According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists are experts in the examination and treatment of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular problems. For people with health problems resulting from an injury or disease, the physical therapist assists in the recovery process - making them stronger, relieving their pain, and helping them to regain use of an affected limb, or to relearn activities of daily living.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for physical therapists in 2020 was $91,010. The job outlook is great, with a projected growth of 21% by 2030. Over two-thirds of physical therapists are employed in either hospitals or offices of physical therapy. Other jobs are in home health agencies, outpatient rehabilitation centers, offices and clinics of physicians, and nursing homes. Some physical therapists are self-employed in private practices.
Education & Training
All accredited schools of physical therapy offer degrees at the doctoral degree level, in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. There are 14 Physical Therapy schools in California, all of which currently offer a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
All states require physical therapists to pass a licensure exam after graduating from an accredited PT program before they can practice. Entrance into all PT schools is competitive. To be considered for admission, most programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA, as well as 40-200 hours of volunteer/observation experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The average cumulative GPA of students who gained admission in 2019 was 3.57, and the average combined science and math GPA was 3.42. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is also required by most schools. The GRE is broken down into three sections including analytical writing, quantitative, and verbal.
Course Requirements (for CA schools)
Note: Admission prerequisites vary by institution. Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites. Check requirements carefully!
See below for an example of admission course prerequisites that may be required at CA programs. Please research professional programs for the specific admission requirements. If you need guidance on how to search for schools, please see the Peer Advisors during drop-in hours.
Biology: Bio 161, 162, & Mcro 221 or 224
Note: Bio, Mcro, Bchm, and Msci majors should enroll in Mcro 224
Anatomy/Physiology: Bio 231, 232 (for all majors except Bio) or Bio 361, 406-409, & 426
- Warning: Some PT programs may not accept Cal Poly's upper-division anatomy and physiology series (Bio 361, 406-409, & 426) as meeting their prerequisite requirements. Please review individual program requirements closely and reach out to programs directly with any concerns.
General Chemistry: Chem 127, 128, 129
Note: Engineering & Physical Science majors should enroll in Chem 124, 125, 126
Statistics: Stat 217 or 218 (B4)
Psychology: Psy 201 or 202 (E); plus additional Psychology courses, 256 & 405
Physics: Phys 121, 122, 123 or Phys 141, 142, 143, and Phys 125
- Phys 125 is a 1-unit lab that corresponds to Phys 121 or 141 and is generally taken during your last year at Cal Poly. In order to get on the waitlist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, major, health profession of interest, and Cal Poly email address. Permission numbers will be given out based on time of graduation.
Exercise Physiology: KINE 303
Medical Terminology: KINE/HLTH 297
Behavior/Social Sciences: SOC 110 (D2), ANT 201 (D2)
Psychology: PSY 256 (Developmental), PSY 405 (Abnormal), PSY 306 (Adolescent), PSY 318 (Aging), additional upper elective PSY courses.
- Note: Some programs ask for specific upper division PSY coursework, such as developmental, others ask for any upper division PSY coursework with a certain number of units. Because this is highly variable, and many programs do not even require this component, check program specific pre-requisites carefully.
Biomechanics: KINE 403
*Please come in to see us if you have any questions.
Last updated: 09/07/2022.
CA Physical Therapy Schools
Azusa Pacific University
CSU Long Beach
CSU San Diego
Loma Linda University
Mount St. Mary’s College
Samuel Merritt University
University of Southern California
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
University of the Pacific
West Coast University
Western University of Health Sciences
Professional Association Links
For more information, visit the American Physical Therapy Association website at http://www.apta.org.