Pre-Physical Therapy Plan

The UT Martin Pre-Physical Therapy (PT) Plan is designed to prepare students for application to professional school.  By following the Pre-Physical Therapy Plan recommendations, students will be eligible for admission into most Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs; however, the undergraduate courses required for admission vary substantially from one institution to the next.  The courses listed in the plan are intended only as a guideline and students are strongly encouraged to review the requirements for their school(s) of choice as they vary from school to school.


Please note: The Pre-PT Plan is not a major and does not fulfill the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at UT Martin.  The courses listed below are recommendations and are not required for degree completion unless also listed under the student’s chosen major.


Frequently Asked Questions


What does a physical therapist (PT) do?
Physical therapists diagnose and manage movement dysfunction with the goal of enhancing physical and functional abilities.  They are a vital part of the healthcare team in restoring, maintaining, and promoting optimal physical function, wellness, fitness, and quality of life.  PTs work with individuals of all ages in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab facilities, and schools.  Their job responsibilities may include assessing patients; planning rehabilitative programs; and administering manual exercises, massage and other interventions.


Is there a demand for physical therapists?
YES! According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2026.


What degree do I need to become a physical therapist?
A Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) is the entry-level degree for practicing physical therapists.


How many accredited DPT programs are there in Tennessee?
Six: Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, South College, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center


What is the typical length of the professional program?
3 years


Are there any required admissions tests?
Yes, most DPT program require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)


What application service do I use to apply to PT school?
Most DPT programs (and all of the DPT programs in Tennessee) use the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS).


When should I apply?
Applications to PT schools should be submitted in the summer or fall of the year preceding the desired admission date.  For most students, this means that they will apply the summer after their junior year. 


Do I have to have a bachelor’s degree to get into PT school?


What kind of grades do I need to get into PT school?
Academic performance is crucial.  A GPA of 3.5 or higher is needed to be a competitive applicant.  Moreover, most PT schools require that all prerequisite classes be completed with a grade of “C” or higher.


What kind of PT experience do I need?
You don’t necessarily have to have work experience in the PT field; however, most PT programs require direct observation of the field prior to admission.  That direct observation can be gained through volunteering and shadowing a physical therapist.  Many PT programs require documented observation hours (i.e., a physical therapist has to verify that you observed during that time). 


How many hours of direct observation do I need?
There is no magic number for how much shadowing/observation you have to have because the number of hours required varies by program.  Check with the programs you are interested in to determine how many documented hours they required.  It is also a good idea to observe in as many different clinical settings as possible since many PT programs require that applicants observe in at least two clinical settings (e.g., a nursing home and a rehab clinic). 


Will I be a pre-PT major?
No.  The Pre-PT Plan is not a major and does not fulfill the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at UT Martin.  The courses listed in the plan are recommendations and are not required for degree completion unless also listed under the student’s chosen major. 


What should I major in?
As a pre-PT student at UT Martin, you can major in any area you choose.  The best major is the one in which you are the most interested and the most likely to succeed.  The most common majors for pre-PT students at UT Martin are Biology – Organismal Concentration and Health and Human Performance: Exercise Science and Wellness because many of the classes required by the PT schools are also required by those majors.


What are the minimum requirements for PT? 
At a minimum, most Physical Therapy programs require:

  • 8 hours of biology
  • 8 hours of chemistry
  • 3 hours of statistics
  • 8 hours of Anatomy and Physiology
  • 8 hours of physics
  • 3 hours of psychology


In addition to the courses listed above, most physical therapy schools require additional humanities and/or social science electives. The requirements for those electives vary widely.  You should check with your school(s) of choice to determine how many elective hours are required and if they need to be in a specific area.  For example, some schools allow electives to be chosen from any humanities or social sciences area while others more specifically require electives from behavioral sciences.


What classes at UT Martin should I take as a pre-PT student?
While not an exhaustive list, the following courses are recommended for students considering applying to Physical Therapy school.  As noted above, the requirements for the different Physical Therapy schools vary widely.  You should always check with your advisor and/or school(s) of choice before deciding which classes to take.  Additionally, you may wish to take additional upper division psychology courses as well as courses in foreign language, political science, humanities, art history, philosophy, logic, English literature, history, fine arts, and religion. 

  • Biology 130 Foundations of Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity
  • Biology 140 Foundations of Biology: Cell and Molecular
  • Biology 300 Medical Terminology
  • Chemistry 121 General Chemistry I
  • Chemistry 122 General Chemistry II
  • Exercise Science 430 Exercise Physiology
  • Math 210 Statistics OR Human Performance 440 Evaluation in Human Performance OR Psychology 318 Experimental Psychology II
  • Physics 211 College Physics I OR Physics 220 University Physics I
  • Physics 212 College Physics II OR Physics 221 University Physics II
  • Psychology 101 Introduction to Psychology
  • Sociology 201 General Sociology
  • Zoology 251 Anatomy & Physiology I
  • Zoology 352 Anatomy & Physiology II


Where can I find out more about the field of physical therapy?

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