Physical Therapy PT

5 Best Undergraduate Degrees for Physical Therapy

Professional male therapist

Are you dreaming of helping people as a licensed physical therapist? If so, you’ll want to set yourself up for success as early as possible.

You will need to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). But before you can do that, you’ll have to earn a bachelor’s degree.

While you can theoretically enroll in a DPT program with a bachelor’s degree in any subject, some majors are more relevant to a physical therapy career than others.

—those which allow you to complete prerequisite courses and start gaining the valuable skills you’ll need to succeed as a DPT.[1]

1.  Biology

Physical therapy requires knowledge of the human body, so it should be no surprise that biology is one of the best degrees to pursue when embarking on a physical therapy career.[2], [3] Biology students explore the science of life in a broad sense, tapping into the inner workings of various living organisms—all of which can provide insight into health and wellness.[4]

In an undergraduate biology program, you’ll encounter a range of topics applicable to the PT program, such as:[5]

  • Anatomy
  • Scientific and medical terminology
  • Genetics

Because biology programs typically touch on chemistry and physics as well, you should have no trouble meeting your DPT program prerequisites.

2.  Kinesiology

While biology explores the science of life in general, kinesiology hones in on the dynamics of human movement.[6] Because the field is closely related to physical therapy, many students find it to be a natural stepping stone into a DPT program.[7]

Kinesiology takes a well-rounded approach to health sciences, encouraging students to learn about biology, chemistry, and physics. More specifically, kinesiology programs explore:[8]

  • The prevention, management and treatment of injuries
  • The optimization of movement for workplace or athletic performance
  • The promotion of general health and well-being
  • The restoration of body functions

3. Exercise Science

Exercise science takes the principles of kinesiology and boils them down even further. Rather than looking at all human movements, exercise scientists focus specifically on intentional movement—in other words, exercise.[9]

Because activity-related injuries are one of the most common reasons why people see physical therapists, exercise science is one of the best majors for physical therapy hopefuls.

In fact, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, exercise science is also one of the most common undergraduate degrees for PTs.[10]

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4. Psychology

Perhaps you’ve heard the adage “pain is mental.” While the saying doesn’t address all the questions a physical therapy degree seeks to answer, the mind is certainly part of the well-being puzzle.

Psychologists study the mind and behavior, while physical therapists often work to adjust physical activity and behavior to treat movement dysfunction.[11], [12] Therefore, the two disciplines can go hand in hand.

By understanding the way people think, you’ll gain insight into the reasons they do things—a beneficial skill for a PT. Learning about the way people move, act and react is just one of the many worthwhile aspects of a physical therapy education.

5. Business

While majoring in business may seem like an odd choice for a field that focuses on the human body, it’s a great option for those planning to open a practice. After all, a physical therapy clinic is not just a place to heal people—it’s a business.

As a business major, you’ll learn valuable skills that can help you run a successful practice, including:[13]

  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Managing others
  • Communication
  • Business law
  • Business ethics

With that said, applying for a DPT program with zero experience in health sciences can put you at a disadvantage. As such, you may want to consider a double major or a minor in one of the other fields listed above to ensure you still obtain the skills, knowledge and prerequisite coursework you’ll need as a physical therapist.[14]

A Note About Prerequisites

As mentioned, you can apply to a Doctor of Physical Therapy program with an undergraduate degree in any field. However, most DPT programs or other physical therapy graduate programs require the completion of certain prerequisite courses.[15] Regardless of the major you choose, you’ll have to fulfill the requirements listed by your future university.

For example, students applying to the DPT program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) must complete the following physical therapy prerequisites:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Physics
  • Social Sciences (e.g., Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology)
  • Medical Terminology
  • Human Growth and Development over the Lifespan

If you use your electives to take the prerequisite courses, you should be able to transition from any degree into physical therapy. But, to best prepare yourself for your DPT program and the   that will follow, these comprehensive college majors will give you, so to speak, a leg up.

The largest PT school in the United States,** the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a hands-on Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Join a collaborative cohort of peers who learn under the mentorship of expert faculty-practitioners. Practice with mock and real patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and learn anatomy with our high-tech tools. Prepare for clinical practice with a wide range of patients, as well as for advanced roles in research, practice leadership and policy making. Residential (blended didactic courses + in-person labs on weekdays) and Flex (online courses + in-person labs on weekends) formats are available.

**Based on total DPT degrees conferred, as reported by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Data is captured by IPEDS through interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

 

Doctor of Physical Therapy Candidacy Program (Launched Fall 2020) – Dallas Campus

Effective April 28, 2020, the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences’ Doctor of Physical Therapy program on the Dallas, Texas campus has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, VA, 22305-3085; phone: 703-706-3245; email: [email protected]). If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call or email Dr. Thomas P. Werner at 469-498-5740 or [email protected].

Candidate for Accreditation is an accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates the program may matriculate students in technical/professional courses. Achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status does not assure that the program will be granted Initial Accreditation.

 

Sources:

[1] American Physical Therapy Association, “PT Admissions Process,” n.d.: https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/pt-admissions-process

[2] Ibid.

[3] Christine Comizio, “What You Need to Know About Becoming a Biology Major,” U.S. News & World Report, July 19, 2019: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/biology-major-overview

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ilana Kowarski, “What You Can Do With a Kinesiology Degree,” U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 14, 2021: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/what-you-can-do-with-a-kinesiology-degree

[7] American Physical Therapy Association, “PT Admissions Process,” n.d.:https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/pt-admissions-process

[8] Ilana Kowarski, “What You Can Do With a Kinesiology Degree,” U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 14, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/what-you-can-do-with-a-kinesiology-degree

[9] Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, “Exercise Science,” n.d.: https://www.caahep.org/Students/Program-Info/Exercise-Science.aspx

[10] American Physical Therapy Association, “PT Admissions Process,” n.d.: https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/pt-admissions-process

[11] “Science of Psychology,” American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/science.

[12] American Physical Therapy Association, “What Physical Therapists Do,” n.d.: https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/becoming-a-pt.

[13] Ali Follman, “What You Need to Know About Becoming a Business/Commerce Major,” U.S. News & World Report, July 16, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/business-commerce-major-overview

[14] American Physical Therapy Association, “PT Admissions Process,” n.d.: https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/pt-admissions-process

[15]Ibid.

 

 

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