Interested in specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders that may impair or prevent normal function of an individual? To this end, physical therapists are trained to identify a vast range of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disorders and employ specialized strategies to alleviate pain and/or enhance strength, endurance, flexibility, and range of motion. They also provide instruction to patients and their families and supervise physical therapy assistants and aides.
For many years physical therapy was available as a bachelor's degree, but in the late 1990's the bachelor degree programs in physical therapy were replaced by 2-year master’s degree programs that required students to have completed their bachelor’s degree prior to entry. The majority of physical therapy programs have since transitioned to three-year doctorate programs (DPT). For a list of physical therapy programs in the United States, please visit Physical Therapy Programs.
To prepare students for admission to physical therapy school, Luther College (and most other institutions) offers a pre-physical therapy program. These programs are not an academic major, but rather are a set of interdisciplinary courses that teach students the basic sciences necessary for entry into a DPT school. Thus, students may pursue any academic major during their undergraduate experience, although most students major in biology, health/physical education, or psychology. Luther College graduates have had outstanding success in pursuing a DPT program after graduating, with an exceptional acceptance rate to programs around the country.
While entrance requirements for DPT programs vary by institution, the majority of programs require the following courses:
Students may supplement their preparation by additional courses in physical education (such as Anatomy and Kinesiology, First Aid, or Adaptive Physical Education) and biology, as desired. In all cases, students should work closely with their advisors to plan an undergraduate curriculum that ensures completion of the entrance requirements for physical therapy schools.
In addition to completion of the necessary prerequisite courses, most DPT programs require that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), usually during or after their junior year in college. The second requirement for entrance to a physical therapy program is experience in a physical therapy setting. This may be done in several ways, such as a formal internship for academic credit, a volunteer or paid position in a physical therapy clinic, or through shadowing a physical therapist during the academic year or summer. The Decorah region has several physical therapy clinics in which students can gain firsthand experience, and the Career Center can assist in arranging an internship experience.