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Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a branch of medicine that uses mechanical force and movements through manual therapy, exercise therapy, and electrotherapy, to promote mobility and function. Physical Therapists earn a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) by attending Physical Therapy School.

The University of Houston does not offer a graduate (D.P.T.) Physical Therapy program.

There is no single "best" major for pre-PT students nor are there any majors that will make you stand out. Instead, you should consider the pre-requisite courses required for admission by PT programs as well as the types of classes or majors that you would be most interested in pursuing.  As long as you show proficiency in the sciences and a general pattern of challenging yourself, your major is largely unimportant to admission committees.

That said, the more common majors for pre-PT students include: Exercise Science, Nutrition Sciences, Health, and Psychology. Majors such as Biology or Biochemistry, while suitable, do not often inherently include the specific courses that a pre-PT student will need for admission into many programs in their degree plan.

The basic course requirements for PT school are as follows:

  • Anatomy & Physiology: BIOL 2301/2101 and BIOL 2302/2102
  • Biology: BIOL 1306/1106 and BIOL 1307/1107
  • English: ENGL 1301 and ENGL 1302
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 1311/1111 and CHEM 1312/1112
  • Medical Terminology: HLT 3325
  • Physics: PHYS 1301/1101 and PHYS 1302/1102
  • Psychology: PSYC 2301
  • Developmental Psychology: PSYC 2307 and/or 2308 (HDFS 2314 or PSYC 2320 may be accepted by some programs)
  • Statistics: MATH 1342 or MATH 3339 or PSYC 2317

While most PT programs will require the above pre-requisite courses, it is up to you to review the requirements of each PT school in which you are interested. Click here for more information on accredited PT schools.

PT programs via the PTCAS application compute several different GPAs for each applicant:

  • Undergraduate Cumulative: GPA includes postbaccalaureate undergraduate courses. 
  • Graduate Cumulative: GPA includes graduate courses only. 
  • Each Institution Attended: GPA may differ from the college or university transcript due to grade standardization process. 
  • Science:  GPA includes anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics courses. 
  • Combined Science and Math: GPA includes all courses in the science GPA, plus math.
  • Course Subject: Separate GPA for every PTCAS course subject: 
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Biology 
    • Chemistry 
    • English composition 
    • Math 
    • Movement science 
    • Other course 
    • Other science 
    • Physics 
    • Psychology 
    • Social/behavioral science  

Yes, to a certain extent, you may complete pre-requisite courses outside of the University of Houston. However, our general advice is that if you are enrolled at the University of Houston, you should only take courses that fulfill prerequisites for your professional school application at the University of Houston. Taking 1-2 courses in the Summer outside of UH is not a big deal, but avoid making it a regular occurrence, as it can give them impression your actively avoiding taking difficult classes at your home institution.

That said, if you are a transfer student bringing in credits from another institution, then you do not need to retake prerequisites for your professional school application. That includes transfer students who are transferring from community college as well as four-year institutions. The quality of your education will be tested in the coursework that you take once you enroll at the University of Houston.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the standardized exam that PT school admissions use to measure an applicant's readiness for their program. 

The GRE is offered monthly via University Testing Services. You should plan to take the GRE in your junior or senior year depending on when you plan to apply. Most applicants take the GRE between January-May as they head into the application cycle.

The GRE consists of three sections:

  • Quantitative
  • Verbal
  • Essay
You should not plan to take the GRE more than 1-2 times.

There are no hard and fast rules for gaining admission into PT school. That said, a competitive applicant has:

  • Strong GPA (>3.5)
  • Strong GRE (>305 combined)
  • Pattern of taking challenging coursework and credit-load (>12/semester)
  • Extra-curricular involvement (leadership in student organizations, research, employment, etc.)
  • Significant experience in or exposure to the field of physical therapy and medicine (through shadowing, volunteering, or employment). [Tips for clinical/community opportunities]
  • Personal essay that conveys clear interest in patient care and specific reasons for pursuing a career as a physician therapist. [Tips for writing personal statements]
  • Three letters of evaluation (from faculty, physical therapists, supervisors) that detail strengths and overall suitability for a career as a physical therapist. [Tips for requesting letters]

The key is to perform well in your science classes, do well on the GRE, and immerse yourself within various healthcare settings, including shadowing PTs and physicians.  It also important that you follow your interests as well, even if they are not directly related to healthcare. Sports, literature, film, music, acting, dancing, hobbies, and any sort of competition all fall in this category. Admissions committees value applicants that well-rounded and have interests outside of medicine. 

As in any career choice, applicants should confirm their decision to become a Physical Therapist through personal experience. Such experience ranges from shadowing a Physical Therapist, working in a clinic or hospital alongside other healthcare professionals.

Shadowing requirements for admissions can vary in a few aspects between schools including hours required, number of environments, and types of environments. While most programs require 100 hours minimum, more is recommended. It is common for programs to suggest that students complete their shadowing in at least two different environmentsinpatient and outpatient. However, it is possible for an individual program to require students to shadow in more or different types of environments. Variety in shadowing is always helpful but is also important to try to get a well-rounded experience in each environment since shadowing is regularly discussed during admissions interviews.

Keep track of all experience (date, location, description) because some schools will request a log of your experience and employment when you apply. Further, many schools  require a letter of evaluation from a Physical Therapist with whom you have interacted.

Extracurricular activities, such as club affiliations and volunteering, are an important part of the PT application. PT programs are looking for students who not only demonstrate that they can manage rigorous courses while staying busy, but also those who are compassionate, enjoy working with people and are dedicated to serving the community.

Students should keep in mind that depth of commitment and leadership experience are also considered. As a result, it is best to focus on strong engagement in few activities rather than to spread oneself too thin.

While there are many benefits to getting involved in undergraduate research, it is not required for admission into most PT programs. Therefore, if a student were not interested in research, they would be better served dedicating that time to other activities such as volunteering or shadowing. Students interested in research should plan to dedicate at least a year to a specific project or research lab.

Most PT schools utilize the PTCAS application. All PT programs in Texas currently use the PTCAS application service.Non-participating PT schools will use their own individual application. 

The PTCAS application usually opens in July each year; however, PT programs differ in terms of their individual application deadlines. Most deadlines in TX are in the Fall for a Summer start.

Importantly, do not begin entering any information into the PTCAS application system until it opens for the admissions cycle in which you plan to apply.

You should apply to multiple PT schools. Further, it is important that you research the requirements and mission of each school to which you hope to apply.

Yes, PT schools will require applicants to submit 3 individual Letters of Evaluation as a part of their application.

These letters should typically consist of:

  • One letter from licensed PT practicing in the US
  • One letter from a science faculty member
  • One additional letter from another healthcare professional, faculty member, or teaching assistant, advisor, employer, or supervisor.

Note: Always waive your right to view your letters of evaluation.

Yes, although most applicants focus mainly on GPA and GRE scores, the personal statement is a very important component of your application and should be carefully written. This is your opportunity to highlight things about you that are not mentioned in other sections of your application and to distinguish yourself from other applicants.

The PTCAS essay is limited to 1-page, 4500 characters.

The following essay question is required for the PTCAS application:

Reflect on a meaningful experience in your life and share how that experience influenced your personal growth, such as your attitudes or perceptions.