Distance Learning Physical Therapy Education Programs and Courses

Physical therapists who have already earned a bachelor's or master's degree may choose a distance learning program for their doctorate degree. Find more details about these online physical therapy programs and courses below.

Overview of Programs

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.

Course Details

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 Courses

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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