Physical Therapy - Preliminary Information

Undergraduate Coursework ~ Standardized Tests ~ Required Extracurriculars

Undergraduate Coursework

The required undergraduate coursework for physical therapy programs are often lengthy and vary greatly from institution to institution. You will need to research the schools to which you wish to apply in advance to ensure you can compete all of your requirements (you can do this using the APTA program directory on the website).

Some schools require classes not offered by the Claremont College (i.e. "Medical Terminology"). If you are applying to one of these schools, you will need to take these classes elsewhere during the summer.

The majority of schools will require some version of the following:

  • General Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • General Physics
  • Anatomy (sometimes human)
  • Physiology (sometimes human)
  • General, Abnormal, Developmental/Child Psychology (or some combination thereof)
  • English (usually a year, sometimes more)
  • Statistics
  • Physical Therapy Exposure (the hours depend on the school)

Other courses that are commonly required or strongly recommended include:

  • Computer Science
  • CPR Certification
  • Medical Terminology
  • Public Speaking/Communication
  • Sociology
  • Biochemistry or one semester Organic Chemistry

Click PT School Requirements to see a more specific list of requirements for each school.

Standardized Test

Most PT programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE is a computer-based test similar to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). You can prepare for it using independent study materials or by taking a prep course. Whatever you choose, you should take advantage of the free practice software available on the GRE website (

Required Extracurriculars

Many PT programs require that you have "physical therapy observation hours". (Of those, some programs require that you have these hours signed off on by a licensed physical therapist. Review the PTCAS Directory pages for program-specific requirements.)

Observation hours can be fulfilled either working or volunteering with a licensed physical therapist.

Good places to search for opportunities are:

  • Hospitals -Rehab, Sub Acute Rehab, Acute Care, and Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Extended Care Facilities
  • Nursing Homes
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Private Practice
You can find places to gain experience by visiting the Volunteer page.