Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online | Online DPT Programs

Why Earn a Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online?

Earning a doctorate in physical therapy online may help you develop the skills and knowledge to assist patients in rehabilitative and preventative care from the convenience of your home. Physical therapists play an important role in the medical field because they help people improve their movement or manage their pain. Plus, they may help patients rehabilitate, treat, and prevent chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.[i] However to practice and earn licensure, all physical therapists must first earn a doctorate of physical therapy degree.[ii] Online physical therapy programs may combine classwork, lab study, and clinical work to help you prepare to pursue a career as a physical therapist as it fits into your schedule.

Already a practicing physical therapist?  Many online physical therapy degree programs are online tDPT programs, or Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. These programs may help you meet the updated standards of the APTA, while still treating your clients. Read on to learn more about how online tDPT and DPT programs might fit into your lifestyle and support your goals.

Did You Know?

APTA (American Physical Therapists Association) was originally the American Women’s Physical Therapy Association because the field was so heavily female dominant. 

Earning Your Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online

Most online Doctor of Physical (DPT) programs offer the tDPT, otherwise known as a Post-Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy. The tDPT was created to help current working physical therapists meet the standards set forth by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and their Vision 2020. This vision standardized the physical therapy profession by stating that by the year 2020, all physical therapy will be performed by doctors of physical therapy .[iii]While that document has been replaced by the Vision Statement created in 2013, many of the principles remain the same. 

The online tDPT could provide those who are already licensed and practicing physical therapists an option to pursue their DPT in an efficient manner. By entering a professional portfolio and tasks performed into the Physical Therapist Evaluation Tool (PTET), students may show their acquired knowledge through practice. This could help avoid taking courses in subjects they are already proficient in, saving time and money. Programs vary, so check with your preferred program to learn more about application requirements and course options.

While online tDPT programs aren’t accredited by CAPTE (the accreditation agency for entry-level physical therapy), there are regional accreditations that are held to similar standards or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Also, some institutions that offer a tDPT also offer a DPT accredited by CAPTE. Please check with your program of interest to see if it is accredited.

Whether you pursue your DPT or tDPT, there are many potential benefits to earning your doctorate of physical therapy degree online. One of the most cited is the freedom to contribute to class discussions and perform coursework on your schedule. This could be an especially useful option for those currently practicing. Additionally, many believe class discussions are more insightful online because people aren’t as nervous to share their opinions. Finally, online DPT programs may also include more multimedia, such as videos, webinars, and infographics that are scientifically proven to improve memory by providing strong sensory cues.  

Admission Requirements for Online DPT Programs

Most doctorate in physical therapy online programs accept applications through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). This is a centralized application process to make it easier on both the students and the schools. It allows students the ability to fill out one application that can be sent to multiple schools. Prospective students are required to provide:

  • Completed PTCAS application
  • Official transcripts from all accredited United States institution attended
  • Payment of the PTCAS fee

Normally, before enrolling in online DPT programs, students have earned either a BS in physical therapy or a masters of physical therapy. Individual schools may have their own additional admission requirements. This may include courses with a minimum of a “C” grade, GRE scores, signed PT observation hours, TOEFL scores, references, and an essay.  Required courses may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Physiology

Common Coursework While Earning Your Doctorate of Physical Therapy Degree Online

The curriculum of most online DPT programs combine classroom study and laboratory training with independent study and clinical experiences.  This could provide students with the principles of physical therapy, as well as actual hands-on training. Students pursuing their doctorate of physical therapy degree online might take classes in a variety of different sciences to gain a complete understanding of the human body and modern medical practices and technology. These courses may include:

  • Physical Therapy Procedures: This course focuses on the basic principles and the development of psychomotor skills related to infection control, vital signs, clinical emergencies, and body mechanics.
  • Kinesiology/ Pathomechanics: Students study human movement including anatomical, structural, and functional properties of the human body, which include connective tissues, muscular tissues, and skeletal structures.
  • Pharmacology: This class is focused on providing students with extensive knowledge about medications grouped by general effects and the types of disorders they are routinely used to treat, as well as the effect drugs may have on rehabilitation.
  • Diagnostic Imaging: Students are taught the various types of diagnostic imaging procedures. These include radiography, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear imaging.
  • Case Analysis: During this course, students will develop a comprehensive case presentation based on a selected patient in their practice setting. This case analysis will focus on the clinical decision making process through the care of the patient, from examination through prognosis and planned interventions.

Accreditations for Online DPT Programs and Online tDPT Programs

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is the only accreditation agency for entry-level physical therapy programs recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE)and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).[iv] Their focus is to provide a standard of education to physical therapy students that meet or exceed the Vision 2020 put forth by APTA. For this reason, all states require physical therapists earn a DPT from an CAPTE accredited program for licensure.[v]

Online tDPT programs aren’t accredited by CAPTE because many online tDPT program students already have their physical therapy license, they may not need to attend an accredited school. Many are acquiring their doctorate of physical therapy online degree. Please research your intended program to make sure that it meets your requirements.

However, many institutions that offer a tDPT also offer a DPT. That means many of the courses, as well as faculty, may be the same between the two programs. Additionally, there are many regional accrediting bodies that hold tDPT programs to similar standards as CAPTE.[vi]In order to promote as much consistency and quality, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), which is the governing body of CAPTE, provides all tDPT programs with two key documents and strategies. This is a consensus-based outcome competency document and a curricular.[vii]  Regardless, it’s still important for you to perform your own research to find a perfect school for your goals.

Take the Next Step to Earn Your Doctorate of Physical Therapy Degree Online

Now may be a perfect time to explore doctorate of physical therapy degree programs online. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wages for physical therapists in 2015 was $84,020.[viii] Plus, the BLS expects an increase of 34% of the number of physical therapists from the years 2014 to 2024. There are a number of reasons for this dramatic increase, including the baby-boomer generation remaining active in their elderly years and the potential increase in outpatient surgeries.[ix] With the updated APTA standards, practicing physical therapists may be required to return to school as well.

Why not begin your search for online doctorate of physical therapy degree programs here? Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page to learn more about individual doctorate of physical therapy degree online programs. This may include admission requirements, common curriculum, and faculty. From there, you can contact the online tDPT programs to request more information by filling out a simple form. We wish you success, both in your search and pursuit of a physical therapy career.


Sources:[i]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm | [ii]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 |[iii]apta.org/PTEducation/Overview/ |[iv]capteonline.org/WhatWeDo/|[v]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 |[vi]apta.org/PostprofessionalDegree/TransitionDPTFAQs/|[vii]apta.org/PostprofessionalDegree/TransitionDPTFAQs/ |[viii]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-5 | [ix]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-6

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