Physical therapy degrees are offered in a variety of formats, catering to students of various education levels and learning styles. As you start looking for doctor of physical therapy (DPT) programs, you are likely to come across a variety of terms – transitional DPT, entry level DPT, and hybrid program to name a few. This article will help you understand which of these programs may be best for you.
Entry Level Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Programs
The entry level DPT is currently the standard for those looking to become physical therapists. While master’s in physical therapy degrees were acceptable in the past, you can no longer become certified as a physical therapist without a doctorate degree. Entry level DPT degrees are for those who have already completed a bachelor’s degree as well as any prerequisite coursework required by the program (typically in the sciences). These programs are typically 3 year programs.
Three and Three Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs
Some schools offer students the option of combining their bachelor’s and DPT into one 6 year curriculum. Students admitted as college freshmen will continue the program through its entirety without having to apply separately to DPT programs. With 3 and 3 programs, students do not have to worry about what educational prerequisites await them before applying to DPT school, because they are already baked into the first half of the curriculum. This is a good option for those who know early on that they want to become physical therapists.
Post Professional or Transition DPT Programs
A Transition DPT is for physical therapists who want additional education that matches current certification standards. It is not required that physical therapists who were licensed before the DPT requirement earn a post professional DPT. However, the program can help you learn the content that has been added under current accreditation standards so that you are educated to the same standard as physical therapists just entering the workforce. The APTA does state that data indicating the impact of earning a transition DPT is minimally available.
Hybrid Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs
Hybrid DPT programs allow students to complete a portion of their education online. Students may take most of their coursework in the comfort of their own home but then report to campus for more hands on and clinical work. They will also complete clinical experiences, often at a placement site near where they live, though you should always check clinical placement flexibility first before applying to a program. Hybrid DPTs are a great option for those who need flexibility in where they live and how they complete their degree.
Online DPT Programs
Currently, online doctor of physical therapy programs are synonymous with hybrid DPTs. Because of the hands-on nature of parts of the curriculum, there is currently no online DPT available that does not require students to report to campus on a semesterly or sometimes weekly basis.
Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) to Doctor of Physical Therapy Bridge Programs
There are two existing accredited programs that are designed specifically for PTAs looking to earn their DPT degree. These programs take into account the knowledge that PTAs currently possess, but may still require that PTAs complete additional observation hours, prerequisite coursework, or other requirements before applying.