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Health Sciences Careers: Physical Therapist

Health Sciences Designation: Pre-Physical Therapy (PRPT)
Career: Physical Therapist
Job Outlook: 28% from 2016-2026
Median Pay: $87,930 annually in 2018 (approximately $42.27 per hour)
Entry-level Education: Doctoral or professional degree



Physical therapists, also known as PTs provide health care services to patients who have both chronic and acute medical conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. PTs evaluate each patient and develop a plan along with the patient that will allow them to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability as well as prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs. They develop programs that are fitness and wellness oriented to promote a healthier lifestyle.


Work Settings:

PTs provide care in different settings including nursing and residential care facilities, hospitals, and outpatient clinics. In hospitals, PTs can work in acute care or rehabilitation. Acute care PTs focus on providing care to patients who are admitted to the hospital for a short term stay after surgery, accident, or recovery from trauma. The goal for acute care is to discharge the patient as soon as they are stable and have a safe place to go. PTs who work on rehabilitation they provide care to patients who are admitted to a facility or rehabilitation unit. PTs work with patients to provide intense therapy to improve their ability to care for themselves. PTs who practice in outpatient clinics see patients with chronic neuromuscular injuries or impairments and work with them to improve their quality of life. PTs can also be employed by federal agencies to provide services to military personnel. Physical therapists can focus on conducting research alongside other health care professionals to improve patient care outcomes and expand the body of knowledge in the PT field.


Academic Requirements:

In the United States, physical therapists are required to obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited physical education program. Most PT education programs require applicants to obtain a bachelor’s degree before admission into the professional program. Drake’s Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree is an excellent preparation for PT school! After earning your degree at Drake, know that most DPT programs are 3 years in length and comprise of didactic and lab work along with clinical education.


Additional Information:

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is the agency that grants accreditation status to entry-level education programs for PTs. As of December 2018, they have accredited 250 programs. PTs need to pass a state licensure exam for every state they practice in. PTs who choose to specialize in different areas will need to take an additional exam to get certified. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) offers board-certification in 9 specialty areas:

  • Cardiovascular and Pulonary
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Immunology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports
  • Women's Health


Why is Health Sciences a great major for Pre-PT?

As a student in our Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree, you’ll get the best of both worlds: a rigorous science curriculum that will prepare you for the academic challenges in PT school and an education in healthcare that will help you succeed in your professional career.  All Health Sciences students take core courses in the sciences that you can customize based on the required prerequisite coursework you’ll need to get into your top choice graduate program.  But beyond that, you’ll also complete our Health Sciences Core Curriculum, which teaches you about every aspect of healthcare and how to be a successful professional once you graduate.  The Health Sciences Core Curriculum includes coursework in professionalism, innovation and problem solving, cultural sensitivity, healthcare ethics, and an overview of what to expect when you enter the workforce.  This unique curriculum is only offered to Health Sciences majors at Drake and is one thing that will make you stand out when you apply for graduate school.

In addition to the coursework you take, the Health Sciences Core Curriculum also includes a full year of internship and research for every Health Sciences student.  In your senior year, you will be paired with a healthcare professional in a career that relates to your own interests and complete a full year internship with that person at their practice site or office.  We have numerous placements that relate to physical therapy, including several partnerships with the local local clinics and specialists. You will also do an original research project along with your internship, which is something graduate schools value in the admission process.  100% of our Health Sciences students do an internship and research, which is why our graduates are so successful at getting into many of their top choice PT schools!



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