Becoming a physical therapist


Students in physical therapist assistant programs complete their associate’s degree in applied science. Depending on the type of school you want to attend, there may be admissions requirements. In general, for-profit institutions do not have admissions requirements, but most public programs, like those offered at community colleges, do. Here is a brief review of the typical admissions requirements for public physical therapist assistant degree programs.

General education requirements

At most community colleges, you don’t enroll in the physical therapist assistant program on Day 1. Rather, you must complete some general education requirements before applying to the program. At a minimum you will have to take English 101, but some schools have much broader general education requirements, including courses in English, history, psychology, natural science, social science, and more. This is pretty standard fare for all associate degree programs, and these courses can be transferred to a four-year university if you later decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Although physical therapist assistant programs often start in the fall, you can take the general requirements at any time.

Science and math requirements

Before being accepted to a physical therapist assistant program, you will need to show that you have the basic science and math skills necessary for higher-level coursework. Depending on the school, you might need to take college algebra, biology, human anatomy, and physiology, and perhaps even an introductory course in physical therapy. Most schools require students to achieve a minimum grade point average of 2.5 or 2.75, which is equivalent to a “C,” in all general education, science, and math courses to be admitted as a physical therapy assistant student. In some cases, these courses can be waived if you have taken college-level courses before or if you score at a certain level on a placement test.

Criminal background check

Some accrediting agencies require colleges to complete a criminal background check for all students wishing to enroll in a program that prepares them for a career in health care. Students who have been convicted of homicide, violence, child abuse, selling narcotics, and other similar crimes will not be allowed to enroll in the program. If you have any questions about this, check with the admissions counselors at your school.

Once you have completed the prerequisite courses and passed the criminal background check, you are eligible to enroll in a physical therapist assistant program. Note, however, that these programs are very competitive and you might not get in right away. If you do not make it the first time you apply, don’t panic! You might be able to take some of the required courses without being officially enrolled in the program, and then you can try again the following semester. Good luck!

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