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Pre-Physical Therapy Resources

Considering a Career as a Physical Therapist

For general information about the physical therapy profession, employment outlook, and professional training programs throughout the U.S., visit the American Physical Therapy Association website.

See also:
Best Colleges: “Physical Therapy Careers”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook:  Physical Therapists

CWU does not have a major in pre-physical therapy. However, we do offer a set of prerequisite courses that prepare your admission to a professional, doctoral-level physical therapy program. Although no specific major is required by these programs, the most common and appropriate choices to consider here at CWU are Clinical Physiology, Biology, and Exercise Science.  While many students choose one of these majors, applicants from humanities or social sciences are also accepted into professional PT programs.  Choose a major that is the best fit for you.  PT schools are looking for well-rounded applicants.


How to Become a Physical Therapist

Realize that admission into professional PT programs is VERY competitive.  Successful applicants must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Take all required pre-requisite courses
  • Have good grades (most schools report GPA’s that average well above 3.5).  Your goal should be A’s and B’s, no D’s.
  • Have at least 100 hours of experience in a clinical PT setting
  • Take the general GRE (most, but not all school require this)

Most graduate PT programs require that you submit scores from the General Test portion of the Graduate Record Exam with your application, so plan accordingly and allow time for the test results to be graded and available to submit.   The General Test of the GRE measures verbal, quantitative and analytical skills that have been developed over a long period of time.  The test is available year-round in computer-based format or you can take the test at CWU Testing Services. Advance registration is required. Those who have taken the test in the past must inquire early to be sure their scores can be properly reported.


You will want to volunteer, to both strengthen your admission packet and to see if the career is right for you.  You are expected to arrange your own PT-related work or volunteer experiences. Volunteering in the physical therapy department of a hospital or private clinic is a good place to begin.

It will help if you gain extensive observational exposure to physical therapists who work in a broad variety of service delivery environments. In addition, if you do well, you’ll obtain strong letters of reference from the physical therapists you interact with. The average number of PT experience hours to be in the range of 100-200. You should check individual PT school requirements. All hours are weighted equally, i.e. volunteer, paid, shadow, and/or observation. Direct PT experience hours are only gained in an environment with a licensed physical therapist on staff.

Volunteering in Ellensburg
KVH Physical Therapy (local hospital) (509-962-7386) or (509-963-7322)
Argonaut Peak Physical Therapy (509-962-1553)
Canyon View Physical Therapy (509-925-6220)
Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center (509-925-4171)

Letters of Recommendation
You will need a minimum of four letters of reference from faculty, advisors, mentors, doctors, and/or committees. Review the PTCAS Directory to determine the number and types of evaluators required by each institution.


Prerequisite Courses Offered at CWU

See the list of recommended prerequisite courses below to create your plan.  Work with the pre-therapy advisor and speak with one of the faculty contacts about your plan, as well. Please check your plan of prerequisite classes against your top choices of schools, as schools do vary in their requirements. The PTCAS Comparison of Course Prerequisites by Program chart shows the general courses required prior to the admission process of each school listed in it. 

    The following courses are required by most physical therapy schools as prerequisites.

    • CHEM 181, 182, 183 (General Chemistry with labs)
    • PHYS 111, 112, 113 or PHYS 121, 122, 123 or PHYS 181, 182, 183 (Physics with labs)
    • BIOL 305 & 306 or BIOL 355 & 356 (Human Anatomy and Physiology)
    • MATH 311 or BIO 213 or PSY 362 (Statistics)
    • PSY 101 (General Psychology)
    • One additional upper division Psychology course (e.g. PSY 313, PSY 449)

    The following courses are required by some physical therapy schools as prerequisites.  

    •          General Biology (BIOL 181, 182)
    •          Additional Upper Division Physiology (e.g. BIOL 455, EXSC 450, BIOL 457)
    •          Additional Upper Division Biology (e.g. BIOL 322, 323, 353, 354, 430, 454)
    •          Biomechanics, Kinesiology, or Movement Studies (e.g. EXSC 370, 371, 470)
    •          Additional coursework in Social Science (e.g. SOC 107, ANTH 110)

    NOTE:  Most courses listed here also require prerequisites to enroll; check the catalog!  Course substitutions are sometimes possible but must be approved by the professional program(s) of interest. 


    Pre-Physical Therapy Advisor and Faculty Contacts

    Requirements for admission to professional PT programs vary among schools.  The information contained on this website serves as an overview of those requirements.  CWU advisors can guide your selection of coursework that will strongly support your admission, but they cannot be familiar with the specific requirements of all the individual schools.  Please check requirements for individual schools as you prepare your applications.

    Patrick (Pat) Coffey
    Advising for students with interest pre-physical therapy study paired with Public Health, Clinical Physiology, or Exercise Science majors.

    Faculty Contacts:
    Dr. Vince Nethery
    Department of Health Sciences
    Office: Purser Hall, Room 117
    Phone: (509) 963-1940

    Dr. Kris Ernest
    Department of Biological Sciences
    Office: Science Building, Room 236E
    Phone: (509) 963-2805


    Other Resources

    Accredited Physical Therapy Programs in Washington State:
    Eastern Washington University 
    George Fox University
    Pacific University
    University of Puget Sound
    University of Washington

    American Physical Therapy Association List of Accredited Physical Therapy Schools

    Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.