Physical therapists participate in the evaluation of the capabilities and disabilities of their patients. They administer treatments to alleviate pain, correct or minimize deformity, and improve the general health of the patient. The physical therapist develops a treatment program which may involve teaching the patient to gain strength or better coordination of movement; or administering forms of heat, cold, ultrasound or massage.
The need for physical therapists is critical, but professional physical therapy programs are highly selective.
A student may be admitted to some professional programs after two years (64 credits) and after three years (96 credits) but most students will attend Northwestern for four years, graduating with a B.A. degree before entering a 2-3 year physical therapy professional program. A student may select any major but the following pre-professional courses must be completed.
Graduates of Northwestern’s Athletic Training program are also candidates for physical therapy graduate programs. Athletic trainers cannot become physical therapists without completing physical therapy professional training, nor can physical therapists become athletic trainers unless they have graduated from an accredited athletic training program and passed the Board of Certification examination. Some universities offer a program that combines an entry-level graduate athletic training program and a graduate physical therapy program for students whose undergraduate degree could be in exercise science, biology or a related field.