Pre-Physical and Occupational Therapy Preparation

Physical Therapists (PTs), treat patients with injury or illness to help improve mobility and manage pain. PTs use a variety of techniques including exercises, stretching, hands-on therapy, and equipment.

Occupational Therapists (OTs), work with patients suffering from injury or illness to help them recover so that they can maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. OTs do this through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, such as helping patients learn how to dress themselves. Both PTs and OTs typically work in private offices and clinics or in hospitals. Most PTs and OTs work full-time weekdays. Some may work evenings or weekends to accommodate patient schedules.

Job Outlook

Employment for physical therapists is expected to grow by 25 percent, while demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow by 21 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which notes the growth is much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is attributed to a growing and aging population.

How to Apply

Physical therapists obtain a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree and must obtain a license to practice. Physical therapy schools are highly competitive; most applicants have a bachelor’s degree. PT school is typically three years. Students who specialize will require further residency training.

Occupational therapists must obtain at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy—some earn doctoral degrees. OT schools are competitive. Most applicants have a bachelor’s degree. Students usually take two to three years to complete OT school and are required to complete at least 24 weeks of supervised field work.

Course Requirements

Although you can select any undergraduate major, most PT and OT schools expect you to take pre-requisite courses before you to apply. These required courses can be different depending on the school you wish to apply to. You must research specific admissions requirements for each school you apply to.

Check admissions requirements for specific physical therapy schools and also be sure to check directly with the individual schools. Occupational Therapy students must check with the individual schools for course requirements. Search for OT schools.

This is a guide of recommended courses students could take to prepare for PT or OT school. This is not an exhaustive list. You are responsible to check with the schools you wish to apply for specific requirements. Students should also check with the individual schools if they intend to use AP or community college credits to see if those are accepted.

Entrance Exam

Most PT and OT Schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as the entrance exam. Competitive GRE scores average 300-310 or higher. Students should aim for above the 50th percentile.

The GRE is offered as a computer-based test year-round. Register for the GRE.  On average, students should spend 50 to 200 hours preparing for the GRE. This largely depends on how efficiently you study. The more time you spend the more confident you will be.

Additional Requirements

A competitive GPA is crucial for acceptance into PT and OT schools. Most programs have minimum GPA requirements in order to apply that include both cumulative GPA and pre-requisite GPA. It is common for physical therapy schools to require at least a 3.0; average accepted students have a GPA of 3.5 or more.

Apart from your prerequisites and entrance exam score, most PT and OT schools require one to four letters of recommendation, a written personal statement, and if selected, an in-person interview. Many also require applicants to have a minimum number of volunteer and or paid hours working with patients. You may be required to have a licensed therapist verify your hours. Many schools place major emphasis on your experience when making admissions decisions.

Get more information on PT and OT admissions criteria.

Application Service

Physical Therapy

The Professional Association for Physical Therapy Schools is APTA (American Physical Therapy Association). Most Physical Therapy Schools go through a centralized application called the PTCAS (Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service). The application opens in July with deadlines ranging from October through May.

Occupational Therapy

The Professional Association for Occupational Therapy Schools is the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Most Occupational Therapy schools go through a centralized application called the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). The application opens in July and deadlines vary.

Partnership with CMU—Physical Therapy Doctorate

Michigan Technological University and Central Michigan University partner to offer the CMU doctorate of physical therapy program on Michigan Tech’s Campus! Under this Articulation Agreement with Central, six seats are reserved for Michigan Tech students who meet admission requirements. Minimum requirements to apply to this program are subject to change.

Physical Therapy Mentoring Opportunity

The DPT Mentorship Program provides guidance to pre-physical therapy students at Michigan Tech. Led by current first and second-year students in the Central Michigan University DPT program in Houghton, the group meets a few times per year to discuss how to prepare for the graduate school application and gives undergraduate students an opportunity to ask DPT students questions. Interested in taking advantage of this mentoring opportunity? Contact Alyssa Vinckier at