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What Should You Major In for Physical Therapy School?

What Majors do I Recommend?

Your specific major isn’t important for getting into PT school. In a group of PT students, you’ll find that biology, exercise science, and kinesiology majors are the most common. However, some of my PT classmates majored in psychology, business, accounting, and english.

I recommend majoring in something that’s practical. If I had to re-do my undergrad education, I would have considered majors like Engineering or Computer Science, so I would have a much better chance at finding a job with only a bachelor’s degree.

What Majors do I Advise Against?

I don’t recommend choosing a Pre-Physical Therapy, Exercise Science,  Kinesiology, or Biology majors unless you are 100% sure that you want to go into those career fields as a physical therapist, athletic trainer, researcher, teacher, or other healthcare provider. It would be unfortunate if you decide that you don’t actually want to have a career in any of those fields. Those bachelor degrees don’t have many job prospects that make financial sense, unless you plan on pursuing any kind of continuing education.

How to Determine the Best Major for You

Lots of people don’t know what they want to major in when they first begin college. It can take several years to figure out what you want your major to be, and that’s okay. Here are my recommendations:

1. Network with others

Make sure to talk to as many people as possible, including academic advisors, professors, friends, and family members. Get others opinions on different majors and careers, and learn about the pro’s and con’s of each. There’s only so much that you’re able to learn online.

2. Shadow as much as possible

Compare different careers and determine which seem the best for you.  Shadow various healthcare providers, office workers, teachers, or whatever is interesting to you.

Are you only interested in physical therapy? Try to shadow other healthcare providers, anyways. PTs work with many others, including occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, athletic trainers, physician assistants, and pharmacists. Even if you aren’t interested in those fields, you might be working with them one day.

3. Keep your grades up

I was an “undeclared” major for several years until I decided to major in biology. I didn’t keep my grades up, and then had many regrets once I decided to pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy and realized that my grades should have been much higher.

Not knowing what to major in is not an excuse to let your GPA drop. You don’t want to limit your options in the future, so keep your grades as high as possible.

Other Resources

Here are some links about high school/college that you may find helpful. The website is really active and I used it a lot in college and when I applied to grad school, so look around there and ask questions if you want others’ advice too!

Advice for undergrad freshmen
What is your undergraduate degree?
HS student needs help to make a pathway to PT
Bachelor’s Degree: PT Related vs. Unrelated
Recent high school graduate, solid plan for physical therapy?
Comunity college courses and PT school
Experiences taking pre-reqs at community college
Question on Exercise Science major

What did you major in? Do you have any advice for those currently in college? Please share below!

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  1. Syd Davidson

    I have my undergrad in Human Nutrition & Dietetics. I’m taking post-bac coursework to apply to PT programs next July (2021). The advisors I spoke with recommended “more upper division science courses” – I have 9 in the nutritional sciences but they didn’t seem to think those count (even though they are microbiology and biochemistry courses).
    Which courses do you recommend I take before applying to boost my chances of getting into a DPT program?

    • Katie - My Road to PT

      Hey Syd! I agree that microbio and biochem are good courses to take, but might not be as helpful as other courses, like anatomy or psychology. I’m not sure how much admissions committees actually look at the courses you took, other than ensuring that you completed the required pre-reqs, so I wouldn’t go crazy with taking extra courses if it’s expensive or if it risks lowering your GPA.

      If you know which PT programs you’ll apply to next July, I recommend looking at their prerequisite courses. Have you completed all of them? Did you get any lower grades in any of them, and could possibly retake for a higher grade? Do you have a lower GPA, and will taking more classes and getting A’s significantly improve your GPA?

      If you’re taking classes for fun, here are some courses that may be helpful: Public speaking / communication, counseling / motivational interviewing courses, statistics (if focused on understanding medical / scientific research papers), psychology / mental health, business / marketing, anything related to strength training (like proper dosing, using free weights, lifting in older adults etc), public health, or neuroscience (if there is a course about the anatomy / physiology of the brain and spinal cord, specifically). If you were interested, you can look into the CSCS certification. Take whatever is actually interesting to you, so it might naturally come up in an essay or on an interview.

      Other than working on your GPA, typically I suggest looking at your entire application and compare your stats (GRE, observation hours) to the stats of the students at each PT program you’re interested in. Are there any glaring weaknesses that you can improve? Can you improve your GRE score, or can you observe in a unique setting (like aquatics, pediatrics, hippotherapy, wound care, etc)?

      If you’re out of ideas, you can try to volunteer in your community, start a website, or write blog articles for the APTA or Covalent Careers. You might be able to volunteer for the APTA, PT podcasts (with editing podcasts or marketing), or with nonprofit organizations. You can learn about marketing and try to help out local PT clinics. If you’re unemployed, you can try to find a job to get first-hand experience in customer service, business, marketing, or healthcare. It doesn’t need to be at a PT clinic or hospital to be relevant.

      Think of something that you love to do or would love to learn more about, not something that you’re doing just to appear more competitive. These are ideas just off the top of my head, but there are endless ways to make yourself more competitive and stand out.

      Let me know if you have other questions! I’m glad to help! 🙂

  2. Devon

    I have always known that I wanted to be in the medical field and was pursing nursing for a long time. I recently realized after working at a chiropractic office that PT is where my heart is. I changed my major to Biology but I did notice in this post that you thought computer science would be an acceptable major. My boyfriend has a Bachelors of Computer Science and I almost changed my major to C.S. this last year. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts or advice on this?

    • myroadtopt

      Hey Devon! Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment! I haven’t checked my blog in a few months, so I just saw this today!

      I guess those were just examples of majors to consider, but in reality, any major is acceptable for PT school. Programs really only care that you have a bachelors degree, and that you did well in the pre-requisite courses. The more typical majors (biology, exercise science, psycholog) may help you a bit with PT school curriculum and may better prepare you for higher grades in the pre-req courses, but admissions committees don’t care what your actual degree is.

      I don’t necessarily recommend Biology as a bachelors degree, although I did love taking all the biology courses. You can’t do much with Biology if graduate school doesn’t pan out for you (dentistry, veterinary medicine, med school, pt school, etc). That’s one of the reasons that I listed Computer Science – you can get a decent job with a bachelors in Computer Science (at least compared to Biology).

      I’d say to major in whatever you think is best! Choose what classes you are interested in, make sure you also take the pre-reqs for PT along with your classes for your major, and make sure you have a back-up plan if PT does not work out for you.

      Best of luck!