Online Physical Therapy Certification Programs

Online Doctor of Physical Therapy programs prepare candidates for certification. This training is only open to individuals who are already licensed, so learn about prerequisites and requirements. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Requirements for Receiving Physical Therapy Certification?

Before earning a physical therapy specialist certification, you must have a license, which requires earning a master's degree or a doctorate in physical therapy. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), you must also pass the National Physical Therapy Exam, which is administered by your state ( Beyond that, each state has its own physical therapy practice requirements. After you're licensed, you can continue your studies to earn a physical therapy specialist certification in an area such as neurology, sports, orthopedics, geriatrics, pediatrics or women's health.

Certification Requirements Master's degree or a doctorate in physical therapy, license, National Physical Therapy Exam passing score, state-specific criteria
Online Availability Only transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy programs for licensed, practicing physical therapist available online
Certification Exam Content AreasPatient care, administration, consultation, teaching, communication, research interpretation
Job Outlook (2018-2028)22% growth (for physical therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$87,930 (for physical therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Can I Prepare Online?

Only transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy programs are available online. This is available only to licensed, practicing physical therapists. If you have a physical therapy master's degree, you can take it to update your skills, earn your doctorate and begin studying a specialization. Usually, the transitional physical therapy program takes three years to complete. You can check to make sure it covers areas of study that are featured on your specialist certification exam, which is a good time to confirm the additional training and experience you need to become certified.

Online programs allow you to participate in a virtual classroom while studying relevant physical therapy concepts. You complete assignments and turn in research projects through Internet-based education applications, such as Blackboard or Angel. Students work together in a cohort of 6-8, allowing you to interact continuously with your classmates and discuss real-world scenarios. Though there aren't any on-campus requirements, you need to complete clinical experiences at locations approved by the school.

What Are the Requirements for the Specialist Certification?

One way to earn your specialist certification is by completing 2,000 hours of patient care in your specialty area within a 10-year time period. This is especially valid for individuals who have been practicing physical therapy for several years. You must complete at least 25% of the hours in the three years before your exam. In some cases, you can complete an APTA-credentialed post-professional clinical residency, which includes another 1,500 hours of patient care. Specific specialist areas may have additional requirements.

After meeting minimum eligibility requirements, you can sit for the specialist certification exam. The written exam evaluates your ability to apply your clinical skills in six areas:

  • Patient care
  • Administration
  • Consultation
  • Teaching
  • Communication
  • Research interpretation

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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