Physical Therapy: Doctoral Degree Program

Earning a doctoral degree in physical therapy can prepare you for a job in a hospital, physician's office or rehabilitation center. In addition to practicing, you could conduct research on improving therapeutic techniques. This article shows you how to enter a doctoral program, and how you can earn one, be it in a classroom or online. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Program Specifics?

A Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, or DPT, is a clinical or professional doctoral degree. The program combines classroom teaching, application and research. Courses address intervention methods using biomechanics, pharmacology and therapeutic exercise. You'll learn the basics of human motor control, musculoskeletal operations and pathology. You can choose to focus your electives on a particular area, such as pediatric, orthopedic or geriatric physical therapy, and you're typically required to complete a number of extensive internships.

Areas of SpecialtyOrthopedics, geriatrics, pediatrics
PrerequisitesBachelor's degree, GRE scores
Program FormatOnline, hybrid, or on campus
Program LengthTwo to three years
Median Salary (2018)$87,930* (for physical therapists)
Job Outlook (2016-26)28%* (for all physical therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Some Common Admission Requirements?

Admission to a program leading to a DPT only requires a bachelor's degree. Though your degree doesn't necessarily have to be in the natural sciences, it may be to your advantage to have a background in such areas as biology, applied health or physics. Typical prerequisite courses include anatomy, physiology, chemistry and statistics. Usually, you need to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude test, supply letters of recommendation and submit a personal statement that outlines your professional goals.

Are There Any Online Programs?

Due to the hands-on nature of the occupation, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education does not accredit any physical therapy program that is 100% online. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, hybrid programs, which contain in-person lab or practicum components, may qualify for accreditation.

The most common hybrid option is referred to as a transitional DPT program. You can only qualify for admission if you're a licensed physical therapist who is currently practicing in a clinical setting. You may also need to hold a relevant bachelor's or master's degree and provide letters of reference. These partially online programs can be completed in less than two years, and you might be able to attend full- or part-time in order to accommodate your work schedule. The curriculum can include a capstone project or self-directed study in a specialty area, such as education, healthcare management or clinical research.

Do I Need a Doctoral Degree to Become a Physical Therapist?

While you can often practice physical therapy after earning master's degree, the vast majority of accredited programs in the field are offered at the doctoral level. Doctoral programs that teach you the practical methods of physical therapy and develop your competency in the field confer a DPT degree. These programs usually take about three years to complete and qualify you for state licensure.

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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