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Bachelor's Degrees in Physical Therapy

Earning a bachelor's degree in physical therapy can prepare you for the graduate study required to become a physical therapist. Learn about coursework in bachelor's programs and the employment outlook.

What Are the Requirements for Physical Therapy Bachelor's Degrees?

Baccalaureate degrees are available for aspiring physical therapists, although they may not be called bachelor's degrees in physical therapy. For example, some schools' physical therapy departments may offer a pre-physical therapy option for undergraduates, which may lead to a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. A bachelor's degree in exercise science, biology, exercise physiology or athletic training may also provide good preparation for a graduate program.

A graduate degree is required to become a physical therapist. Graduate degrees include a Master of Science (M.S.) in Physical Therapy, a Master of Physical Therapy and a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Some programs allow you to earn your bachelor's degree as part of your doctoral program. You might earn a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, for instance, prior to beginning your professional coursework. Becoming a physical therapy assistant is another career option in this field, but this job typically requires only an associate's degree.

Prerequisites for bachelor's degree programs for aspiring physical therapists typically include a high school diploma with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a designated number of hours in physical therapy and completion of specific courses, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, general science, biology and chemistry.

Degree Fields Exercise science, athletic training, biology, interdisciplinary health and rehabilitation sciences, exercise physiology
Prerequisites Requirements vary by program; typically a high school diploma, minimum GPA, and prerequisite coursework in science, math and/or physical therapy
Common Courses Physics, medical terminology, kinesiology, biology, pathophysiology
Learning Environments Traditional classroom and hybrid degree options are available
Possible Careers Physical therapist assistant or aide; graduate-level education required to become a physical therapist

What Will I Study?

Because bachelor's degrees in physical therapy don't exist, your undergraduate coursework will vary somewhat depending upon the program you choose. However, if graduate study in physical therapy is your goal, the following undergraduate courses are common prerequisites:

  • Human anatomy
  • Statistics
  • Human kinesiology
  • Physiology and pathophysiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Physics
  • Intro to physical therapy
  • Biology

Can I Earn My Degree Online?

Fully online bachelor's degree programs for aspiring physical therapists aren't common due to the hands-on nature of the field. However, some hybrid programs may allow you to complete coursework online while completing clinical training at a medical facility or on campus.

What Can I Do With My Degree?

Physical therapy aides generally train on-the-job, while physical therapy assistants are typically required to have an associate's degree and obtain licensure. Although not the most common educational path, bachelor's degrees for aspiring physical therapists could potentially qualify you for these positions.

More likely, you'll choose to become a licensed physical therapist by earning a master's or doctoral degree in physical therapy. Although approximately 239,800 physical therapists are employed in health physician's offices or hospitals, there are many other employment opportunities, including working in nursing care facilities, rehabilitation centers, outpatient care centers, home health care agencies or private practices.

Upon completion of a graduate physical therapy program, you'll need to meet the licensure requirements of your state, which may include the National Physical Therapy Examination. Many states also require physical therapists to continue their education to maintain licensure.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physical therapists is expected to increase by 28% from 2016-2026, a faster-than-average rate in comparison to all jobs (www.bls.gov). The median annual wage for physical therapists in 2018 was $87,930, also per the BLS. The BLS reported the job outlook for physical therapist aides and assistants is projected to increase by 30% from 2016-2026, which is also well above the national average for all occupations. Physical therapist aides earned a median annual wage of $26,240 in 2018, while physical therapist assistants earned more than double at $58,040 for the same year, also reported by the BLS.