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Why This Matters


    According to a study conducted by O*NET, almost half of physical therapist jobs require a doctoral degree, and another 38% require a master’s.


    Demand for physical therapists is projected to grow 15% over the next decade. This significantly outpaces the expected growth of most other occupations.


    The average salary for physical therapists is $97,720, with the top 10% of workers in this field making more than $128,830.

Our Research

This list features some of the best online doctorate in physical therapy degree programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary education. Many of the programs on our list have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), which assesses the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of physical therapy programs.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online doctorate in physical therapy degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

  • 55 hours to write this article
  • 54 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 80 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy Programs

Best Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy Programs Badge

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Northeastern University

Utica College

Shenandoah University

University of Southern California

The College of Saint Scholastica

UNC School of Medicine

University of Michigan-Flint

Winston-Salem State University

Arcadia University

Florida Gulf Coast University

Alabama State University

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Physical therapists and occupational therapists have similar roles in that they both help those with injuries, illnesses, or chronic conditions. However, occupational therapists differ in that they incorporate therapeutic use of everyday activities to optimize clients’ quality of life. This career also requires only a master’s degree versus a doctorate for physical therapy.

Only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). If your school isn’t accredited, you may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

To become a licensed physical therapist, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, which provides tips on preparing for the exam, scheduling the test, and what to do if you don’t pass.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online doctorate in physical therapy programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Qualifications for enrolling in a doctorate program in physical therapy vary by school. In some cases, you may need to have a master’s degree in a related field with minimum GPA requirements or have a certain number of physical therapy volunteer hours. Contact your school’s admissions department to find out more about program-specific requirements.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? If you’re enrolled in an online degree program, there are two possible course formats. If the course is synchronous, there are scheduled class sessions that you attend remotely. If it’s asynchronous, the work is self-paced with no designated meeting times. Find a program that fits your schedule and learning preferences.

As you’re taking steps to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy, it’s important to consider factors that affect the time and financial commitment of earning your degree. In some cases, as few as 24 credits are required to earn a degree, while other programs require over 100 credits to graduate. The cost per credit hour also varies, with fees as low as $186 and as high as $2,300. To explore your financial aid options, begin by filling out the FAFSA.

It’s also necessary to pay attention to application, course selection, and financial aid deadlines. Forgetting to note these dates, which may vary from school to school, can delay your ability to earn your degree.

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