Five most common undergraduate degrees among Doctor of Physical Therapy program applicants

Each year, the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) collects data on applicants to accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) 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 (PT) school. Below are the most common undergraduate majors among applicants according to PTCAS applicant data (PDF, 4.2 MB) from the 2021-2022 cycle.

The sponsored program cards featured on this page were last updated in March 2021. For the most current program information, please refer to the official website of the respective school.

Arcadia University

College of Health Sciences


Doctor of Physical Therapy

Earn your DPT from a hybrid program. Experience on-campus immersions and apply skills learned online to patients in person. Complete the program in 25 months. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree but do not need to submit GRE test scores for admission.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) 
  • Complete in 25 months  
  • 32 weeks of in-person experience


Exercise science

About one-third of Doctor of Physical Therapy applicants majored in exercise science as undergraduates, according to PTCAS applicant data (PDF, 4.2 MB). Exercise science majors study human movement, both physiological and functional. Physical therapists work to help those who have issues in functional movement, so an exercise science degree can be a great way to start understanding the mechanisms addressed by PT. An exercise science program may also help you meet the prerequisite requirements for applying to a DPT program.

Common exercise science courses

  • Statistics
  • Exercise physiology
  • Motor development
  • Adaptive physical education
  • Biomechanics
  • Fitness assessment
  • Sports nutrition
  • Sports management
  • Motor development


The next most common undergraduate major among aspiring DPTs is kinesiology — 25% of physical therapy program applicants hold a kinesiology degree, according to PTCAS applicant data (PDF, 4.2 MB). Kinesiology looks at the way physical activity and exercise influence society, health, and quality of life. The science courses and other curricular requirements of many kinesiology degrees can help prepare learners to meet many of the DPT school prerequisites.

Health science

Nine percent of DPT applicants earned an undergraduate degree in health science, according to the PTCAS applicant data (PDF, 4.2 MB). In a health science program, learners study a combination of health disciplines. It can appeal to learners who want to continue on to a variety of graduate programs in the healthcare field. The major helps develop leadership and problem solving skills, in addition to educating learners on a variety of sciences. Health science, like other PT-related majors, gives learners a chance to complete many of the common prerequisites for DPT school.

Common coursework for health science majors

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Genetics
  • Physics
  • Anatomy
  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • Sociology


The PTCAS applicant data (PDF, 4.2 MB) indicates that biology majors comprise 9% of DPT applicants. Since biology focuses on the study of living organisms, coursework in this program broadly relates to what learners will eventually study in PT school. Biology programs typically include extensive science coursework, which can help learners meet specific lab prerequisites.

Common biology coursework

  • General biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Marine biology
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Invertebrate biology
  • Plant anatomy
  • Zoology
  • Microbiology


Four percent of DPT applicants studied psychology at the undergraduate level, making the subject the fifth most common major among DPT applicants, as seen in the PTCAS applicant data (PDF, 4.2 MB). Psychology majors learn about the science of the human mind, behavior, and mental processes. A psychology course is often a prerequisite for DPT applicants, but psychology learners may find that they need to intentionally pursue opportunities 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
  • Personality
  • Learning
  • Research methods
  • Developmental psychology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Neuroscience

Common DPT prerequisite courses

There is no standard set of courses applicants must complete before applying to physical therapy school — every program is different. Therefore, you should always check the requirements of each school plan to apply to in comparison to your undergraduate program’s curriculum. This will help you determine whether additional coursework is necessary to meet certain prerequisites. Some common course prerequisites for DPT programs include:

  • Physics I and II
  • Psychology
  • Chemistry I and II
  • Biology I and II
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Statistics

What if my bachelor’s was earned in another area?

If you want to become a physical therapist but do not hold a bachelor’s degree in one of the described areas, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of attending PT school. Learners with all sorts of backgrounds and majors were accepted to physical therapy school during the 2021-2022 cycle.

Last updated November 2023