Top 5 Tips for Physical Therapy Applicants

In honor of National Physical Therapy Month, let’s look at the origins of this dynamic profession. Within the United States, the inception of physical therapy corresponds with a growing need for rehabilitative services during the polio epidemic in the early part of the 20th century. This need increased during World War I, when injured military personnel returned home and the first physical therapists, initially called “reconstruction aides,” helped soldiers regain physical function through the US Army Office of the Surgeon General.

Polio Patient

In 1921, Mary McMillan formed the American Physiotherapy Association with 245 inaugural members. Today, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has grown to more than 95,000. Currently, there are more than 275 PT programs throughout the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational outlook for physical therapists continues to be extremely strong, with 28% projected growth 2026 and an average annual salary of approximately $87,000.

PT Faculty and Student with Patient

The vision for the physical therapy profession is “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” This lofty goal inspires PTs to expand the focus of practice to include prevention and wellness. Exercise and physical activity is a protective factor for many chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, making PTs the practitioners of choice when it comes to safe, cost-effective methods of improving public health. PTs work in a variety of settings, such as acute care and inpatient rehabilitation, schools, homes, gyms, and fitness facilities. Our clients include people throughout the lifespan, from newborns to centennials.

If you are interested in becoming a physical therapist, there are many factors to consider. Here are our top 5 tips for program applicants:

1. Invest in your future.

PT Faculty with Student

There are many different health professions geared towards helping others. Direct experience through shadowing or employment can assist you in learning more about the specific roles and responsibilities of physical therapists. This can help confirm your interest, and when applying to physical therapy schools, your experiences can distinguish you from other candidates by allowing you to discuss specific examples of goals you hope to accomplish as you enter your new career.

2. Accurately self-assess.

PTs with patient

To become a PT, you must successfully complete doctoral level education that is heavily weighted in foundational and clinical sciences. Honest self-awareness of your strengths and ability to endure in a challenging academic environment is essential. Know which pre-requisite courses are required so that you can plan your undergraduate studies. You can find information about program prerequisites through the program directory on PTCAS (Physical Therapy Centralized Application System): http://www.ptcas.org/ProgramPrereqs/. We also recommend consulting each individual program’s website to ensure that the information on PTCAS is accurate and up to date. As you complete your application and submit your transcripts, be prepared to discuss any areas where you may have needed to repeat a course to obtain a better grade. Repeating a course does not automatically disqualify an applicant, but schools will want to know what steps you have taken to improve your performance and how these have enhanced your overall development.

3. Put others first.

PTs with patient

PTs have a strong commitment to patient-centered care. AT AHU, this is a central theme that inspires us to prepare health professionals who will live the healing values of Christ. Our Physical Therapy Program seeks applicants who demonstrate evidence of service to others through volunteer work and other opportunities to assist our fellow human beings. Some PT programs have requirements for service learning as part of the curriculum. For AHU this includes an international experience where PT students participate in mission trips. Recent trips include India, Haiti, and Costa Rica. Further options are currently being explored.

4. Consider your role within a team.

While leadership is a desired trait, so is the ability to contribute to an interprofessional team centered on achieving the best possible outcomes for each of our individual patients. Good listening skills and a spirit of cooperation are essential. AHU PT students practice these skills by interacting with their peers in the physician assistant, nursing, and occupational therapy programs during classes, work at the community-based Hope Clinic, and the university’s simulation lab.

5. Choose wisely.

All Doctor of Physical Therapy programs must follow standards established by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This means that all curricula cover basic content necessary for learning how to examine, evaluate, and treat patients with risk factors or impairments that interfere with functional movement. However, teaching methods and program design may vary widely. Factors to carefully consider include the use of traditional instruction, problem-based learning, or a combination of approaches. Some programs rely heavily on distance learning, while others favor face-to-face interactions. Other important aspects include class size, student-faculty ratios, and campus resources. Speaking with current students and program alumni can provide important insight, so can a personal visit to the institution.

If you are interested in visiting AdventHealth University’s Physical Therapy Program, please contact our admissions coordinator, Jeff Kite: (407) 303-6987 jeffrey.kite@adu.edu.

Sound like the experience you've been waiting for? Come Join us.

DPT Program Info