Physical Therapist Colleges and Training Programs

Find out about the education necessary to become a physical therapist. These professionals help disabled people and those who have been injured gain physical skills. Learn about the job duties, and examine licensing requirements. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

In the growing health care field of physical therapy, you will need to earn a graduate degree and participate in clinical practice. Once you graduate, you will have to obtain a state license before you work with patients providing therapy to increase or restore their functionality.

Degrees Doctoral degrees
Responsibilities Use movement therapy, massage and therapeutic equipment to improve or restore bodily function
Licensure State licensure is required

Do I Need to Pursue an Advanced Degree in Physical Therapy?

It's common to earn a doctorate in physical therapy, which is the only degree offered to students in the U.S. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), master's-level programs are no longer available. A doctoral degree program takes approximately three years to complete. Your coursework covers clinical care, kinesiology, patient diagnosis, gait analysis and pain management. Courses you are likely to take include:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Musculoskeletal rehabilitation
  • Biomechanics
  • Neuroscience
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary systems
  • Health and wellness promotion

The curriculum also includes clinical instruction, often in the latter part of your program. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accredits legitimate programs.

Will I Need to Complete an Undergraduate Physical Therapist Degree Program?

The requirements to enter a Doctor of Physical Therapy program include holding a bachelor's degree. You can start out on your educational path to becoming a physical therapist by earning a bachelor's degree in any subject; however, most grad schools will seek candidates with a solid foundation or a degree in physics, anatomy, chemistry, kinesiology or exercise science.

Which Schools Offer Physical Therapy Programs?

APTA recommends that students complete a doctoral degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). A number of schools across the U.S. offer accredited graduate programs in physical therapy, including:

  • New York University
  • Winston-Salem State University
  • Emory University School of Medicine
  • University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Franklin Pierce University
  • Campbell University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences
  • Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences

How Will I Use My Education?

Physical therapy patients have often been victims of illness or injury, and you can help them physically recover via a hospital or private practice. You may work with a wide range of patients, including babies with spina bifida, accident victims, those with cerebral palsy or senior citizens who have suffered a stroke. You use techniques such as movement therapy and massage to help your patients achieve their full range of motion. You also use special equipment to help rehabilitate your patients. In addition to understanding the science of how the body moves, you should also understand the psychology of physical limitations; you must possess the compassion and patience to work with people who may be scared by and frustrated with their bodies.

How Can I Obtain a License to Practice?

Physical therapists must be licensed in all 50 states; a master's or doctoral degree program can qualify graduates to take the National Physical Therapy Examination. This exam is one portion of the licensure process, though the specifics vary by state. The exam consists of 250 multiple-choice questions, where 200 are scored and the other 50 are pretested. You can choose to get certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in a specific area, such as sports health or orthopedics, but it's not required to practice.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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