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Master's Degree Programs in Physical Therapy

Learn how a master's degree in physical therapy can prepare you for a career in the field, and get information about program requirements. Find out the employment outlook and licensure mandates.

How Do I Get Into a Master's Degree Program in Physical Therapy?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 200 schools offered professional physical therapist education programs in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Of those schools, all offer doctoral degrees; however, some schools offer a master's degree in the field.

In order to enroll in a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program, you must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. However, you don't need to have an undergraduate degree in a specific field. Prerequisite coursework varies from school to school but typically includes courses in biology, human development and behavioral science.

Prerequisites Bachelor's degree is required; some institutions may require previously completed science-oriented coursework
Common Coursework Patient screening, anatomy, physiology, neurology, health care law
Other Requirements Research projects, clinical lab activities, clinical internship
Licensure Required to practice in the United States, which includes passing the NPTE
Job Outlook (2016-2026)28% growth (for physical therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$87,930 (for physical therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics'

How Does the Program Work?

An MPT program includes a majority of science-based courses, including anatomy, physiology and chemistry. You may also learn about case studies involving pediatrics, neurology and geriatrics. Courses may also cover health care law and patient screening. Instruction may be provided through classroom lectures, discussion groups, research projects and clinical lab work. You may also spend several months in a hands-on clinical internship, where you may work in specialized areas of care, including rehabilitation, pediatrics or orthopedics.

Do I Need to Be Licensed to Practice?

The BLS states that in order to practice physical therapy in any state, you must have a graduate degree - either a master's or a doctorate - from an accredited physical therapy program. You must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as fulfilling specific state requirements. You may also be required to complete continuing education courses once certified.

What Can I Do with This Degree?

Once you have the required degree in physical therapy, you can practice as a physical therapist. The BLS predicted that during 2016-2026, employment within the physical therapy field would increase 28%, significantly above the average rate for all jobs nationwide. This number is due to an increase in the elderly population and to advancements in medical technology, which will allow more patients to survive serious injuries but will, in turn, increase the need for patient rehabilitation.

You can also choose to continue your education with a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, where you may receive further clinical experience, dig into extensive research projects and study complex topics. This type of program can prepare you to work in education and research in addition to enhancing your professional skills in physical therapy. This type of physical therapy degree program is the only one commonly offered via Web learning. Online DPT programs are mainly meant for professional advancement, since most such programs require valid physical therapy licensure for enrollment.