Physical Therapy Schools Colleges & Universities

When patients suffer serious injuries, they often face long recoveries. Physical therapists are there to design and execute programs to help expedite that recovery and get patients back on their feet as quickly and as effectively as possible. It takes a patient and passionate person to serve in the rewarding and challenging role of a physical therapist. Is this career path right for you? Physical therapy schools are a step in the right direction.

Helping Others, One Step at a Time: Careers and Degrees in Physical Therapy: Key Personal Attributes for Physical Therapists: If you want to be an effective physical therapist, it is very important that you work well with others. Patience, empathy, and motivational skills are also excellent qualities in a physical therapist. You should be organized, have good analytical skills, and enjoy problem solving. Importantly, physical therapy requires a certain amount of physical strength, so you should be able-bodied and maintain good health. Above all, you should be passionate about helping others.

Admission Requirements for Physical Therapy Colleges: A bachelor's degree in a field related to physical therapy (commonly biology) is required for entry into a graduate program in this field. However, some institutions offer six-year combined undergraduate and graduate degree programs, which result in both B.S. and D.P.T. degrees at the completion of the program. In either case, most programs will require a minimum number of volunteer hours in offices of physical therapists before admission is granted.

Available Degrees in Physical Therapy: There are two possible paths to a physical therapy career:

  • • Master's Degree (M.S.) - these typically take 2 to 2.5 years to complete
  • • Doctoral Degree (Doctorate of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)) - these typically take 3 years to complete

Because all states regulate the practice of physical therapy, degree-holders must also pass a state licensing exam before beginning to practice.

Top-Ranked Nursing Schools: According to rankings from U.S. News and World Report, those schools with the highest-ranking graduate programs in physical therapy are:

  • • University of Southern California
  • • University of Pittsburgh
  • • Washington University in St. Louis
  • • University of Delaware
  • • US Army-Baylor University

Physical Therapy Associations: Many opportunities exist for physical therapists to gain membership in professional societies and organizations. The largest organization of physical therapists in the U.S. is the American Physical Therapy Association. Within the APTA, each state has its own individual chapter, and various sub-disciplines of physical therapy - including geriatrics, sports therapy, and women's health - have their own individual section.

Current Income and Employment Information for Individuals with Degrees in Physical Therapy: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2009, the mean annual wage for those individuals employed as physical therapists across all industries in the U.S. was $76,220. More than 70% of these individuals were employed by either health practitioner offices or general medical and surgical hospitals; however, the highest-paying industries for these jobs were consulting services and home health care services, with mean annual wages of $88,260 and $83,500, respectively. Nursing care facilities are also major employers of physical therapists.

On a state level, New England states--including Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts--rank highly among states with a high concentration of physical therapist employees (1.9 to 2.3 per thousand workers in May 2009).

In the 2008-2018 decade, national employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by an impressive 30 percent. Changes in policies for third-party payer reimbursement are expected to increase patient access to physical therapy services, and demand for degree-holders will also be on the rise.

With a very optimistic job growth outlook and competitive wages, physical therapy is a smart career choice. Is it right for you?

The writer Dave Raiser is a doctoral candidate in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard Medical School. In addition to substantial experience in biomedical research, his industry experience includes work for a biological and clinical data search engine company, a biotechnology review blog, and an idea-to-market inventor services company. Dave has bachelor's degrees in biology and music from the University of Richmond.


Find a school near you