Physical Therapy

Physical therapists are health care professionals who work with people who have been physically disabled by illness or accident or born with a handicap. Physical therapists evaluate neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, sensorimotor, and related cardiovascular and respiratory functions of patients. With the cooperation of physicians, they plan and implement initial and follow-up treatment programs. Treatments given by physical therapists include exercises for increasing strength, endurance, coordination, and range of motion; stimuli to facilitate motor activity and learning; instruction in activities of daily living; the use of assistive devices, such as crutches, canes, wheelchairs, and artificial limbs; and the application of physical agents, such as heat and cold, high frequency sound, diathermy, and whirlpool, to relieve pain or alter physiological states. Physical therapists work with individuals suffering from a wide range of conditions, including multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, burn injuries, nerve damage, amputation, or cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as specialized hospitals, general hospitals, public and special schools, physicians' offices or clinics, nursing homes, community or governmental agencies, research centers, the armed forces, and in private practice. Advanced physical therapists may engage in research in the field or teach at academic institutions. Salaries range from $35,000 per year for recent graduates to $70,000 or more per year for experienced therapists in leadership positions.

Academic program

In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, the practice of physical therapy is regulated by state law, and a license is required to practice it. State examinations are given at least once each year, and physical therapists must comply with the legal requirements of the state in which they practice. The education of physical therapists includes general college requirements, basic knowledge in the natural and social sciences, and professional education course work consisting of health sciences, clinical sciences, and supervision of the practice of physical therapy.

There are currently over 200 schools of physical therapy in the United States. Missouri institutions currently offering master's degrees in physical therapy include University of Missouri - Columbia, Washington University, St. Louis University, Maryville College in St. Louis, Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO, and Missouri State University in Springfield.

It is strongly recommended that students complete a major in an appropriate area of study before applying to a physical therapy program. Any major is possible as long as the student completes the necessary prerequisite coursework. Majors at Missouri State University include life sciences (biology or cell and molecular biology), psychology, sports medicine and athletic training, and nursing. Physical therapy education programs in the U.S. are now at the master's level and physical therapy schools are quickly moving to the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The average doctoral program is 3 years and nearly 60 schools now offer the doctorate.

The number of students accepted into professional physical therapy programs is limited; therefore, there is considerable competition for each student position available. During high school, students interested in careers in physical therapy should complete four units of English; three units of mathematics, including geometry and algebra I and II; two units of a foreign language; two units of natural science; two units of social science; and one unit of speech.

The Physical Therapy Program at Missouri State University

The Physical Therapy Program at Missouri State University is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of the American Physical Therapy Association. Program information and admission requirements are described at the Department of Physical Therapy website.

Pre-physical therapy for majors in Cell and Molecular Biology

Several majors are possible as long as the basic requirements for the professional program are met. A Suggested Eight Semester Schedule for students majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology is provided. This schedule outlines the recommendations for those seeking admission into the Physical Therapy Program at Missouri State University. Be sure to refer to all Admission Requirements for the Missouri State University program or other professional programs to which you may apply. NOTE: Most physical therapy programs require additional coursework in social sciences, American history, government, and humanities. The above is a sample schedule. Other combinations are possible depending on the major that the student is pursuing. Be sure to make the distinction between the minimum requirements and the competitive requirements of the programs to which you are applying.

For more information

Department of Physical Therapy
Missouri State University
Springfield, Missouri 65897


Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
Springfield, Missouri 65897