Chicago Physical Therapy Schools with Degree Program Overviews

The Chicago area has 9 colleges within 25 miles of downtown that offer physical therapy degrees. Learn about the degree programs, admission info and program requirements for three of these schools to make an informed education decision.

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Physical Therapy School Options in the Chicago Area

Students considering careers as physical therapists have a few school options to choose from in the Chicago area. This article looks at three schools that offer doctoral degrees, which is the requirement for licensing. All of these schools are less than a half-hour from downtown Chicago. In this article, information about the programs at each school is provided after a table of facts that allows prospective students to compare the schools in aspects such as size, costs, graduation rates and student acceptance rates.

  • Midwestern University - Downers Grove is about 21 miles from downtown Chicago and has a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. This university doesn't provide any undergraduate degree programs.
  • Northwestern University offers a DPT program through its Feinberg School of Medicine, located in Chicago's famous Magnificent Mile district about 12 miles from the city center. Northwestern also offers a DPT program combined with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in engineering.
  • The University of Illinois - Chicago is about 1.5 miles from downtown. It provides a DPT program and offers the lowest tuition rate of the three schools.

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Comparison of Schools

Aspiring physical therapists need to look at many factors when choosing a school for their degree program. The following table offers a concise look at these schools in the Chicago area.

Midwestern University - Downers Grove Northwestern University University of Illinois - Chicago
School Type* Four-year, private not-for-profit Four-year, private not-for-profit Four-year, public
Total Enrollment (2017)* 2,971 22,008 30,539
Campus Setting* Large suburb Small city Large city
DPT Tuition $42,282 (2018-2019) ** $45,633 each first and second year; $30,422 third year (2018-2019)*** $16,622 in-state; $26,862 out-of-state (graduate 2017-2018)*
% of First-Year Undergraduate Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017)* N/A 61% 84%
Undergraduate Acceptance Rate (Fall 2017)* N/A 9% 77%
Undergraduate Retention Rate (2016-2017)* N/A 98% 80% for full-time students; 42% for part-time students
DPT Graduation Rate 94.3% (2018)** 96.8% (as of 2017)*** 95% (2018)****

Sources: *NCES College Navigator, **Midwestern University - Downers Grove, ***Northwestern University, ****University of Illinois - Chicago

Midwestern University - Downers Grove

This university provides a DPT program through its College of Health Sciences. Full-time students can complete this program in 34 months and have access to 16 faculty members.


Admission to this program requires academic course prerequisites, in addition to completion of courses in first aid and basic life support, a bachelor's degree and a passing score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). A minimum GPA of 3.0 is also required. The curriculum includes coursework in healthcare issues, research, evaluation, education principles, kinesiology and neuroscience. Students must complete a total of three clinical experiences; two in their second year and two in their third year.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University offers its DPT program through the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Applicants must have firsthand knowledge of the healthcare profession gathered through observation, volunteering or work experience.


In addition to the GRE and bachelor's degree, applicants must satisfy prerequisites to be eligible for admission to the DPT program. These prerequisites include several courses in the behavioral sciences, biological sciences, chemistry and physics. The program includes lectures, labs and clinical requirements. Students learn to accurately perform physical therapy exams, evaluate patients, select appropriate procedures and exercises, recognize emergencies and demonstrate professionalism.

DPT/PhD in Engineering

This combined program is a six- to seven-year course of study that includes clinical requirements and doctoral level research. In the first year, students complete three laboratory rotations and graduate engineering coursework, while the second year includes mentorships and PhD research. In the final years, students will complete graduate-level projects and advanced clinical work in areas like rehabilitation engineering and motor control physiology.

University of Illinois - Chicago

The DPT program at the University of Illinois - Chicago is provided by the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Applied Health Sciences. In addition to faculty engaged in research projects, students can take advantage of the laboratories, such as the Knecht Movement Science Laboratory.


Students in this program receive classroom instruction and complete laboratory courses, clinical training and hands-on experience in internships. The curriculum includes a wide variety of electives, and students have the opportunity to work with patients of different ages, ranging from the very young to the elderly. In this program, students must complete courses in neuroanatomy, physiology, biophysics, kinesiology, professional development and assessments, as well as four clinical internships.

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