Pre-Physical Therapy Exploration & Preparation Guide

General Tips:

  • Visit the Pre-Health portal for a comprehensive look at the pre-health resources here at UW
  • Learn more about the various careers in healthcare by visiting  
  • Subscribe to the Health Career Interest page to stay up-to-date with relevant news on health-related jobs/internships; it also includes several resources regarding preparing and applying to graduate health programs.
  • Engage in this self-paced online course to learn about the significant steps in the application process for health professional programs.
  • Schedule an appointment with your academic advisor* (UAA/Departmental/OMA&D) to discuss course planning.
  • Schedule an appointment with a career coach* to discuss your career interests and goals, plus how to reach them.

*Disclaimer: The University of Washington does not have dedicated pre-health advisors, so staff members you meet with will likely not have deep or special insight but rather more general knowledge of requirements and recommendations.

Choose from one of the following for more information:

Programs typically require applicants to have volunteer, paid, and/or observation (shadowing) experiences working with patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Gaining experience in a variety of settings is encouraged (e.g. clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, long-term care facilities). The number of observation hours required varies by program (see this chart). Applicants are expected to respectfully contact different practice settings to set-up volunteer or observation experiences. For paid experiences, applicants can apply to PT Aide or PT Tech roles. We recommend keeping an Excel tracker to log hours as well as a journal to reflect on clinical experiences, which will serve useful when writing the personal statement.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has identified seven core values that define the critical elements of professionalism in physical therapy. Applicants are encouraged to read about these values and demonstrate them through involvement in academic and extracurricular experiences. For extracurricular opportunities, visit HuskyLink to explore RSOs (e.g. Pre-PT Club) as well as campus offices like the CELE Center or Office of Undergraduate Research. Non-PT-related jobs and volunteer work are also great avenues to develop professionalism.

References are vital to a student’s application. Programs vary in how many references they require and from whom (e.g. physician therapists, professor; see this chart). However we recommend obtaining three references. Applicants should foster and maintain professional and academic relationships through office hours, informational interviews and conversations over time. This will increase the likelihood of obtaining strong references come time. Note: UW Seattle does not have a pre-health committee.

Applicants can select any undergraduate major as long as they complete the prerequisite courses, but prerequisites can vary slightly across programs. Students may need to exceed the requirements of some schools to meet the requirements of other schools. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) publishes a comparison chart, but applicants are encouraged to also check the PTCAS Directory, as updates may not be reflected in the chart immediately. The following courses are required/recommended by most DPT programs:

  • Anatomy w/lab                            
  • Physiology w/lab                            
  • General Biology I w/lab
  • General Biology II w/lab
  • General Physics I w/lab
  • General Physics II w/ lab
  • General Chemistry I w/lab
  • General Chemistry II w/lab
  • Psychology (x2)
  • Statistics

*Many schools do not accept botany or zoology biology courses

*Some schools do not accept combined Anatomy & Physiology courses

Most programs have minimum GPA requirements that applicants are expected to find by visiting program websites (also, see this tool). Schools may also publish the average GPA of admitted applicants, which may be more useful for goal-setting or determining which schools to apply to. For help locating this data, applicants should contact programs’ admissions offices directly.

Some programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and have minimum GRE scores and last acceptable test dates. Visit the PTCAS Directory/individual DPT program websites for this information. If you apply to schools with GRE requirements, plan enough time for studying, practice testing, and potentially re-taking the exam.