Are you considering a second career and in your late 30’s or early 40’s? Trying to figure out if going to physical therapy school is right for you? Take a few minutes and read before you make a snap judgment. Proper perspective is the key to a successful and secure plan going forward.
Do DPT Schools Consider an Older Applicant?
Yes, even if you are approaching or surpassed your fourth decade, you are not too old to get considered and accepted by many DPT programs across the nation. However, depending on your background, this may not be your best option. The competition is hard. If your grades are excellent and GRE scores are around what the DPT program accepts, you should be confident of a fair shake against a younger applicant. If you are not above average, your chances diminish greatly, but this is also the case with younger applicants. In order to really determine whether you should apply to a certain physical therapy school answer the following questions:
Which Programs Accept Older Students?
Look at the DPT program acceptance stats. For example, Northern Arizona University nicely provides demographics of the applicants in 2012-2013 academic year. The average accepted age is 25 but the age range is 20-43. A number of other universities provide these stats on their website. Check each school profile page to look for links to the school. The easiest thing to do is call up the two or three programs you are strongly considering and ask about their average ages of acceptance in their past three classes.
Can I Realistically Fulfill the Program’s Prerequisites?
Let us assume you are past the 10 year window of classes being accepted. Most schools want you to take about up to ~3 years of prerequisites. Classes like Chemistry, Biology, and Physics build upon each other. Even if you are ready for the credit load and are brilliant, they can only be taken in succession. Inorganic chemistry I leads to Inorganic chemistry II and then Organic Chemistry and so forth. You will have to set a clear rational plan to accomplish this goal. When are the classes held? Can you work your job and a family around those classes? Search your school’s catalog and talk to the pre-physical therapy advisor. Do they provide the class you need during a summer session so you can get through your prerequisites faster? Remember as you get older, time is money lost for retirement.
Can I Afford the Cost?
If you are like me and in your 40’s, considering a new debt of $30,000 to $150,000 is a tough pill to swallow as only a handful of programs let you work during the week to make a living. If unable to work, you would be coming out of school with a fair amount of debt. Can you go to an in-state school to limit the tuition costs? Are you in good financial situation where a loved one can work and support your dream? Can you spend your savings and still feel comfortable for retirement?
Mercy College is an example of a DPT program that allows for a more mature applicant. They have weekend classes.
I am Frustrated by the Above! Do I Have Other Options?
Have you considered attending physical therapy assistant (PTA) school? I have met a number of second career therapists that went on to become a PTA in their upper 30’s and low 40’s. It is cheaper, easier, and faster to complete the prerequisites and degree. There are limitations to what you can do as physical therapy assistant. For example, you cannot work independently or complete evaluations. Each state has slightly different rules for how a physical therapist monitors a PTA’s work. On the positive side, there are excellent physical therapy assistants with a high degree of clinical judgment and skill.
If you willing to look into a physical therapy assistant degree, I would strongly suggest you follow a well-regarded PTA around, and see if the limitations and rewards are something you can be happy with. Do not follow a new physical therapy assist in an area you’re not interested in as that will be not an objective measure. Ask revealing questions and try to follow-up on their answers with open ended questions to get a better understanding of how they really think and feel.
1. Do the programs that I am interested in have a history of taking older applicants?
2. Have I realistically planned out the classes that I need to take with an advisor?
3. Can I and my family afford the cost and make enough before retirement?
4. If I am frustrated by life’s roadblocks, can I be happy with being a physical therapy assistant?