Physical Therapist PhD Program Information

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in physical therapy are typically designed for current physical therapists who want to prepare for research, teaching or advanced leadership roles. This program is different than a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), which is a professional program that prepares students to become licensed physical therapists who provide therapeutic and rehabilitative treatments to patients.

Essential Information

The Ph.D. in Physical Therapy is a post-professional program that requires students to complete 45-60 credits, depending on the school. The programs can often be completed in less than two years and typically require both a comprehensive exam and a dissertation project. Some schools may offer a portion of the program through distance learning, though some on-campus appearances are often required.

Applicants to Ph.D. programs in physical therapy must hold either a master's or doctoral degree in physical therapy from a Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)-accredited program. Applicants who only have a master's degree may be required to complete additional prerequisite or elective courses. Some programs prefer applicants who have current physical therapist licenses. Additional requirements may include practical physical therapy experience and professional references.

  • Prerequisites: Master's degree in physical therapy or Doctor of Physical Therapy, physical therapy experience, professional references; applicants with only a master's degree may need to complete additional prerequisite courses; programs may prefer applicants who have physical therapist licenses
  • Program Length: Less than two years
  • Other Requirements: Dissertation, comprehensive exam
  • Online Availability: Some programs offer portions of the program online

Ph.D. in Physical Therapy

With a heavy emphasis on research, common courses in a physical therapist Ph.D. program include a set of core research courses, electives chosen based off of a student's specialization area and a dissertation. Some common course topics include:

  • Ethics
  • Human motion analysis
  • Pathokinesiology research
  • Physical therapy management
  • Health care policy
  • Advanced kinesiology

Popular Career Options

Through physical therapy Ph.D. programs, students gain the leadership skills and scientific knowledge needed to advance the profession through careers in research or education. Possible career titles include:

  • Physical therapy consultant
  • Physical therapy educator
  • Physical therapy researcher
  • Physical therapy advocate

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