Applying to Physical Therapy Graduate Programs

Applying to Physical Therapy Graduate Programs

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs are growing in popularity, and an increasing number of programs are beginning to accept postbac students with nontraditional backgrounds. Strong academics, especially in the premedical sciences, are essential for a successful application. 


One Semester*
Two Semesters*
Human Anatomy
General Biology with lab
General Physics with lab
Upper Level Biology
General Chemistry with lab
Statistics Anatomy and Physiology (lab recommended)



*Note: Anticipated courses and number of semesters required, based on average program requirements. Students must verify individual program requirements.

Students take either one semester of anatomy and one semester of physiology or a two-semester combined course of anatomy and physiology.

This form may be helpful in determining and comparing individual requirements between various schools.

Anatomy and Physiology
Occasionally, some of the academic prerequisites for a given PA program are not offered at Columbia. In such cases, pre-PT students should plan to complete the necessary coursework at another institution. For example, while Columbia offers an undergraduate physiology course, it does not offer a two-semester integrated sequence of anatomy and physiology often required by PT programs. Listed below are New York City colleges and universities that offer courses in anatomy and physiology. Visit the schools' websites below for details including application fees and deadlines, specific courses offered, and possible prerequisites.

Supplemental Requirements

Some programs may require supplemental courses (e.g., CPR, ethics, or public speaking). It is the responsibility of the student to research the admissions requirements for each physical therapy program, including supplemental requirements.

Practical Experience

Requirements vary by program, but it is widely recommended that students accrue at least 100 hours in a physical therapy, chiropractic, or orthopedic office.

Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)

The Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service is a service of the American Physical Therapy Association. PTCAS allows applicants to use a single application and one set of materials to apply to multiple PT programs. For more information about PTCAS, including application fees, visit the website.

  • PTCAS may be submitted before the GRE is taken or before scores are reported
  • Courses and GPA take 4-5 weeks to verify, after which the application is sent to designated schools for review
  • As a general rule, prerequisite coursework should have been completed in the past ten years; some schools require it to have been completed in the past five years
  • Students are encouraged to apply to up to five physical therapy doctoral programs

Letters of Reference

Most physical therapy programs will accept a letter of reference from an academic advisor, but students must verify individual school policies. It is essential for students applying to DPT programs to get at least one letter from a PT.

Students may submit up to four letters of reference. Letters of reference may be submitted via PTCAS in two ways:

  • Electronically: Enter the evaluator's email address and a prompt will be sent from with the subject "PTCAS Reference Request". This is the preferred method as it is quickest to process.
  • Paper: Student is responsible for printing the PTCAS Reference Form and delivering it to their evaluator(s). PTCAS will e-mail the student once the form has been received and verified.

Non-PTCAS Schools
For non-PTCAS participating schools, please refer to their individual policies for the preferred delivery method for letters of reference. Some schools have internal recommendation forms that are required for admission.

Committee Letters of Recommendation
The Premedical Committee does not provide committee letters for PT program applicants, as they are not accepted by DPT programs.