Though there are undergraduate and master's degree programs in physical therapy, the American Physical Therapy Association strongly suggests that by 2020, all practicing physical therapists should hold a doctorate in physical therapy. All of these top schools offer a doctoral program.
Formal education programs in physical therapy typically lead to a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and combine academic coursework with clinical training. Four of the top schools for physical therapists include Creighton University, home to the first DPT program in the U.S., as well as the University of Pittsburgh, New York University and Arcadia University. All four schools have received high rankings from U.S. News & World Report for the quality of their physical therapy programs.
Top U.S. Schools with Physical Therapy Programs
1. University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA
|School Highlight: The University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania offers a clinical residency and weekend intensive training in orthopedic physical therapy.|
In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Pittsburgh's DPT program tied for #1 in the country. One of the oldest universities in the country, the school also placed among the top 50 in the list of the best value public colleges in the nation in 2016, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.
Students in the 3-year DPT program learn about pediatric, geriatric, musculoskeletal and neuromuscular physical therapy. Clinical placements are available in rehabilitation clinics, sports medicine facilities and orthopedic departments. The school also offers a master's degree in health and rehabilitation sciences for licensed physical therapists.
2. New York University in New York, NY
|School Highlight: New York University offers a clinical residency and weekend intensive training in orthopedic physical therapy.|
New York University (NYU) in New York, NY, is a private institution that U.S. News & World Report ranked 36th among physical therapy schools in 2017. The university's Department of Physical Therapy offers an entry level DPT program that includes supervised clinical practice experiences. The department also offers a DPT for practicing physical therapists who want to upgrade their skills.
Additional courses of study include a post-professional Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a focus on pathokinesiology research, which may help individuals with physical disabilities improve their motor controls.
3. Creighton University in Omaha, NE
|School Highlight: The dean of the Graduate School at Creighton University received the American Physical Therapy Association's Lucy Blair Service Award.|
Creighton University in Omaha, NE, is a private Jesuit institution that offered the nation's first DPT program, a course of study that U.S. News & World Report ranked 15th in the country for 2017. The entry-level DPT program, available through the university's Department of Physical Therapy, takes eight semesters to complete. Program focus is on motor control, exercise physiology and physical therapy interventions; students also learn about medical imaging and musculoskeletal physical therapy. Aspiring physical therapists can also pursue general and specialized clinical practice experiences in a variety of settings and geographic areas.
4. Arcadia University
|School Highlight: Arcadia University offers a fully online transitional DPT program.|
Located in Glenside, in eastern Pennsylvania, Arcadia University is a private not-for-profit school that was founded in 1853. The school offers an entry level DPT program; however, Arcadia also offers a totally online transitional DPT program for practicing professionals that can be completed in 1-3 years.
In 2017, U.S. News and World Report ranked Arcadia at #15 on the list of best value schools. Also, in 2017, the magazine listed Arcadia as tied at #20 for its physical therapy graduate program.
Ten Good Schools with Physical Therapy Programs
Below is a list of six additional schools with highly rated physical therapy programs:
|Columbia University||Has about 400 national and international practice sites||New York, NY|
|MGH Institute of Health Professions||Provides post-professional options for licensed physical therapists||Boston, MA|
|Northwestern University||Physical therapy students participate in the Synthesis Project, which allows them to work in groups and focus their studies on a special topic of interest||Evanston, IL|
|Ohio State University||Division of Physical Therapy offers five clinical residency programs||Columbus, OH|
|University of Delaware||University out-patient clinic allows students to gain hands-on practice||Newark, DE|
|University of Iowa||Students have a 100% first-time pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) required for licensure||Iowa City, IA|
Top schools for physical therapy should offer DPT programs and students have the opportunity to choose between paths that lead to practicing as a generalist or a specialist in a particular area of the discipline. Online transitional programs may be available to practicing professionals.