Physical Therapy Schools in California with Degree Program Info

Sep 25, 2019

There are 18 colleges within California that have physical therapy programs. Read an overview of the 10 best physical therapy schools in California, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

Physical Therapy Schools in California

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 physical therapy 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.


The 10 Best DPT Programs in California

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 2017-2018, the student graduation rate was 97%, with a licensure pass rate of 100%.

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. 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. Their program boasts a 95.3% graduation rate, with a higher 97.6% first-time licensure pass rate.

Chapman University

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 at least 3 clinical experiences. In 2017-2018, 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 program is a Doctor of Physical Therapy. These doctoral degree programs are clinically focused and can range between 3 and 7 years 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 offers an entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program. The program takes 36 months to complete. Only 50 students are accepted into this program at a time. Students will train their clinical skills to help improve the health and wellbeing of patients, as well as supporting those with disabilities. Courses will have a strong theoretical approach to basic, medical, and applied sciences.

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 900-1,100 applicants, only 95 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 2016-2018, the program had a 98.2% graduation rate, with a 100% pass rate on licensure exams.

Career Requirements and Specialization

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. Although not required, some physical therapists consider pursuing a physical therapy certificate of specialization to focus on a particular area of interest.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Physical Therapy Programs Offered Graduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)
Azusa Pacific University 4-year; private not-for-profit; large suburb Doctor of Physical Therapy $17,362*
California State University - Fresno 4-year; public; large city Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy $8,021 (in-state),
$17,525 (out-of-state)*
California State University - Long Beach 4-year; public; large city Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy $8,232 (in-state),
$17,736 (out-of-state)*
California State University - Northridge 4-year; public; large city Doctor of Physical Therapy $8,327 (in-state),
$17,831 (out-of-state)*
California State University - Sacramento 4-year; public; large city Doctor of Physical Therapy $8,744 (in-state),
$18,248 (out-of-state)*
Chapman University 4-year; private not-for-profit; midsize city Doctor of Physical Therapy $31,412*
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
$29,372*
San Francisco State University 4-year; public; large city Doctor of Physical Therapy,
Doctorate of Physical Therapy Science
$8,694 (in-state),
$18,198 (out-of-state)*
University of Southern California 4-year; private not-for-profit; large city Doctor of Physical Therapy $45,561*
University of the Pacific 4-year; private not-for-profit; large city Doctor of Physical Therapy $47,952*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

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