Choosing an Online Physical Therapy Program

Students throwing graduation capsOnline programs allow you to earn your doctorate in physical therapy with added flexibility. Through an online doctorate in physical therapy (DPT), you can complete coursework without having to physically be on campus. Due to the nature of skills needed to become a physical therapist, online DPT programs are often hybrid- combing online coursework with several on campus hands on and clinical experience as well as clinical placements near your home. Currently, there are 3 accredited online DPT programs you can choose from:

Accredited Online DPT Programs

Below is a table of online DPT programs accredited by Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). These programs are for students who do not have a prior PT degree. (Last verified 6/25/2019)

School Live Classes1 Frequency of On-Campus Requirements Time to Complete
Nova Southeastern University Some Monthly 4 years
University of Southern California Sponsored Yes Up to twice per semester 3 years
University of St. Augustine Some Twice per month 4 years

1Live classes are defined as classes where there are specific class times each week where students are able to log on and communicate with each other and the professor as the professor delivers a live lecture.

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Online Physical Therapy Program Information

This list of online physical therapy programs includes programs designed for current physical therapists who are looking to gain additional education as well as programs for aspiring PTs.

Nova Southeastern University

Dr. Pallavi Patel College of Health Care Sciences, Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program – Tampa

Nova Southeastern University Logo

Length: 4 years

GPA Requirement: 3.0

Structure: Blends synchronous and asynchronous online coursework with in-person on-campus instruction from Thursday to Sunday every 4th week. Clinical rotations and experiences are also required.


Nova Southeastern University

Dr. Pallavi Patel College of Health Care Sciences, Transition Doctor of Physical Therapy Program

Nova Southeastern University LogoLength: Varies

GPA Requirement: 2.0 from entry level PT coursework, if lower must take GRE

Structure: This program is designed for physical therapists who do not have a DPT degree but who want to enhance their credentials. Combines online learning with on-campus requirements. Program requirements will vary depending on the individual’s previous education.


Nova Southeastern University

Dr. Pallavi Patel College of Health Care Sciences, Physical Therapy PhD Program

Nova Southeastern University Logo

Length: 3 semesters

GPA Requirement: Unknown

Structure: This program is structured to prepare physical therapists, who have practiced at least 3 years,  for a research or academic setting. Coursework is mostly completed online, students are only required to come to campus twice per year.


University of Southern California

Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, Doctor of Physical Therapy

USC Logo

Length: 3 years

GPA Requirement: 3.0 (cumulative and in science courses)

Structure: Combines online coursework with on campus immersions each semester. Clinical experiences are also required and can be completed away from campus.

Sponsored


University of St. Augustine

College of Rehabilitative Sciences, Flex Doctor of Physical Therapy

University of St. Augustine Logo

Length: 4 years

GPA Requirement: 3.0 for prerequisite coursework

Structure: Combines online and face to face instruction. Online portion is both synchronous and asynchronous and is typically completed during the week, while on-campus learning occurs several times per month. Clinical internships are also required.


University of St. Augustine

College of Rehabilitative Sciences, Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

University of St. Augustine Logo

Length: Varies based on prior education

GPA Requirement: Unknown

Structure: this program is for PTs who were licensed before a DPT was required but who want to increase their knowledge. This program can be completed entirely online.

 

Online Doctor of Physical Therapy Application Requirements

Most programs require that applications are submitted through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). The following are common application requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree (unless the program combines bachelors and graduate education)
  • Transcripts
  • Observation hours supervised by licensed PT
  • References- specific reference requirements by school can be found here.
  • Application fee
  • Supplemental materials
  • GRE scores
  • Prerequisite coursework

 

Accreditation for Online Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs

In order to be licensed as a physical therapist in any state you must have a DPT from a CAPTE accredited program or a foreign equivalent. Accreditation ensures that the quality of education given by the university is high enough to prepare you to be a quality physical therapist. Accreditation requirements also protect students- schools cannot maintain accreditation if their schools do not generate good career outcomes for their students. Here is a full list of CAPTE accredited programs.

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Evaluating Online Physical Therapy Programs

The way that online physical therapy programs are set up can differ greatly in terms of how courses are delivered, how many classes you can take at one time, clinical placement opportunities, and more. When choosing between programs, be sure to evaluate the following:

Live vs Non-Live Classes

Just because you are completing classwork in your living room doesn’t mean you have to forgo an interactive classroom experience. Some online DPT programs offer live online classes where you can ask professors questions and interact with your fellow students. If you are looking to stay engaged through alive class format, look for programs that offer “synchronous” or live coursework 

On Campus Requirements

With the requirements needed to become a physical therapist, there are currently no accredited online physical therapy programs that don’t have some form of on-campus learning requirement for hands on instruction. But specific on campus requirements will vary by program. Some programs are online to facilitate learning from wherever you live, while others still serve specific communities, but use online as a way to offer flexibility for working students. The latter may still require you to be on campus as often as weekly. Make sure you find a program that fits your needs.

Clinical Experience

In addition to hands on learning on campus, you will need to complete internships where you gain clinical experience in order to prepare for your career in physical therapy. If you are away from campus, make sure that the program you are interested offers the level of support you need when it comes time to find a clinical placement site.

Check out this list of physical therapy scholarships that you can use to help pay for your degree.

 

Why Choose an Online Physical Therapy Program?

Online Physical Therapy Programs Offer Flexibility

No matter what sort of online DPT you choose, you are gaining added flexibility when compared to on campus programs. The ability to complete coursework from wherever you are makes it easier to balance other commitments that you have and stay close to home.

Physical Therapists are in High Demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 job forecast, the physical therapy field is expected to grow 28% between 2016 and 2026. You will also be able to choose to work in a variety of settings- from hospitals, to nursing homes, to private practice. Additionally, physical therapy is a high paying field.

Physical Therapy is a Rewarding Field

Through physical therapy, you help people gain strength, restore mobility, and even reduce or eliminate pain. The conditions and injuries that physical therapy helps can dramatically affect patient well being in ways big and small, and you can help them progress and heal. Increased function and decreased pain expands what people are able to do and improves quality of life.

Physical Therapists Need a Doctorate Degree

New students are required to earn a DPT degree in order to become licensed in any state.