- Offered as:
- Specialization track
Physical therapy and occupational therapy are part of what are often called the "allied health" professions.
- Physical therapists help to restore, maintain, and promote patients’ physical function, mobility, and overall health and fitness.
- Occupational therapists provide rehabilitation that helps people adapt to physical and mental disabilities, function independently, and participate in work and recreation.
While their actual jobs can be quite different from one another, these two fields involve a similar educational path: a bachelor's degree followed by two to three years of professional school and licensing to practice.
Pre-physical therapy and pre-occupational therapy are not majors. They are preparatory tracks that can be incorporated into any major. As long as you meet the professional school's prerequisites, you can choose any major you want.
The Health Professions Student Center at WSU will help you integrate the prerequisites for your chosen area into your major. (There's more about choosing a major below.)
- Prerequisites and choosing your major
Choosing your major
What is the best major to choose? The quick and simple answer: Any major you enjoy.
Professional PT and OT programs welcome applicants with majors in a wide variety of areas.
Of course, there are benefits to a major that incorporates PT and OT prerequisites in its core courses. Several majors at Washington State University include such courses:
- Basic medical sciences
- Genetics and cell biology
The most important things you need to do are to fulfill the prerequisites for professional school and maintain a strong academic record. Admission to professional programs is very competitive, so strong performance in all your courses is an absolute must — and the more you enjoy your studies, the better your grades will be.
Contact the WSU Pre-Health Advising Office and speak to an advisor before planning your courses.
All students must meet degree requirements as outlined in the WSU Catalog in order to graduate.
- Requirements and core courses
You will need to complete a set of basic science prerequisites to be eligible for admission to most professional schools. Completing related electives can help as well, both as preparation for admission tests and overall preparation for professional school.
When you enroll at WSU, come to the Pre-health Advising Office first thing and meet with an advisor. Your pre-health advisor can help you schedule the physical or occupational therapy prerequisites and integrate them with the University’s
general requirements and your major’s requirements.
- Scholarships and financial aid
A variety of state, federal, and university-sponsored programs are available to help students with educational costs.
For all students at WSU
Washington State University awards millions of dollars in financial aid and scholarships to students every year based on financial need, academic merit, or a combination of the two.
To get all the financial help WSU can provide, you'll need to do these two things:
- Complete the University's general scholarship application so you can be eligible for scholarship consideration, including departmental awards.
- Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) so WSU can consider you for aid (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.) based on financial need. Get started here.
For pre-health students
Students in pre-health tracks are eligible for scholarships curated by the Health Professions Student Center. Visit their scholarship page for more information.
- Facilities and resources: The WSU advantage
When you come to WSU, you have access to learning resources that not just any college can offer. Here are a few of them:
- The Pre-Pt/OT Club brings together a group of enthusiastic students with an interest in physical and occupational therapy. The club offers academic and social opportunities to learn more about the career, network with peers, and prepare for your professional program.
- The student Kinesiology Club provides access to professional meetings, serves as a support network, and provides opportunities for leadership.
- Cadaver anatomy laboratory — one of the few cadaver labs in the nation available for undergraduate course work.
- Owen Science and Engineering Library, the largest science and engineering library in the Northwest.
- The Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center provides electron microscopy and light microscopy equipment for observation and analysis of a diverse array of specimens. Students are encouraged to use the FMIC for formal and informal training, and for conducting research.
- Pre-health advising that helps you integrate professional school prerequisites into any major and helps you build a strong application.
- Suggested strengths, interests, and preparation
High school preparation should include:
- Science: At least three years of science course work is recommended, including biology, chemistry, and physics.
- Math: At least three years, preferably four; good math preparation will be highly valuable in your college science courses.
- Good preparation in communication, including strong skills in reading, writing, and reasoning.
Compassion and an interest in helping people on a personal, one-to-one level — especially the sick, injured, and disabled — are essential.
Getting involved in community groups and doing volunteer work can help you build useful skills and help you decide whether a health-care career is right for you.
A healthy lifestyle that includes aerobic and strength physical training is also beneficial. It will help you serve as a good example and meet the physical demands of working with patients. For example, physical therapy is a physically demanding profession that requires lifting, kneeling, crouching, and standing for long periods.
A desirable health-care career
A career in physical therapy and occupational therapy offers a chance to be a part of the health care system in ways that allow better relationships with patients.
The interaction of PTs and OTs with their patients is typically conducted in a relaxed environment that facilitates the development of a trusting relationship—and healing and wellness.
The nature of these fields also allows for balance between a challenging, rewarding career and a strong personal/family life.
The demand for people trained in these professions is expanding, particularly and is expected to keep expanding as the average age of the American population increases.
The average annual salary for physical therapists and occupational therapists in the United States is in the $80,000s.