Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Both physical therapists and occupational therapists strive to maximize the functionality of the human body. Physical therapy (PT) focuses mainly on restoring strength and mobility following illness, injury, or surgery. Occupational therapy (OT) uses many of the same approaches as physical therapy but aims to help clients optimize the performance of daily tasks.

Most physical therapy graduate programs lead to a doctorate degree in physical therapy (DPT), although some program offer a master’s degree. DPT graduates can opt to continue their training through a residency or fellowship in a specialized area. Passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is a requirement for licensing.

Occupational therapy training programs lead to either a master’s in occupational therapy (MOT) or doctorate (OTD) degree. Graduates must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to receive a license.

For both physical therapy and occupational therapy training, applicants should choose a major such as Applied Human Biology, which already includes the courses most commonly deemed pre-requisites. Students may also choose to major in Exercise Science but should be aware that this degree does not include all the courses typically required by physical therapy graduate programs. Exercise Science students are encouraged to minor in Biology and enroll in additional courses such as General Biology, General Chemistry, Physics, and Statistics. The entrance requirements for physical therapy and occupational therapy programs vary, so it is essential for students to become familiar with the specific prerequisites of the schools to which they intend to apply.

Paid or volunteer work in a PT or OT clinic is highly recommended before applying. Both types of training programs require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores as part of the application. Although some students apply for admission after their third year of college, the most successful applicants wait until the summer after their fourth year or later.