What Education Is Required to Become a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists help people recover from illnesses or physical injuries. Read on to find out more about the specific education and licensing requirements that all physical therapists must meet in order to practice. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Physical Therapy Education Overview

To work as a physical therapist, you'll need to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and become licensed. Completion of these requirements requires accredited undergraduate and graduate preparation.

Important Facts About This Degree

Prerequisites Bachelor's degree and standardized test scores
Online Availability DPT degrees not widely available online due to clinical experience component
Specializations Geriatrics, pediatrics, neurology, orthopedics, sports, women's health
Degree Fields Undergraduate degrees in biology, physiology, and psychology are common
Median Salary (2018) $87,930
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 28% growth

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree Preparation

Your undergraduate studies should prepare you to be competitive in a DPT degree program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and social science will strengthen your admission chances. Therefore, a science degree may provide the solid background needed. Graduate curriculum involves clinical classes, where you'll have the opportunity to practice physical therapy on patients while being supervised by your program's faculty or by an experienced physical therapist. Other central course topics include:

  • Musculoskeletal diseases and disorders
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Patient management
  • Pathology
  • Health care
  • Neuroscience
  • Cardiopulmonary studies


In every state, physical therapists must be licensed. The licensure requirements vary by state, but, generally, to earn your license, you'll need to have graduated from an accredited physical therapy program and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. Accreditation for physical therapy programs is handled by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Some areas may also administer local jurisprudence exams or have additional requirements you must meet. Some states may require continuing education to maintain your license, which may also help you to stay current on changes within the physical therapy field.

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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