Online Physical Therapy Doctoral Programs

Online physical therapy doctoral programs provide practicing physical therapists with a convenient and flexible way to earn what will soon become the primary degree in the field.

By 2020, all licensed physical therapists in the U.S. will be required to have a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, as outlined by the American Physical Therapy Association.

If you are already a licensed physical therapist with another certification or degree, a physical therapy doctorate will complement your existing clinical skills and prepare you for the realities of modern clinical practice.

Physical therapy is an extremely patient-centered and hands-on field. Physical therapists are mainly concerned with helping patients work through physical issues, from injuries to normal wear and tear from aging, so they can move easier, experience less pain, or learn to live with a disability.

What to know about online physical therapy doctoral programs

  • Unlike campus-based programs that are ideal for individuals with no experience in physical therapy, online physical therapy doctorate degrees are primarily designed for licensed physical therapists looking to extend their training without sacrificing time away from their career.
  • These types of online DPT programs are called transitional or post-professional, and build upon one's previous clinical experiences. They focus on key areas that will help one to succeed - research, marketing, health administration, technology, and legislation. The curriculum matches the accreditation standards of campus-based entry-level programs.
  • Transitional DPT programs are designed to be taken part-time, and can be completed in about three years; compared to 2.5 years for a physical therapy master’s degree.
  • A distance education PhD program also makes it easier for you to advance your credentials while minimizing the time spent away from the clinic, your family, and other responsibilities. The online format minimizes travel time, which gives you more time to focus on your studies.

Featured Colleges offering Online Physical Therapy Doctorates

Utica College

  • Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

A.T.Still University of Health Sciences

  • Transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy
  • Doctor of Health Science
  • Transitional Doctor of Audiology (AuD)

What to expect from an online program

As transitional programs for working professionals, online physical therapy doctoral programs require you to have prior clinical experience in the field. At a bare minimum, you will need a U.S. physical therapy license, and a bachelor’s or master’s degree in physical therapy. Some programs require you to have additional professional experience if you have less education.

Practicing physical therapists must be licensed in all states, with the license renewed on a regular basis. Most states require you to complete continuing education courses for renewal of the license. Licensure involves passing an exam, such as the National Physical Therapy Examination, or similar. Physical therapists can, with enough experience, also become board certified in areas like pediatrics or sports physical therapy. Board certification requires you to pass an exam for your specialty area.

Career outlook

As number eight on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Jobs of 2012, physical therapy is a job with a great outlook. Physical therapists work in clinics, hospitals, and private offices. Throughout their career, they spend much of their time interacting with patients, as well as with coworkers in the medical field, including physicians, occupational therapists, and social workers. In addition, there are many opportunities to work part-time, making this a flexible and fast-growing field.

Physical therapy is one of the fastest growing professions, with an expected job growth of 39 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that time, 77,400 additional jobs will be added. Much of this rising demand is a result of the increased need for physical therapy services by an aging population. The median salary in 2010 was $76,310, with higher wages paid in physician’s offices and hospitals.

Related degree choices

Online bachelors degree in Biology or Pre-Med: Bachelor’s degrees in Biology or Pre-Med provide you with many of the prerequisites needed for graduate physical therapy degree programs, including anatomy, physiology, biology, and chemistry.

Online masters of business administration (MBA): A business degree can expand your credentials in the job market, enabling you to combine business training with your physical therapy degree.

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