit Physical Therapy Programs.

To prepare students for admission to physical therapy school, Luther College (and most other institutions) offers a pre-physical therapy program. These programs are not an academic major, but rather are a set of interdisciplinary courses that teach students the basic sciences necessary for entry into a DPT school. Thus, students may pursue any academic major during their undergraduate experience, although most students major in biology, health/physical education or psychology. Luther College graduates have had outstanding success in pursuing a DPT program after graduating, with an exceptional acceptance rate to programs around the country.

Course Requirements

While entrance requirements for DPT programs vary by institution, the majority of programs require the following courses:

  • One year of General Biology (2 courses)        
  • One year of General Chemistry (2 courses)
  • One year of General Physics (2 courses)
  • Human Physiology (1 course)
  • Human Anatomy (1 course)
  • Psychology (usually 3 courses, including General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology and one other course)
  • Statistics (1 course)
  • College Math (1 course)

Students may supplement their preparation by additional courses in Physical Education (such as Anatomy and Kinesiology, First Aid or Adaptive Physical Education) and Biology, as desired. In all cases, students should work closely with their advisors to plan an undergraduate curriculum that ensures completion of the entrance requirements for physical therapy schools. 

Additional Requirements

In addition to completion of the necessary prerequisite courses, most DPT programs require that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), usually during or after their junior year in college. The second requirement for entrance to a physical therapy program is experience in a physical therapy setting. This may be done in several ways, such as a formal internship for academic credit, a volunteer or paid position in a physical therapy clinic, or through shadowing a physical therapist during the academic year or summer.  The Decorah region has several physical therapy clinics in which students can gain firsthand experience, and the Career Center can assist in arranging an internship experience.

American Physical Therapy Association

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