Doctor of Physical Therapy: Degree Overview

Physical therapists assess and treat patients with functional limitations, impairments, injuries and disabilities, such as musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. Within a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program, aspiring physical therapists learn to work with patients to increase strength and eliminate pain as well as improve the normal functions of body systems.

Essential Information

In general, students seeking admission into this type of degree program require a bachelor's degree. Some academic institutions require students to complete prerequisite courses in biology, statistics, chemistry, physics, social science and psychology. Additionally, programs could require letters of recommendation and GRE scores. Upon successful completion of a DPT degree program, graduates are eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination for state licensure.

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree with coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, social science, psychology and statistics. GRE scores and letters of recommendation are also required
  • Other Requirements: Clinical experience

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Studies in a DPT program focus on advanced topics relating to human movement, physical therapy methods and physical sciences. Students learn to use problem-solving activities and case studies in order to enhance the learning experience. Students also complete required clinical experiences, which generally include patient observation and examination, through campus clinics or at affiliated physical therapy facilities. Common physical therapy course topics include:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Pharmacology
  • Neuroscience
  • Injuries of the musculoskeletal system
  • Research methods

Popular Career Options

Graduates can provide community service, conduct research and practice in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Private physical therapy offices
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospitals
  • Sports facilities

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists could see an employment growth of 36% from 2012 to 2022 due to increases in elderly populations and survival rates of infants with birth defects ( The average annual salary for physical therapists was $83,940 in May 2014, according to the same agency.

Continuing Education Information

All states require practicing physical therapists to obtain a license. To renew a license, physical therapists usually need to participate in continuing education, and some states require specific courses or activities.

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