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Accredited physical therapy programs that prepare students for licensure exams are available in universities and colleges throughout California. These schools typically award a Doctor of Physical Therapy, although master's degree programs are available. Requirements for these graduate-level programs include clinical internships and residencies. Doctor of Physical Therapy programs take about three years to complete and admission to these programs can be competitive.
Azusa Pacific University
This university in Azusa offers a physical therapy program. The program is an entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program, and it takes 34 months to complete. Students take courses in pathophysiology, neuroscience and exercise physiology. Clinical internships, residencies and capstone courses are required.
California State University - Fresno
The physical therapy department at California State University in Fresno offers an entry-level doctorate program that includes courses in radiology, patient care, pharmacology and prosthetics. The university also has two clinics that are located in the campus. In the years 2009-2011, 89% of the graduates passed the licensure exams on their first try.
California State University - Long Beach
This university in Long Beach offers an entry-level doctoral degree program in physical therapy. The program combines didactic coursework with clinical experiences. Students take courses like musculoskeletal disorders, neuromuscular examinations, pediatric management and geriatric management. The program takes three years to complete.
California State University - Northridge
Located in Northridge, this university provides a three-year doctoral degree program in physical therapy. Applicants must have 200 hours of clinical experience under a licensed physical therapist. Only 32 students are accepted each year into this full-time program. The curriculum combines academic learning with clinical experiences. Classes include medical screening, biomechanics and medical imaging. Students are required to complete a research project and a comprehensive exam.
California State University - Sacramento
This school in Sacramento offers a physical therapy doctoral degree program. Students can take advantage of the medical facilities, which include a simulation lab for acute patient care. The program includes 36 weeks of clinical internships, a doctoral project and graduate seminars. In the last three years, 97% of all graduates passed the licensure exams.
Located in Orange, Chapman University offers a physical therapy doctoral degree program that takes three years to complete. Students take courses in developmental anatomy, motor control, clinical pathology and neurophysiology. They also participate in 44-50 weeks of clinical experiences. In 2011, 100% of the graduates passed the licensing exams on their first try.
Loma Linda University
Located in Loma Linda, this school provides four graduate programs in physical therapy. The first entry-level program is a Doctor of Physical Therapy. It takes three years to complete, and students study topics like exercise physiology and kinesiology. The post-professional studies programs are a Master of Physical Therapy and a Doctor of Physical Therapy. The master's degree program focuses on neurological rehabilitation and orthopedics. The doctoral degree programs are clinically focused and can take 11-18 months to complete.
Finally, the Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy program is available for licensed physical therapists who are interested in research and academia. Applicants to this program must have a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. A dissertation and written exam are required.
San Francisco State University
This university in San Francisco and the University of California at San Francisco offer two physical therapy programs at the entry and post-professional level. The entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program takes 36 months to complete. Only 42-50 students are accepted into this program at a time.
The other program is a post-professional Doctorate in Physical Therapy Science. It is designed for doctors who want to study a specialization, complete research and improve their skills. The program lasts 27-36 months full-time, and students may study neuroscience, musculoskeletal therapy and kinesiology.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California in Los Angeles offers a doctoral physical therapy program that can be completed in three years. Admittance to the program is competitive; out of 1,200 applicants, only 94 students are accepted into the program each year. The school offers a mentoring program for its physical therapy students that pairs students with a faculty mentor who meets with the student at least once during each semester. Students study topics on disease, therapeutic exercise, musculoskeletal anatomy and clinical imaging.
Students who already have a physical therapy degree can study in the post-professional program. The program provides a year of clinical experiences. Students may complete a specialized residency in pediatrics, sports physical therapy and more.
University of the Pacific
The physical therapy department at Stockton-based University of the Pacific has eight full-time faculty members. The doctoral physical therapy degree program teaches students about patient examination, patient education and therapeutic processes. Students also study pediatric physical therapy, musculoskeletal physical therapy, advanced clinical issues and electrotherapy. Clinical observations and internships are also required in the program. In the years 2009-2011, graduates had a 99% pass rate for the licensure exams.
To become a physical therapist in California, students must complete an accredited graduate program in physical therapy and pass national/regional licensure exams. Licensure is maintained through continuing education.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Physical Therapy Programs Offered||Graduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)|
|Azusa Pacific University||4-year; private not-for-profit; large suburb||Doctor of Physical Therapy||$12,409*|
|California State University - Fresno||4-year; public; large city||Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy|| $7,577 (in-state),
|California State University - Long Beach||4-year; public; large city||Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy|| $7,718 (in-state),
|California State University - Northridge||4-year; public; large city||Doctor of Physical Therapy|| $7,835 (in-state),
|California State University - Sacramento||4-year; public; large city||Doctor of Physical Therapy|| $8,138 (in-state),
|Chapman University||4-year; private not-for-profit; midsize city||Doctor of Physical Therapy||$25,681*|
|Loma Linda University||4-year; private not for-profit; large suburb|| Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy,
Post-Professional Master of Physical Therapy,
Post-Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy,
Doctorate of Science in Physical Therapy
|San Francisco State University||4-year; public; large city|| Doctor of Physical Therapy,
Doctorate of Physical Therapy Science
| $7,742 (in-state),
|University of Southern California||4-year; private not-for-profit; large city||Doctor of Physical Therapy||$40,670*|
|University of the Pacific||4-year; private not-for-profit; large city||Doctor of Physical Therapy||$42,604*|
Source: *NCES College Navigator.