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Education question about becoming a physical therapist

Hi all!  I posted this on another board, but then realized you guys may be very helpful too! 

DH started taking college courses this past semester and has no prior college credits.  He wants to get into physical therapy.  DH and I have seen job adds for physical therapists at rehabilitation offices (works under doctor but is incharge of physical therapist assistants) and the education requirements say a bachelors degree and to be certified.  So this is currently his goal (perhaps eventually look into a doctrate, but would like to take a break and work in the field first).

Anyways, DH was attending community college (2 yr plan then move to a 4 yr school to finish up), and we moved counties so now he's switching community colleges because its way cheaper in our new county.  He's been told to get a bachelors with a major in keinesiology/exercise science at the first community college.  But today he met with a counselor at the new school and she told him not to do that, and to do biology.  This new community college even has a pre-physical therapy 2 yr program and she told him not to do that and head for biology.  So we're a little confused. The difference is only about 3 or so classes (at this 2 yr school), but none the less, DH is attracted to the "pre physical therapy" title because it's practical sounding...

 Any insight on how and what route DH should take would be appreciated!! 

Re: Education question about becoming a physical therapist

  • I was sort of friends with one of my physical therapists (our husbands worked together.)  She said she was a physical therapy major.  But that you are more or less required to get a masters degree (at least in OH, not sure if it is a state requirement or a national requirement...and it might have been you take so many classes just so you can take the certification test that you might as well get a masters.) 

    I have another friend who started going to school to eventually become a PT and she majored in exercise science.  Honestly, my advice is for your DH to see if he can "shadow" a phyiscal therapist or two to see if he likes it (perhaps his guidance counselor could set this up for him) and then ask them what they think would be the most useful. Also, he should look into other programs that result in being able to be a PT and see what courses are required, then compare them to the two majors she listed and she how they compare.

  • I would suggest your DH check out  for info about what path he should take.  When I was looking into PT back in the day people were saying the that you pretty much need a Masters and that the industry was going to soon require a PhD meaning at least 8 years of school!

     The two year program is probably for a PT Assistant.  They make a pretty decent salary and it is a good way to gain work experience while pursuing his degree for PT.


  • I'm a speech therapist that works with a lot of PTs, and from what they've told me, the required degree is now a Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DPT.  You get a bachelor's first, and then do "PT school" as my coworkers call it.  I'm not sure how many years the program is...3 maybe?   

     I agree that with pp, that the two year program is likely PT Assistant, or PTA.  They do the same therapy that a full PT does, but with some restrictions (for example, only a full PT can evaluate and write goals, I think).

  • I'm an OT, but work with a lot of PT's. The 2 yr program is an associates, and for a Physical Therapy assistant, basically they can't do evals pr write goals but can treat. The PT needs a Doctorate now and it is about a 6 yr program if you go full time. (bachelor's and then PT school) It's definitely a commitment!

  • I'm a PT.  I had to get my bachelor's degree and then apply to the doctorate program. Frankly the graduate program doesn't care what you major in as long as you have all the required classes, GPA, experience/volunteer hours, leadership, blah, blah, blah.  There is an interview too for the program.

    You DH should look at several PT programs he is interested in applying to and look at the required course and adjust his major accordingly.

    All PT programs in the country are transitioning to the DPT (doctor of physical therapy) and only a few are masters still.

    The 2 yr program is a PTA (PT assistant.) They follow the treatment plan established by the PT following the evaluation. They cannot officially change the course of treatment w/o the PT authorizing it. But most work so closely they can assume what the PT will do.

     Hope that helps.

  • Oh and the programs are usually 3 years. Maybe a few months if they take summers off.  This is in addition the time it take to get the bachelors.
  • I'm also a PT - all schools, as of 2010, are required to have the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. The difference between the DPT and the MPT (which is what I have) is only about 8-12 credits, which works out to only a few more classes. The certification is your license, and you have to have the degree to apply to take the licensing exam (both national and state).

    The 2-year prePT does not necessarily mean it's a PTA program. PTA programs are also certified via the APTA, and some states require licensing as well. It's nice because it's a shorter program and you get to work sooner, but as pp have mentioned, PTAs have lesser responsibility than PTs and will make less $$ than PTs. You can go to to find out local schools in your area that are certified.

    I would personally recommend the biology program, because there's a lot of science in the program and the background would be helpful. However, my largest recommendation is to shadow a PT. Your DH can call local PT places (outpatient/sports med locations, hospitals, etc) and ask to shadow a PT for a few hours. I know I have 2-3 people shadow me every year. This will give him a little more insight to not only what kind of PT he wants to practice, but an idea if doing PT v PTA would be better.


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