Physiotherapy Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is the practice of treating patients to prevent or heal injuries, increase movement or reduce pain. Doctoral degree programs in physical therapy are available across the U.S. that qualify graduates for licensure and employment.

Becoming a physical therapist requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all physical therapists must graduate from an accredited school and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

Top Physical Therapy Schools

According to U.S. News and World Report, these are the top ten rankings for physical therapy schools, as of 2016:

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
University of Delaware (tied for #1) Newark, DE 4-year, Public Doctoral $30,132
University of Pittsburgh (tied for #1) Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Public Doctoral $21,260 in-state, $34,944 out-of-state
University of Southern California (tied for #1) Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private Doctoral $39,984
Washington University in St. Louis (tied for #1) Saint Louis, MO 4-year, Private Doctoral $47,300
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4-year, Private Doctoral $38,800
Northwestern University (tied for #6) Evanston, IL 4-year, Private Doctoral $48,624
University of Iowa (tied for #6) 4-year, Public Iowa City, IA Doctoral $8,396 in-state, $25,574 out-of-state
MGH Institute of Health Professions (tied for #8) Boston, MA 4-year, Private Doctoral $39,780
U.S. Army-Baylor University (tied for #8) Fort Sam Houston, TX 4-year, Private Doctoral $0**
Duke University (tied for #10) Durham, NC 4-year, Private Doctoral $47,590
Ohio State University (tied for #10) Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Doctoral $11,560 in-state, $31,032 out-of-state
University of Florida (tied for #10) Gainesville, FL 4-year, Public Doctoral $10,770 in-state, $27,335 out-of-state
University of Miami (tied for #10) Coral Gables, FL 4-year, Private Doctoral $33,300

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics, **School website

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following also when looking for physical therapy schools:

  • Choose a physical therapy program that's been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
  • You may want to consider programs offering specialization in areas such as geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics or business management.
  • Find out about the practical experience opportunities offered by the school. Schools with lengthier and more diverse clinical physical therapy experiences, such as varied internships, could help students gain more experience or master a specialization.

Doctor of Physical Therapy

A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program can be completed in about three years. Prerequisites usually include anatomy, chemistry, physics and psychology courses, as well as some experience in the field. Students often engage in a specialization, complete an evidence-based capstone project and continue with clinical rotations. Programs include a substantial amount of lab work, in addition to several semesters of supervised clinical education. A directed research project is also usually required.

Aspiring physical therapists can get the necessary training from an accredited DPT program. Specialization options and real-world training opportunities are often included.

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