What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Physical Therapy Program?
Through physical therapy master's programs, degree-seekers develop the specialized skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the industry after graduation. These programs explore the various disciplines of physical therapy, including pediatrics and geriatrics. This equips learners to work with patients across the lifespan and prepares them to pursue careers that best align with their specific interests and skills.
Learners also focus on understanding how to provide individualized care to their patients, thoroughly reviewing each case to derive the most effective treatment plans possible.
What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master’s in Physical Therapy Program?
- Motor Control in Pediatrics
In the motor control in pediatrics course, degree-seekers review human development and growth in pediatrics, focusing on the changes in sensory, physical, cognitive, motor, language, and psychosocial skills that affect functional movement. Students learn to work with children of all ages, including infants, children, and adolescents with developmental problems or disabilities.
- Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment
During the orthopedic and rehabilitation treatment course, learners explore the medical, surgical, and diagnostic methods used to make management decisions. The course allows degree-seekers to focus on the decision-making processes physical therapists face for each patient.
- Motor Control and Behavior
Motor control and behavior courses explore the motor control concepts and motor learning needed for functional movement and balance for developing adults. Learners in this course review how to apply a variety of useful techniques across pathologic populations.
- Systems Physiology for Physical Therapists
During the systems physiology for physical therapists course, degree-seekers review typical physiological mechanisms and principles. They work to understand disease pathophysiology and how various diseases function. Course topics include immunity, endocrine, neuromusculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal physiology.
- Medical Screening for Physical Therapists
The medical screening for physical therapists course allows learners to explore the basic techniques used in medical history recording and physical examinations. These techniques lead to medical diagnoses, which subsequently may require physical therapy referrals.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Before degree-seekers can complete their programs, they must satisfy requirements for capstones, theses, or exams. Many physical therapy programs require students to fulfill a capstone component, in which they conduct research on a specific concept using the skills and knowledge developed in their program and produce a final project. Thesis requirements push students to conduct original research on a particular concept and explain their findings in a written essay.
Some programs allow degree-seekers to choose between a capstone format and a thesis option, while others require just one or the other. Other programs might not require a thesis or capstone, but instead mandate that learners complete a comprehensive final examination.
What Specializations Are Available in a Master’s in Physical Therapy Program?
Specializations allow physical therapy students to better align their degrees with their personal interests and career goals. These concentrations often focus on actual career opportunities in the field, preparing students with specific sets of skills to achieve professional success in their chosen area of specialization.
- Sports Medicine
Degree-seekers who focus their physical therapy master's degrees on sports medicine explore how to care for injured athletes, coordinating care plans and exercises to help them rebuild their strength.
- Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy courses teach students how to help injured or disabled patients navigate through daily activities.
Physical therapy students who specialize their degrees in pediatrics learn to work with children and adolescents, providing unique and specialized care plans for specific age groups.
What Can I Do with a Master’s in Physical Therapy Degree?
Working as a physical therapist requires a doctoral degree, but a master's degree in physical therapy can qualify graduates for a variety of career opportunities across industries, including roles as directors, aides, and assistants.
Rehabilitation directors lead teams in rehabilitation departments. They monitor financial affairs, hiring and maintenance, and other management tasks. They sometimes connect with patients and their families, as well.
Physical Therapy Director
In charge of ensuring physical therapy clients receive the quality of care they deserve, physical therapy directors ensure that all staff members abide by local, state, and federal regulations and company policies.
Speech-language pathologists work with individuals on speech and language difficulties and swallowing issues. They come up with effective plans to treat and manage these challenges.
Physical Therapist Aide
Physical therapist aides work closely with physical therapists. They provide care for patients across a variety of healthcare environments, including nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices.
Certified Nurse Assistant
Certified nurse assistants help their patients exercise and walk. They also perform grooming tasks and help patients bathe. These professionals observe their patients' conditions, regularly checking their vital signs and reporting changes to professional staff members.
How Much Can I Make with a Career in Physical Therapy?
Across the physical therapy field, professionals can pursue a variety of high-paying career opportunities. Master's degrees in physical therapy allow professionals to translate their careers across a variety of fields. Consequently, job opportunities and earning potential vary greatly. Some careers feature median annual salaries of around $50,000 a year, while others approach $100,000, depending on the area of focus.
- Physical Therapist Assistant
Responsible for observing patients before, during, and after their physical therapy sessions, physical therapist assistants treat patients through a variety of techniques, including stretching and massaging. These assistants help patients complete exercises as part of their comprehensive care. They also work to educate patients and their families about how to carry on after completing treatment.
Median Annual Salary: $48,090
Job Growth (2018-2028): 26%
- Athletic Trainer
In charge of creating rehabilitation programs to provide care for injured athletes, athletic trainers use injury-preventative and protective devices including braces, bandages, and tape. These trainers recognize injuries and provide first aid and emergency care. They also plan programs to prevent future injuries and illnesses for athletes. These professionals may carry out administrative tasks, including writing injury reports and keeping records throughout treatment programs.
Median Annual Salary: $47,510
Job Growth (2018-2028): 19%
- Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists review their patients' medical histories, asking them questions and observing them to evaluate their conditions and therapy needs moving forward. These therapists help their disabled patients perform tasks such as getting dressed. They also educate their patients' family members and employers on how to provide the best care and accommodations for the patient.
Median Annual Salary: $84,270
Job Growth (2018-2028): 18%
- Physician Assistant
Physician assistants review their patients' medical histories. They interpret diagnostic tests, such as blood tests and x-rays, to diagnose injuries and illnesses. These assistants work with patients and their families to answer questions about how to maintain health and wellbeing. They may also participate in outreach programs, teaching organizations and communities how to manage diseases and illnesses.
Median Annual Salary: $108,610
Job Growth (2018-2028): 31%
- Recreational Therapist
In charge of reviewing their patients' needs through observation and medical testing, recreational therapists provide recreation-based treatment programs for disabled individuals and patients who have injuries or illnesses. These therapists help their patients develop the social skills they need to become independent. They work with their patients through therapeutic activities such as games, exercise, and community outings.
Median Annual Salary: $47,860
Job Growth (2018-2028): 7%
Online Master’s in Physical Therapy Program Accreditation
Before enrolling in a master's in physical therapy online program, degree-seekers should understand the three main types of accreditation: regional, national, and programmatic. Regionally accredited institutions are often considered more prestigious than nationally accredited colleges and universities, mainly because credits from regionally accredited institutions transfer more easily than those from nationally accredited schools. Both regional and national accreditation apply to every program offered by the accredited school.
Programmatic accreditation, or specialized accreditation, applies to specific degree programs. Physical therapy students should seek programmatic accreditation from the Commision on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
How to Pay for a Master’s in Physical Therapy Degree
Earning a master's in physical therapy online can cost degree-seekers a lot of money — often more than they can afford without financial assistance. Learners can explore a variety of ways to pay for their master's degree, including tuition discounts, federal student aid opportunities, graduate assistantships, and physical therapy scholarships.
Techniques for Financing a Master’s in Physical Therapy
Students who enroll in online master's degrees in physical therapy can often take advantage of tuition discounts. Universities typically charge higher tuition rates for out-of-state students, but online students may qualify to pay in-state rates regardless of where they live.
The FAFSA allows degree-seekers to determine the types and amount of aid for which they qualify. The FAFSA encompasses both student loan opportunities and grant possibilities.
Some colleges and universities highlight graduate assistantship programs, which allow learners to teach or conduct research in exchange for financial aid. Students can speak with an academic advisor to learn more about these types of opportunities.
Scholarships for Master’s in Physical Therapy Students
- APTA Outstanding Physical Therapy Student Awards
Who Can Apply: Available to physical therapy students demonstrating significant accomplishments across the profession, the APTA Outstanding Physical Therapy Student Awards require applicants to hold good academic standing.
Amount: VariesSee Scholarship
- IHS Health Professions Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides tuition assistance to Alaska Native and American Indian graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in full-time health profession programs, including physical therapy. The IHS Health Professions Scholarship Program requires applicants to hold a 2.0 minimum GPA.
Amount: VariesSee Scholarship
- Katherine H. Dilley Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: The Arizona State Society Daughters of the American Revolution Fund provides the Katherine H. Dilley Scholarship Fund to graduate and undergraduate students pursuing occupational therapy or physical therapy at any four-year institution in Arizona.
Amount: $1,000See Scholarship
- Mary McMillan Scholarship Award
Who Can Apply: Available to graduate students within one year of completing a CAPTE-accredited physical therapy program, the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award requires applicants to demonstrate extraordinary academic performance.
Amount: $5,000See Scholarship
- National AMBUCS Scholarship Program for Therapists
Who Can Apply: Providing annual awards for junior- and senior-level undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in physical therapy, the National AMBUCS Scholarship Program for Therapists requires applicants to demonstrate financial need and hold good academic standing.
Amount: $1,500See Scholarship
Professional Organizations and Resources
Graduates of physical therapy master's programs can join a variety of professional organizations in the field or take advantage of other online professional resources. These organizations and resources allow physical therapy students and professionals to expand their knowledge and skills.
- One of the fastest-growing sections under the American Physical Therapy Association, ANPT represents one of 18 specialty areas in the association.
- A nonprofit organization focused on providing information and research tools to parents of disabled children, APPT highlights innovative treatments for pediatric physical therapy.
- Comprising members from physical therapy academic institutions and educational programs across the United States, ACAPT works to develop standards for academic aspects of physical therapy.
- Functioning as a national professional association representing the field of occupational therapy, AOTA advocates for occupational therapy students and practitioners.
- An individual membership professional organization, APTA serves more than 100,000 members, including physical therapy students, physical therapy assistants, and physical therapists.
- FSBPT provides and administers the National Physical Therapy Examination, which every physical therapist and physical therapy assistant must pass to gain licensure.
- Offering a variety of courses that help learners expand their skills and knowledge in a variety of areas across the physical therapy discipline, MedBridge provides extensive information for users.
- PhysioRoom is a website that provides a large supply of physiotherapy supplies, injury projects, and rehabilitation equipment for physical therapists.
- Encompassing student members of APTA, this assembly focuses specifically on student issues in the field.
- An international organization for physical therapy, WCPT represents over 450,000 physical therapists around the world.