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Physical Therapy Schools in the U.S.

Physical therapy is mostly taught at the graduate level via doctoral programs. Discover schools that offer programs in the field, find out what you'll learn in these programs and understand what you may be able to do with a degree in physical therapy.

To become a physical therapist, students must first get a bachelor's degree, preferably with coursework in physiology, anatomy and biology. Once they have an undergraduate degree, they must complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and become licensed to start practicing. Master's degree programs used to exist, so you may see practicing PTs with this type of degree, but they are no longer offered in the United States. DPT programs typically last for three years and include a minimum of 30 hours of clinical work.

What Can You Learn in a Physical Therapy Program?

Doctoral programs in physical therapy provide advanced classroom instruction and hands-on learning to prepare graduates for career entry. Some programs offer specializations; focuses like pediatrics, global health and research are available. Most programs also have a clinical component, giving students a chance to work on actual patients at real clinics under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist. Students can gain experience in a specialty area or setting that interests them, with some schools offering clinical placement out of state or abroad. After graduating, many physical therapy students complete a 1-year residency to get additional professional training.

What Schools Offer Doctoral Programs in Physical Therapy?

Many schools across the country offer DPT programs designed to help would-be PTs learn advanced techniques and prepare for licensure. Here is a sampling of schools from around the United States:

  • Ohio State University in Columbus offers a Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy
  • The University of Delaware offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at its campus in Newark
  • The University of South Florida in Tampa has a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree
  • New York University - Steinhardt offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy to students in New York City

What Classes Can You Take in a Physical Therapy Program?

Coursework for physical therapy programs generally includes advanced classes in physiology, biomechanics, human anatomy and pathology, pharmacology and neuroscience. Classes are designed to help students understand the human body, the ways in which it responds to exercise and exertion as well as techniques for helping it heal. In addition, some coursework may focus on pushing the healthy human body to hit new heights, which is useful for students who like the sports and endurance side of physical therapy.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Physical Therapy?

Once you graduate with a doctorate in physical therapy, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination, which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. With a passing grade, you'll be licensed to work as a physical therapist, meaning you could:

  • Open your own practice
  • Work in a rehabilitation hospital
  • Go into the home health care field
  • Help the elderly or ill in an extended care facility or nursing home
  • Work in a school helping children

Jobs for physical therapists are expected to increase at an incredible rate in the coming years. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that employment for PTs will grow by 22% between 2018 and 2028, compared to an average of 5% for all occupations. Wondering about pay? The BLS reported that the median income for physical therapists was $87,930 in May 2018.