Distance Learning Physical Therapy Education Programs and Courses

Get info about online programs in physical therapy. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Physical therapists who have already earned a bachelor's or master's degree may choose a distance learning program for their doctorate degree. Online Doctor of Physical Therapy programs are available through two routes. Transitional programs are designed for students who are already credentialed, practicing physical therapists. These programs offer courses and sometimes hands-on lab practice leading to the DPT degree (Doctor of Physical Therapy).

In addition, several universities offer 'blended' (both distance and on-campus) physical therapy doctoral programs for students without physical therapist credentials. To be eligible, students must hold a baccalaureate with certain prerequisite courses. The program takes roughly three years.

Online AvailabilityBlended on-campus and distance learning
Degree Levels AvailableDoctoral
Important PrerequisitesBachelor's or master's degree, some required courses
In-Person RequirementsOn-campus courses, clinical practicum training.

Course topics

Expect 8-12 courses, depending on your previous degree level and experience. Courses cover the following topics:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Examination skills
  • Diagnosis
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Neuroscience
  • Health care systems
  • Health care economics
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Research skills

Also, advanced classes may look at physical therapy techniques such as the following:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurophysiological
  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Medical


Clinical practicum training, any professional seminars or orientations and the presentation of research must be done either on campus or at cooperatively-arranged internship sites. Practicum work is usually required for two clinical courses on current musculoskeletal therapeutic practices. Other residencies are usually planned for weekends.

Continuing Education Information

Physical therapists must complete continuing education units to maintain their licenses. Therapists may choose to complete these classes partly or completely online. Course options vary widely. Look for 'The Obesity Challenge in Public Health' in four online modules. There's a 30-hour certificate program in assistive technology which consists of ten weeks of online courses and three 5-hour Saturday classes on campus.

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