Physical Therapist PhD Program Information

Physical therapists seeking a research-based post-professional degree can consider a Ph.D. in physical therapy. Find out more about the requirements of this program and future directions for graduates.

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Essential 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. It should be noted that this program is different from 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.

Applicants to Ph.D. programs in physical therapy must hold either a master's or doctoral degree in physical therapy from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). 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.

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Ph.D. in Physical Therapy

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

Although students spend most of their time conducting independent research, they must also complete a set of core courses and electives chosen based on their areas of specialization. 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 direct their physical therapy careers toward research or education. Possible career titles include:

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

In summary, professional physical therapists who want to delve into academic research may want to consider a doctoral program in physical therapy.

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