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.