Online Physical Therapy Programs 2021

By ACO rankings team with contributions from Emma Yenko

Published on August 3, 2021

Online Physical Therapy Programs 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Physical Therapy Degrees Online

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Physical therapists help patients regain mobility and reduce pain. These professionals make diagnoses, create treatment plans, and record each patient's progress. Day-to-day responsibilities include leading patients through exercises and recommending supportive equipment, such as walkers and canes. Like other medical professionals, physical therapists can specialize in certain focus areas such as occupational therapists and respiratory therapy.

Physical therapists need strong communication and time management skills. These professionals must possess the physical strength to move patients and assist them with exercises. Physical therapists also need compassion to establish relationships with patients.

Aspiring physical therapists should obtain a physical therapy degree from a program with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Full-time students typically complete their physical therapy doctoral program in three years. Graduates can work in therapy centers, hospitals, and nursing facilities. Many physical therapists pursue board certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties to advance their career.

Top Questions and Answers About Physical Therapy Degrees

Q. Can you get a physical therapy degree online?

Many reputable universities offer online physical therapy programs. However, most online programs in the field require some in-person components, such as clinical rotations and on-campus immersions.

Q. What does a physical therapist do?

Physical therapists help reduce patients' pain and improve their mobility by using exercises and medical equipment. Other typical responsibilities include keeping records and collaborating with other medical professionals.

Q. Do you need a license to practice physical therapy?

All states require physical therapists to hold a license. Candidates for licensure must pass a rigorous examination. Licensed physical therapists must earn continuing education credits to meet renewal requirements.

Q. How much do physical therapists earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that physical therapists earn a median salary of $89,440 per year. Professionals in Nevada, Alaska, and California earn the highest median salaries, according to the BLS.

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Online Physical Therapy Degrees and Programs 2021

Andrews University View School Profile Berrien Springs, MI Unconfirmed

Andrews in Berrien Springs, Michigan, offers a transitional doctor of physical therapy degree on campus and online. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in physical therapy from an accredited institution and at least two years of work experience in the field. Applicants must submit transcripts from every school attended and three recommendation letters. Applicants with a master's degree must submit a portfolio with their resume, postgraduate continuing education coursework, and any relevant certifications.

The on-campus program welcomes applications from physical therapists with a bachelor's or master's degree from their country of origin. The online interactive program includes 1-2 onsite intensives.

On-campus students pursue a full-time 38-credit program that takes 18-24 months to complete. Online learners can enroll full time or part time in a 35-credit program that takes 2-3 years to complete.

University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA Unconfirmed

USC's Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy offers a hybrid doctor of physical therapy degree that prepares graduates for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Although specific licensure requirements vary between states, most states require learners to pass the NPTE to secure a physical therapy license.

The program combines online learning with immersive on-campus experiences. USC schedules the onsite requirements in advance to give enrollees ample opportunity to make travel and accommodation arrangements. All students complete a mentored, full-time, 44-week clinical experience. Online enrollees can complete this requirement locally or at any other acceptable site across the country.

Applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree with a 3.0 cumulative GPA and 150 hours of clinical experience in the physical therapy field. The program typically takes three years to complete. USC's doctor of physical therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Arcadia University View School Profile Glenside, PA Unconfirmed

Arcadia in Glenside, Pennsylvania, offers a doctor of physical therapy degree through the College of Health Sciences. Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, the program follows a hybrid delivery format. Students participate in live synchronous online classes and eight immersive experiences. Enrollees must complete the 110-credit program in six semesters, including a 32-week clinical rotation experience.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and must complete prerequisite coursework in biology, statistics, and physical and behavioral sciences. Applicants must submit GRE scores. The program favors applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

The curriculum includes coursework in differential diagnosis and intervention, integrated patient management, and leadership and management principles in a physical therapy setting. The program follows a cohort model of education with new cohorts beginning every fall semester.

University of Michigan-Flint View School Profile Flint, MI $12519

UM-Flint offers a transitional doctor of physical therapy program designed specifically for physical therapists with a bachelor's or master's degree. The 24-credit online program typically takes two years to complete.

Applicants need an accredited bachelor's or master's degree in physical therapy with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Since the program does not lead to licensure, applicants must already hold a current physical therapy license or registration.

Students can enroll full time or part time. Although courses run asynchronously, learners must comply with deadlines for assignments, projects, exams, and other course requirements. Online enrollees can meet clinical experience requirements locally with the program director's approval.

Foreign-educated physical therapists must submit a copy of their transcript and other educational documents to the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy for evaluation and assessment.

Shenandoah University View School Profile Winchester, VA Unconfirmed

SU's 30-credit transitional doctor of physical therapy program offers three completion tracks. Master's-trained physical therapists (PTs) or professionals with a postgraduate degree in another health field can follow either Track I or Track II. Students can complete Track I in one year while Track II takes two years to complete. Both tracks require students to complete at least 16 credits as an SU enrollee. Learners can transfer the remaining credits from another institution.

PTs with a bachelor's degree in the field can follow the Track III program. Under this plan, students can transfer up to 10 credits from another school or program and complete 20 credits at SU. Track III learners complete the program over seven consecutive semesters.

The curriculum includes coursework in advanced human anatomy, differential examination and diagnosis in PT practice, pharmacology in physical medicine, and vestibular rehabilitation. The program follows a cohort model of education. Cohorts for Track I and II students begin in the fall semester, while Track III cohorts begin in the summer term.

Accreditation for Physical Therapy

Schools offering physical therapy degrees should hold accreditation. Institutions can earn regional accreditation from one of six regional accrediting agencies, each of which evaluate schools in a specific geographic area. The Department of Education maintains a list of all regionally accredited schools.

Colleges and universities awarding online degrees should also hold national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC accreditation signifies that the school's online students receive the same education as their on-campus peers.

Learners researching online physical therapy programs should also look for programmatic accreditation from CAPTE. The organization's accreditation process includes a six-month review to ensure each program's educational quality. Only graduates of CAPTE-accredited programs can qualify for a physical therapy license.

Physical Therapy License and Certification Requirements

After earning a doctorate, aspiring physical therapists must apply for a state license. Each state uses different licensure requirements. For example, the California physical therapy board requires candidates to apply by examination. This process includes passing the National Physical Therapy Exam and the California Law Examination.

Licensed physical therapists must complete continuing education requirements to qualify for renewal. Professionals take continuing education courses in areas such as basic life support, laws, ethics, and regulations. In addition to completing required courses, physical therapists typically study areas that align with their specialization or interests. Each state's physical therapy board approves continuing education providers, including those offering online options.

Licensed physical therapists can improve their career prospects by earning board certification. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties confers board certification in 10 areas, including oncology, women's health, and orthopedics. Candidates for certification need at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience working with patients in their intended specialty area. Candidates must also pass a multiple-choice examination.

Courses in a Physical Therapy Program

Physical therapy degrees prepare learners to treat and diagnose medical conditions that impact mobility. Online programs typically include in-person components. Learners generally complete clinical rotations in physical therapy settings such as hospitals, clinics, and patients' homes. Some hybrid programs also require on-campus immersions lasting up to eight weeks.

Online physical therapy programs typically require the following courses. However, exact curricula vary. Not all programs require these classes, and course titles and requirements often vary by program. Prospective students can contact admissions counselors for information about each school's physical therapy degree. Learners should ensure that their program's curriculum aligns with their career goals.

[tabs] [tab-item title="Physical Therapy Professionalism"]

Physical therapists must behave professionally with patients and peers. This introductory course emphasizes skills that individuals should apply to maintain professionalism throughout their program and career. Course topics typically include reflective practice, communication and leadership skills, and the importance of professional development. Students also analyze the American Physical Therapy Association Code of Ethics.

[/tab-item] [tab-item title="Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy"]

Many patients need physical therapy to address muscle and skeletal disorders. This class introduces students to common disorders, symptoms, and treatments. Learners prepare to evaluate patients and create treatment plans. Degree-seekers also learn how to recognize medical conditions that require a referral to another medical professional, such as a surgeon.

[/tab-item] [tab-item title="Pharmacotherapy"]

Students in this course explore the relationship between physical therapy and medication. Degree-seekers learn about prescribed and over-the-counter drugs and how they affect patient outcomes. Physical therapy professionals use this knowledge to collaborate with prescribing physicians and to determine patients' physical therapy needs.

[/tab-item] [/tabs]

Career and Salary Outlook for Physical Therapists

After earning a physical therapy degree online, graduates can qualify for licensure and entry-level positions in the field. Learners can explore job opportunities by speaking with career counselors and using virtual job-hunting resources.

The BLS projects an 18% increase in physical therapist positions from 2019-2029, a growth rate much faster than the average for all occupations. This data suggests that graduates of online physical therapy programs may enter a strong job market.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists work at medical centers, such as hospitals and residential care facilities. Typical responsibilities include working individually with patients. Physical therapists lead patients through exercises and evaluate their short-term and long-term progress. This position requires a doctor of physical therapy degree and a state-issued license.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Physical Therapists $89,440 18%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Scholarships for Physical Therapy Students

Students often save money by pursuing a physical therapy degree online rather than on campus. However, many doctoral students still need financial assistance. Scholarships such as those below can make doctoral studies more affordable and accessible. Learners should research each award's requirements and deadline before applying.

AMBUCS Scholarships for Therapists

Who Can Apply: Audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology degree-seekers can apply for this competitive scholarship. Application materials include proof of enrollment, a one-page personal statement, and FAFSA results. AMBUCS enforces a May 7 application deadline and awards funding for the following fall semester. Scholarship recipients cannot reapply.
Amount: $500-$1,500

Scholarship for Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy Students

Who Can Apply: The HIE Help Center offers this scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students majoring in physical, occupational, or speech therapy. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit a personal essay. Interested students should apply by July 31. ABC Law Centers clients cannot apply.
Amount: $1,000

Health Professions Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Indian Health Service provides financial support to Native American degree-seekers preparing for careers in healthcare. Scholarship requirements include a minimum 2.0 graduate GPA, membership in a federally recognized tribe, and a commitment to serving Native American communities after graduation. Candidates must submit recommendation letters and personal essays.
Amount: Varies

Emma Yenko

With an undergraduate degree in communications and a master's in education, Emma finds writing for the education vertical to be the perfect niche.

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