Physical therapy training programs in a distance learning format are most commonly offered as transitional doctoral programs. These programs are designed for current physical therapists with master's degrees in physical therapy who need to update their education to meet licensing requirements. Students will also need to have current licensure in physical therapy and have graduated from an accredited school.
Due to the extremely hands-on nature of the field, these programs generally require clinical internships. Some programs allow students to pursue specific certifications in a variety of physical therapy sub-specialties.
Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree
Online physical therapy doctoral degree programs are typically available in either part-time or full-time formats. They generally require applicants to have graduated from a program with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education, hold a master's degree in physical therapy or be currently licensed to practice physical therapy in the United States. Most programs have specific in-person requirements in addition to online coursework.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) established specialist certification programs in 1978. Specialization includes building on a current knowledge base of professional education and developing a clinical specialization area to respond to specific areas of need. Some areas of specialization include pediatrics, cardiopulmonary, orthopedics, geriatrics, sports medicine, neurology, clinical electrophysiology and women's health.
Common doctorate-level physical therapy courses include:
- Physical Therapy Diagnostics
- Diagnostic Imaging/Pharmacology
- Physical Therapy Management
- Grant Writing and Publication
- Motor Control and Human Movement
- Clinical Decision Making
- Outcomes Measurement and Epidemiology
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for physical therapists is expected to grow 34% from 2014-2024, much faster than average for all occupations. Also, the BLS stated that job opportunities are expected to be especially good in acute hospital, orthopedic and rehabilitation settings.
Online doctoral programs in physical therapy require applicants to have an extensive educational background in physical therapy, including a master's degree. Courses at the doctoral level often address specific areas of physical therapy in-depth and are complemented by clinical internships.