Finding a graduate degree program in physical therapy that is right for you can be a simple task… or rather complex. We’ll discuss the simple option first because it should apply to most students hoping to pursue a career in physical therapy.
First, have you earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy? Undergraduate programs that are specifically designed to focus on physical therapy are few and far between and finding a master’s program is considered very rare. However, through a health sciences, physical education, natural sciences or pre-physical therapy bachelor’s degree program, you can complete courses that are required to enter any type of online doctorate program in physical therapy (DPT). Such prerequisites may include physiology, biology, statistics, chemistry, anatomy, physics, social sciences, psychology and perhaps, calculus. The above classes may vary per your school’s requirements. It would be in your best interest to choose a bachelor’s program that offers coursework related to your intended specialized career choice in physical therapy, if possible.
In regards to time spent earning your degree, a bachelor’s degree, of course, typically takes four years to complete. If you then attend an on-campus or online Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, it will take you an average of three to four years to complete. It is worth mentioning that some schools will combine the bachelor’s and doctorate degree programs, taking you about six years to complete, therefore, eliminating one to two years of time spent in school. In addition, a student must generally complete at least one-year of a clinical residency program, as well.
Next, you must find a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program that will suit your needs. Most likely, you will not be able to locate a 100% online DPT program, due to the clinical experience requirements. However, if you do find a program, you will want one in which you can attend some classes in person if needed. And as previously mentioned, most programs will require each student to work under the close supervision of a licensed physical therapist at a local hospital or clinic.
Once you have located a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, either on-campus or online, coursework may include a wide array of topics, such as, advanced human anatomy and biology, exercise science, neuroscience and motor control, pathology, ethics, pharmacology, histology, growth and development, as well as, medical terminology, diagnostics, musculoskeletal diseases and disorders, cardiopulmonary studies, therapeutic exercise and patient interaction. You will also learn about healthcare business management, geriatric physical therapy and electrotherapy, among other important topics.
As previously mentioned, the above information will apply to most physical therapy students who wish to get their doctorate degree (DPT) and are just beginning their career, however, perhaps you would like to further your education. This is where your choice of programs may become more complex. You may choose to specialize in one particular area of physical therapy. For example, you may choose a concentration in pediatrics, neurology, orthopedics, geriatrics or sports medicine. Typically, a specialized physical therapy degree is a terminal degree.
Other PT degrees are also available, require a more rigorous study and will require a specialization. They may also require a dissertation on your specialty, as well as, participation in a professional mentorship program. The alternative programs available at the doctorate degree level are: Doctor of Physical Therapy Science (DPTSc), Doctor of Science (ScD or DSc), Doctor of Health Science (DHSc or DHS), Science Doctor of Physical Therapy (ScDPT) and Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy (DScPT). Without a doubt, in-depth research of each option is advisable before signing up for a doctorate program.
The DPT credential is now required by all physical therapists by the year 2020, therefore, for those that already have a previous certificate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, you may enter a Transitional DPT program (tDPT). This type of program will allow you to convert your existing practicing credentials into the required DPT degree that is now mandated for physical therapists to own. Online tDPT programs are readily available; much more so than DPT programs.
Finally, would you like to teach physical therapy at the university level? A Ph.D. in Physical Therapy to educate others can be found through an EdD in Physical Therapy degree program.
If you would like to earn an on-campus or an online Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, do your homework to find an accredited school that’s right for you. As admission to a good doctorate program can be competitive, be sure to keep an above average GPA to ensure a positive outcome when applying.
Primarily, the 100% online distance learning format is reserved for the tDPT degree program, due to the clinical requirements of a DPT program. We have compiled a list of our choices for the Best Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree programs for your review.