Physical Therapy

What is Physical Therapy?

A physical therapist (PT) is a health professional concerned with restoration and maintenance of a patient's ability to function following disease or injury. Stroke victims, injured athletes, children with muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, amputees, paraplegics and people with minor joint or muscle aches are among the patients a physical therapist may work with. The physical therapist treats patients with physical modalities such as heat, cold, electricity, ultrasound, water exercise, and pressure. The goal of therapy is to improve circulation, strengthen muscles, restore gross motor skills, correct deformities, relieve pain and expedite recovery. To learn more, read here.

Academic Preparation

Each school has different criteria of prerequisite course work. Please see our PT Advising Sheet for more information about the requirements for some local programs. Keep in mind that you can choose any major and plan to pursue physical therapy. You will have to complete the prerequisite coursework regardless of your major. It is very important that you do well in all of your courses.

Experience

CA PT Program-Start Dates and Hour Requirements

Start Dates and Hour Requirements
Azusa Pacific University
Physical Therapy Program
901 East Alosta Avenue
Azusa, CA 91702-7000

Michael Laymon, PT, Program Director

(626) 815-5020

  • Start Date: February
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: Minimum of 100 hours of clinical experience in a physical therapy setting.

California State University, Fresno

Physical Therapy Department
2345 East San Ramon Avenue, MS-MH29
Fresno, CA 93740-8031

Peggy R. Trueblood, PT, PhD, Program Director
(559) 278-2625

  • Start Date: August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: Minimum of 100 hours with 20 in general in-patient care setting.

California State University, Long Beach

Department of Physical Therapy
College of Health and Human Services
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90840

Kay Cerny, PT, PhD, Program Director

(562) 985-4072

  • Start Date: June
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: Minimum of 100 hours under the direct supervision of a licensed PT and a minimum of 1 site is required. Credit will be given up to 400 verified hours.

California State University, Northridge

Department of Physical Therapy
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8411

Janet Adams, PT, MS, Program Director

(818) 677-2203

  • Start Date: August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: 200 PT hours are required under a licensed physical therapist

California State University, Sacramento

Department of Physical Therapy
6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95819-6020

Susan McGinty, PT, EdD, Program Director

(916) 278-6426

  • Start Date: August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: minimum 100 total hours in at least one “inpatient” and one “outpatient” setting. Each setting must have a minimum of 25 hours of exposure.

Chapman University (Formerly Children’s Hospital)

Department of Physical Therapy
One University Drive
Orange, CA 92666

Venita Lovelace-Chandler, PT, PhD, Program Director

(714) 744-7620

  • Start Date: May, August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: minimum 40 hours of observation under a licensed PT (or paid work).

Loma Linda University

Department of Physical Therapy
School of Allied Health Professions
Loma Linda University
Loma, Linda CA 92350

Larry Chinnock, PT, EdD, Program Director

(909) 558-4632

  • Start Date: June
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: minimum 80 observation hours with at least 20 hours in an in-patient setting and at least 20 hours in an out-patient setting.

Mount Saint Mary’s University

Department of Physical Therapy
10 Chester Place
Los, Angeles CA 90007

Debbie L. Lowe, PT, PhD, Program Director

(213) 477-2600

  • Start Date: August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: Applicants must document experience in at least one inpatient and one outpatient setting.

Samuel Merritt University

Department of Physical Therapy
450 30th Street Suite 3706
Oakland, CA 94609

Terrence M. Nordstrom, PT, Program Director

(510) 869-6241

  • Start Date: Late August/Early September
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: minimum of 40 hours of volunteer or paid experience in a physical therapy setting.

University of California, San Francisco/SFSU

Department of Physical Therapy & Rehab Science
1318 7th Avenue, Box 0736
San Francisco, CA 94143-0736

Nancy Byl, PT, PhD, Program Director

(415) 476-3147

  • Start Date: June
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: minimum 150 of paid or volunteer experience in a variety (e.g., outpation, inpatient) of physical therapy settings working under the direct supervision of a licensed PT.

University of Southern California

Department of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy
1540 East Alcazar Street, CHP 155
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9006

James Gordon, PT, EdD, Program Director

(323) 442-2900

  • Start Date: Late August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: minimum 150 hours of clinical experience in a variety of physical therapy settings (e.g., outpatient and inpatient) settings is highly recommended.

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

700 Windy Point Drive
San Marcos, CA 92069

Wanda B. Nitsch, PT, PhD, MTC, Program Director

(760) 591-3012 Toll Free (866) 557-3731

  • Start Date: September (Fall Term), January (Spring Term), May (Summer Term)
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: A minimum of 80 volunteer or observation experience hours (volunteer hours, work hours, observation hours, etc.) in a physical therapy setting is required.

University of the Pacific

Department of Physical Therapy
School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211

Cathy Peterson, PT, EdD, Program Director

(209) 946-2886

  • Start Date: August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: At least 50 hours of experience in physical therapy practice settings which includes at least 25 in accurate care, in-hospital

Western University of Health Sciences

Department of Physical Therapy Education
309 East 2nd Street
Pomona, CA 91766-1889

Denise Schilling, PT, PhD, Program Director

(909) 706-3526

  • Start Date: August
  • Clinical Experience Requirement: Minimum 100 hours in 2 or more physical therapy facilities and/or clinical settings, with a minimum of 40 hours per setting.

In-patient settings include in-patient hospital (acute, sub-acute, transitional care or rehab), skilled nursing facilities (SNF), extended care facilities (ECF), and residential facilities (geriatric/pediatric).

 

Most schools require experience in the physical therapy environment in at least two settings. Experience in the inpatient setting is either required or highly recommended by programs. Generally, the inpatient setting can be difficult to obtain. The hours required differ for each school's program. We recommend starting with a Health Related Internship through the ICC.

Supplemental content

American Physical Therapy Assocation

The APTA is your go-to place when applying to physical therapy programs.

Ready to Apply?

The PTCAS is the centralized application system for physical therapy programs.

Register for the GRE

The GRE is not a course-dependent test, meaning there are not specific UCD courses you need to take to prepare. The best way is to give yourself time to study the test by buying to test prep books or taking a test prep course.

Whatever you do, do not take the test without preparing! Click here to register for the GRE.

List of PT Programs

Click here to find a list of accredited Physical Therapy programs in the US.