One of the questions I’m most frequently asked by pre-physical therapy students is…
What is the best undergrad major for physical therapy?
I majored in psychology, which I find useful on a daily basis. In addition to dealing with the emotions surrounding pain and injury, I also work with various personalities. But, because I did not decide to become a physical therapist until after graduating college, it was not a strategic decision. I simply picked a major I found interesting, while working toward my first career in journalism.
Many second-career physical therapists I have encountered help prove that your undergraduate major is not extremely important.
Is there a “best” undergrad major for physical therapy?
If you have the opportunity to choose your major before applying, there are two schools of thought to approaching your undergrad major for physical therapy:
1. Kinesiology, Exercise Science or Athletic Training
These majors are most directly related to physical therapy and, from my experience, gave students a small leg up during the first semester of graduate school. These majors cover many of the physical therapy school basics, while also preparing you for how to study these subjects.
Kinesiology and Exercise Science students learn about the way the body moves and how it functions. These were the students who would casually discuss their favorite muscles, naming body parts the rest of us had not yet heard of. When most people were struggling to memorize where the obterator internus attaches, they were reviewing old information. Similarly, the athletic trainers in the group knew a lot about identifying injuries. One of my classmates was able to guess correctly about an old ankle injury I had in high school, just by feeling my foot move.
2. Pick something else interesting
Whether your passion is business, dance, or physics, you will probably find a way to make it relevant to physical therapy. A unique major will also set you apart as an applicant and perhaps even give you additional useful skills as a therapist. There is very little room for electives in graduate school; therefore, it is a good idea to take advantage of trying new things as an undergraduate.
Ultimately, I took chemistry and physics after college, but I am grateful that I had the chance to take courses in creative writing, I also took Hebrew and the History of Rock and Roll as an undergraduate.These courses were not only fun, but gave me a more well-rounded education. There is no absolute answer for what is the best undergrad major for physical therapy. You will get out what you put in.
Overall, your major is only a very small part of your application. Your physical therapy experience, extra-curricular activities and jobs will all play a role in determining your readiness for graduate school.