Health Professions and Prelaw Center
Home » About HPPLC › HPPLC Overview

Pre-Physical Therapy Guide for New Incoming Students


This section provides information on planning for admission to physical therapy (PT) programs, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure you mention your intention to follow a pre-PT preparatory program. You will be subscribed to the Health Professions and Prelaw Center (HPPLC) mailing list, and receive information about important upcoming events, including the Pre-Physical Therapy Orientation in the fall. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on planning for summer orientation.

Description of the Profession

Physical therapists (PTs) examine, diagnose, and administer treatment to individuals to restore function, relieve pain, and prevent disability following disease, injury, or loss of function. PTs can work in many different settings, and can develop specializations working with specific conditions. Physical therapy is one of the fastest growing health fields, and PTs are employed in many different settings. PTs must possess creative problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, patience, manual dexterity, physical stamina, and the ability to work closely with people from a variety of backgrounds.


The Degree Path

To become a practicing physical therapist you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), a 3-year clinical doctorate degree. Before being admitted to a PT program, you must successfully complete certain prerequisite courses and other admission requirements. Prerequisites are not the same for all PT programs, but most do require all or nearly all of the prerequisites listed on this page.


Choosing Your Degree and Major

Almost any degree and major can be a good choice for pre-PT students. Most PT programs have no preference as to what major and degree you earn! There doesn't even need to be an obvious connection between your major and PT. You can select any major IUB offers and combine it with the courses required for admission to PT programs.  Choose a major that interests you, and in which you can excel. It is also perfectly fine to start out as exploratory and work with your academic advisor throughout the year to discover a major that is a good fit for you. The Explore Programs tool can help you discover your options!


Physical Therapy Course Admission Requirements

The courses required for admission vary from one physical therapy program to another. There is, however, a fair degree of prerequisite overlap across programs. By choosing from the courses listed in the section below you can be confident that you will begin to lay a foundation that will enable you to apply to a variety of PT programs. You can learn more about additional admission requirements later during the year.


Your Course Load

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in from four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful.


Planning Your Fall Course Options

For your fall semester, you should begin with completing physical therapy required coursework, but you’ll also need to complete other courses for your particular undergraduate degree and major. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on how to plan your fall course schedule.

Below is a partial list of IU DPT prerequisites, many of which are required by other PT programs, too. Plan to register for one or two pre-PT courses (3-8 credit hours) for the upcoming semester. We strongly advise that you not take more than one 5-credit course in the same semester. During your first semester at IUB, you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your pre-physical therapy coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB.


As of this writing, the IU PT program accepts dual credit courses taken during high school and Advanced Placement (AP) credit as fulfilling prerequisites. Dual credit courses are acceptable if recorded on a college transcript with a grade. AP credit is acceptable with a score of 3 or higher. If you think you may have credit for one or more of the courses below, be sure to tell your Orientation advisor. For the most current policy, visit IU PT Admission Requirements. Some PT programs may not accept AP credit. If you have placement credit, you will eventually need to check with programs to confirm their policies.


Human Anatomy

ANAT-A 215 (5 credits). This course has limited seating and may not be available during your Orientation. If so, you can simply take it later. We urge you to follow the anatomy study tips



CHEM-C 117 (3-credit hour lecture) and CHEM-C 127 (2-credit hour lab). Some students will need to complete a preparatory course before they are ready for CHEM-C 117/127. Consult the information on determining your placement into chemistry coursework.


Introductory Psychology

PSY-P 101 or PSY-P 155 (3 credits). P 155 is an intensive course more appropriate for psychology majors or minors.



BIOL-L 112 (4 credits). Biology coursework is not currently required for the IU PT program; however, this is a common requirement for other PT programs.


Human Lifespan Development

SPH-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 315 (3 credits). PSY-P 315 Developmental Psychology may fulfill requirements for a greater number of PT programs.


Medical Terminology

CLAS-C 209 (2 credits).



Most PT programs accept almost any 300-level statistics course. You should consult with an academic advisor about whether you are ready to enroll in statistics during freshman year.




Other Activities for Pre-Physical Therapy Students

Clinical observation (or job shadowing) is a requirement for admission to most DPT programs. Clinical observation can also help you decide if a career in physical therapy is the best choice for you, or whether you need to explore other fields. Furthermore, extensive observation in a variety of settings can help you become a more competitive applicant to PT programs.


We strongly suggest you undertake some observation prior to beginning classes in the fall, but then use your freshman year to acclimate yourself to college, and to the increased demands of IUB courses. After freshman year, continue with more clinical observation, both in-patient and out-patient. Log your shadowing hours and take some notes during your experiences. Refer to the PT Clinical Observation page for more detailed suggestions.