Best Undergraduate Physical Therapy Programs: Recommendations For College Applicants

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College applicants who hope to become physical therapists can use this guide to the best undergraduate physical therapy programs as a helpful resource in choosing a university to attend. Each of the academically solid programs discussed below is a good option for students who wish to start taking undergraduate courses that focus on physical therapy in preparation for the doctorate degree required for licensed workers.

University of Pittsburgh Rehabilitation Science Program

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Services offers a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Science program for undergraduates. This program, designed for physical therapy students who plan on continuing their education at the graduate level, is structured as follows.

• As a prerequisite to this program, students enroll in the School of Arts and Sciences and complete 60 credits in course areas such as basic science, applied science, and humanities during freshman and sophomore year.

• Students can officially apply for the BS in Rehabilitation Science program during sophomore year. Once accepted, students participate in the program during junior and senior year.

• When enrolled in this degree program, students have the opportunity to take courses from professors who also teach at the graduate level.

Sacred Heart University 3+3 Physical Therapy Option

Sacred Heart University, located in Fairfield, Connecticut, offers a six-year physical therapy program that allows students to earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree. Known as the 3+3 Physical Therapy Option (three years of undergraduate study and three years of graduate study), this program is designed according to these specifications:

• Students who wish to participate in 3+3 must first declare a major in either Biology, Exercise Science, or Psychology.

• Students then follow the course sequence of either the Biology 3+3 Model, the Exercise Science 3+3 Model, or the Psychology 3+3 Model. Each of these six-year combined undergraduate/graduate programs require some summer course participation.

Clarkson University Pre-Physical Therapy Program

Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to enroll in the Pre-Physical Therapy program. Designed as an prerequisite to the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, the Pre-Physical Therapy concentration operates in this manner:

• The program allows undergraduate students to participate in Physical Therapy seminars, complete volunteer clinic hours, and work with a Pre-PT adviser while studying a major such as business, psychology, or biology.

• Students who fulfill all of their Pre-PT course credit, GPA, and volunteer requirements will gain access to a reserved spot in Clarkson University’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program.

Gannon University Physical Therapy Options (4+3 and 3+3)

Gannon University, located in Erie, Pennsylvania, offers two program options for physical therapy students at the undergraduate level. One program is the 4+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy, which involves four years of undergraduate study and three years of doctorate study. The main details of this program are listed as follows.

• Students must select one of the approved majors for this program, such as Sport and Exercise Science, Psychology, or Nursing.

• Over the course of this seven-year program, students have the opportunity to participate in allied health programs and interact with students and professionals in related health fields.

Gannon University students also have the option of enrolling in the 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy program, which is an accelerated version of the program described above. Those who are eligible for the 3+3 based on SAT and GPA scores spend three years as an undergraduate student and three years as a doctorate student. Students must major in either Science or Sport and Exercise Science.

Students who are seeking the best undergraduate physical therapy programs for their individual needs can contact schools that offer this type of program and ask detailed questions about courses and scheduling. By earning a bachelor degree in physical therapy or a related program, a student can begin the process of pursuing the doctorate degree needed for a lucrative career in this field.


  1. University of Pittsburgh–

  2. Sacred Heart University–

  3. Clarkson University–

  4. Gannon University–