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Frequently Asked Questions

Physical therapy is a health profession whose primary purpose is the promotion of optimal human health and function through the application of scientific principles to prevent, assess, correct, or alleviate acute or prolonged movement dysfunction. The philosophical principle underlying the formation of this profession is respect for the dignity and worth of all humankind. Physical therapists are health professionals who evaluate and treat the dysfunctions of persons who are impaired or disabled as a result of pain, disease, injury, or developmental delay.

Western Carolina University provides a sequenced course of study that enables an undergraduate student interested in physical therapy to meet the needed prerequisites for admission to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in a timely manner. A pre-professional adviser on Western Carolina University’s campus is available to help guide WCU students and be sure they are taking the right courses.

No. However, all prerequisites need to be met by the time of admission to the program.

A bachelor's degree is required to apply for the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program. However, that degree does not have to be in physical therapy. Our faculty recommend that an entering student have earned a bachelor's degree in a complementary field of study that is of interest. Our students have had a wide range of majors, such as biology, exercise science, psychology, sociology, nutrition, business, or any of the health-related majors.

A minimum of 32 hours is required and up to 129 hours is recommended. The total number of hours and the number of settings are part of the consideration in the admissions process therefore we encourage students to seek opportunities to observe or work in a variety of physical therapy settings. Experiences gained in this manner are invaluable in making decisions about whether physical therapy is the right career choice for you and will provide a foundation for professional study.


Applicants should have no more than two outstanding courses at the time of applying and must have completed all prerequisites at the time of admission to the program.

Under certain circumstances, with a realistic plan for completing all necessary pre-requisite courses, the Admissions Committee will consider an applicant who has more than two outstanding courses. Typically, a five-point penalty is assessed in the admissions process and acceptance is provisional. The applicant is required to earn a B or higher in the outstanding courses in order to matriculate into the program.

Yes. Students requesting waiver of a prerequisite course must contact the physical therapy department and show proof of content equivalency. Faculty may require submission of the course syllabus.

Application to physical therapy programs is competitive, and students should strive to maximize their Grade Point Average (GPA) and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE); gain volunteer or paid experience in a variety of physical therapy settings; and prepare a thoughtful, well-written essay as part of the application process.

A number of graduate assistantships (10 hours per week) and a limited number of tuition remissions (in-state and out-of-state) are provided each year through the Graduate School. These are awarded on a competitive basis.

The American Physical Therapy Association does not rank programs. Physical therapy educational programs are accredited by Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapist Education (CAPTE) which assures quality in physical therapy education.

A small number of points are awarded in the admissions process to students and graduates of WCU and to residents of western North Carolina. If you are a WCU student interested in applying, a number of resources are available to you on campus: A pre-professional adviser will help you meet various undergraduate requirements; periodic open houses hosted by the Graduate School and Admissions will introduce you to faculty and students in the program and to other students on campus; and the University Program Specialist and Graduate Assistants are available to provide individualized assistance.

We consider all well-qualified in- and out-of-state candidates. Out-of-state students are able to gain NC residency after their first year and then they pay in-state rates for education.

Many more students apply than can be admitted. Our current enrollment maximum is 48. Therefore, it is vital that students interested in the program strive throughout their undergraduate years to maintain the best grades possible, and direct their field of study and extra-curricular activities toward entering the health care field.

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