Each year, the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) collects data on applicants to accredited doctor of physical therapy programs all over the country. Since most applications to DPT programs are submitted through PTCAS, they are able to create a detailed picture of who is applying to physical therapy school. Here are the most common undergraduate majors among applicants from their most recent report on the 2017-2018 application cycle.
A whopping 27% of doctor of physical therapy applicants majored in exercise science as undergraduates. It is obvious why those who are thinking ahead to a physical therapy degree would choose this major just by its name. Exercise science looks at movement, both physiological and functional. Physical therapists work to help those who have issues in functional movement, so an exercise science degree is a great way to start understanding the mechanisms addressed by PT. An exercise science program will also typically set you up to meet many of the prerequisite requirements for applying to a DPT program.
Common Exercise Science Courses
- Exercise Physiology
- Motor Development
- Adaptive Physical Education
- Fitness Assessment
- Sports Nutrition
- Sports Management
- Motor Development
The next most common undergraduate major among aspiring DPTs is kinesiology – 18% of physical therapy program applicants hold a kinesiology degree. Being that kinesiology is the broader field encompassing exercise science, it makes sense why this too is a common major amongst DPT applicants. Kinesiology looks at the way physical activity and exercise influence society, health, and quality of life. Because of the science and other curricular requirements of many kinesiology degrees, these degrees are likely to prepare students to meet many of the DPT prerequisite requirements.
Biology majors make up about 9% of DPT applicants. Given that biology studies living organisms, it broadly relates to what students will eventually study in physical therapy school. Biology programs will be heavy in science coursework, which will help students meet prerequisite requirements, particularly those in the area of biology.
Common Biology Coursework
- General Biology
- Marine Biology
- Evolutionary Biology
- Invertebrate Biology
- Plant Anatomy
Seven percent of DPT applicants were health science majors in college, which is a degree that looks at a combination of health disciplines, often appealing to students who want to continue on to a variety of graduate programs in the healthcare field. The major develops leadership and problem solving in addition to educating students on a variety of sciences. Health science, like the above majors, gives students a chance to complete many of the common prerequisites required for DPT school
Common Coursework for Health Science Majors
Psychology studies the mind and behavior. This may be surprising given that this does not directly relate to physical activity, but 4% of DPT applicants were psychology majors in undergrad, making psychology the 5th most common major among DPT applicants. Psychology in itself is often a required prerequisite course for DPT applicants, but psychology students may find that they need to create opportunities for themselves to meet more of the prerequisites for going to physical therapy school.
Common Psychology Coursework
- General Psychology
- Cognitive Psychology
- Statistical methods in psychology
- Social Psychology
- Research Methods
- Developmental Psychology
- Abnormal Psychology
Common DPT Prerequisite Courses
There is no standardization of what courses you must complete before applying to physical therapy school- every program is different. Therefore, you should always check the requirements of each school you want to apply to, as well as what coursework you will complete in your undergraduate program, to determine if you will need to complete additional coursework to meet prerequisite requirements. Though these differences in requirements exist, here are some of the most common requirements for reference:
- Biology 1 and 2
- Anatomy and Physiology ( requirement may be separate course or 2 courses combining both)
- General Chemistry 1 and 2
- General Physics 1 and 2
What if my Bachelor’s was in Another Area?
If you want to become a physical therapist but do not hold one of the bachelor’s degrees that is common among applicants, there is no need to worry. Students with over 100 different bachelor’s degrees were accepted to physical therapy school during the 2017-2018 cycle! You may need to complete additional coursework to meet prerequisite requirements, but as long as you do what you need to do to apply you can still be accepted into physical therapy school.