Online Physical Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs & Schools

Online Physical and Occupational Therapy Programs deliver some or all courses in a digital format. They are designed to help learners at various stages of their career broaden their base of knowledge and clinical skills.

Within this category, there are several types of programs to choose from. These are physical therapy, occupational therapy, kinesiology and athletic training. While they share the aim of wellness and rehabilitation, all are quite distinct from one another and may further different goals. For instance, some online physical and occupational therapy programs aim to prepare students to take required state licensure exams in their technical field. Others are planned-out for current professionals with experience. These post-professional online programs might help students boost credentials, refine expertise and learn to apply evidence to practice.

Why earn a graduate degree in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Online?written by Rana Waxman

Online Physical and Occupational Therapy Programs & Degrees

Online Physical and Occupational Therapy degrees may be awarded at several levels, from masters and doctorate degrees to graduate certificates. Most programs include core courses, electives, and research components. These are generally designed to help students with any final project, thesis or dissertation that caps their program.

Online Occupational Therapy Degrees could help students learn how to treat injured, ill or disabled patients so that they can function in their daily activities. i

Online Physical Therapy Degrees typically explore ways to help injured or ill people improve their range of motion and decrease pain.ii

Online Athletic Training Degrees might focus on methods to prevent, diagnose, and treat muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.iii

Online Kinesiology Degrees could focus on exercise physiology and ways to improve overall patient health through movement and health education.iv


Physical therapy, by 2020, will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy and who may be board-certified specialists.v

Online Occupational Therapy Programs

Online occupational therapy programs could award degrees in OT, as well as related areas of study such as assistive technology. Admission to each program varies but typically requires a minimum of a bachelors degree. Most online masters in OT programs could take 2 to 3 years to complete, and on average, doctoral programs take about 3 years. Typically, both masters and doctoral programs require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork. Here, occupational therapy students gain clinical work experience as they apply what they have learned into practice.i

In some online OT programs, students complete their assignments on their own time to prepare for live online classes and office hours. You may also find occupational therapy schools online that offer interactive course work. These could connect you with OTs around the world, with no in-person requirements. Of course every program is unique, so contact schools directly to learn about courseworks, formats and timelines.

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. And, although state regulations vary, candidates must pass the national exam given by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To sit for this exam, students are required to have earned their degree at an accredited program. As a result, if this is your goal, you may want to look for an online OT program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.i Below are a few types on online OT programs for you to consider.

Online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program

The online post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is a clinical, and practice-focused doctorate. It is designed for occupational therapists that have earned their masters degree before they apply. In their program, students could work to enhance their clinical and analytical skills and knowledge in a special area of interest (e.g. geriatrics, pediatrics). In fact, many programs stress clinical studies and ways to make decisions based on this evidence. Electives help students expand on interests. These could delve into areas such as autism, biomechanics, assistive technology and more. For their final research project, distance learners might get to complete a digital professional portfolio.

Online Master of Science in Assistive Technologies

The online Master of Science in Assistive Technologies program could explore ways to assess, assist, train, and empower those who need and use assistive technology in their daily lives. Students may be able to enter into this type of program with a bachelors degree in any major.

In their courses, students could discuss a variety of topics, from functional biology to counseling. Moreover, they might study how to design and apply assistive technologies as they develop a deeper grasp of the human body and the impact of injury or illness. 

Online Physical Therapy Programs

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is one of the most common PT programs, as it is the clinical entry degree. However at the graduate-level, online Physical Therapy programs also may award the post-professional DPT degree. The ppDPT is considered the next level for current PT professionals.iv  As a result, applicants to a post-professional program are expected to have a DPT degree and current PT license.

With respect to accreditation, physical therapy programs could be approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If your goal is to achieve board certification in a clinical specialty (e.g. orthopedics, sports, geriatrics), program accreditation could be important. Board-certification requires PTs to pass an exam and complete about two thousand hours of clinical work. Or, they might finish an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) accredited residency program in that area.ii 

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

An online post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (ppDPT) is often referred to as a transitional (tDPT) program. Since the Doctor of Physical Therapy is now the entry-level practice degree, an online ppDPT might help current and longtime practitioners stay up-to-date as they continue to practice. In fact, students often choose their own degree plan to help them meet personal career goals. 

In their courses, students could discuss professional values, screening/risk, diagnostic imaging, pharmacology and other topics. Many of these courses may be offered online. However, students in some programs may have to go to campus for a brief residency to complete a supervised physical therapy practicum course.

Online Athletic Training Programs

Online Athletic Training programs could discuss injury treatment from the standpoint of the health sciences or, tackle a related field such as sport management. Some programs may be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). This could apply to athletic trainer programs, such as post-professional and residency athletic programs.iii Others may be offered by accredited schools. Contact programs or accrediting bodies to learn more.

Online Doctor of Education/Athletic Training

The online Doctor of Education in Athletic Training program may appeal to athletic trainers who are currently in higher education and want to move up the ladder. Or, to those who want to pursue a teaching career, since courses may focus on topics of interest to educators. For instance, core EdD topics often explore pedagogy, research methods, and motivation theory. The athletic training emphasis is likely to discuss issues such as how to apply evidence to treat injury and look at core topics in the context of athletics.

Online Master of Science in Sport Management

The online Master of Science in Sport Management program with a focus in sport leadership could help students develop their business knowledge as it relates to sports. Coursework might stress several key topics from operations and finance to media relations, marketing, and current issues like gambling. Students could also study sport sponsorship, product licensing and legal issues. In addition to their courses, students are usually required to take part in a supervised practicum in a sport management setting. This could help to build up professional skills and synthesize course material.

Online Doctor of Athletic Training

An online Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) degree might help students develop their clinical and professional skills and knowledge. Distinct from an academic degree (e.g. PhD), the DAT degree is a terminal degree. It is dedicated to athletic training and evidence-based practice. Students could therefore study to gain expertise in areas such as orthopedic rehabilitation and athletic injury epidemiology. In other courses, students might explore topics that could be applied into their current career. Leadership, patient safety, and movement dysfunction are some examples.

Online Kinesiology Programs

Online kinesiology programs could discuss science and health-related course, such as biology, anatomy, and nutrition. Kinesiotherapists, or exercise physiologists, work with patients to help them recover through appropriate exercise plans. Masters programs are common, as they might help students prepare for a specific certification called the Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist ® (RCEP). With respect to accreditation, some exercise-oriented programs could be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Online Master of Science in Kinesiology

An online Master of Science in Kinesiology is a post-professional exercise science degree. It is typically designed for current licensed healthcare and fitness professionals who want to develop their expertise in kinesiology, exercise science, health and fitness. As such, aside from a bachelors degree, applicants tend to need related work experience, NCCA accreditation or another similar status. Requirements vary.

In their program, students could take courses that build off prior education in exercise physiology, kinesiology and biomechanics. Also, learners could be exposed to evidence-based research which might offer new insights into their work with clients, patients and populations. Some programs could also provide students with the option to pursue a specific track. Sports Conditioning, Exercise and Sports Psychology, Geriatric Exercise Science, or Corrective Exercise & Orthopedic Rehabilitation are some examples.

Online Master of Science in Kinesiology/Sport Management

The online Master of Science in Kinesiology with a focus in sport management program explores the business and managerial aspects of sport and recreation. This type of degree program could have a few facets. Sport management core courses are likely to discuss topics such as finance, sport law, social issues and organizational behavior. Electives could cover facilities management, governance or sports administration. Students typically use these courses to mold their degree to personal goals. Last, students could take courses in research methods, or pursue a topic of interest through independent study.

Why Consider Online Physical and Occupational Therapy Programs?

Online Physical and Occupational Therapy programs could provide the level of flexibility you need to achieve a graduate degree. Many programs are work-friendly, where you can access your courses at times and in places that fit your schedule. Beyond this, some schools provide a choice of formats. Either take one course at a time, or double up to accelerate your time to completion. Add to that, many physical and occupational therapy online programs offer the same courses as their campus counterparts, so you don’t have to sacrifice quality. 

Online Structure and Format

Some online Physical and Occupational Therapy programs are “100%” online. Students could complete coursework, take part in class discussions, and work with faculty on their own schedule. Others entail a residency or brief residencies. This makes sense especially where the hands-on component is vital to learning. While residencies differ between schools (week-long, week-end etc.) they could provide the chance to obtain face-to-face practical mentoring. Plus, students may wish to establish relationships with peers and faculty. This could help build networks and contacts that could add value to an online education.  

Boost Professional Skills

Graduate-level online Physical and Occupational Therapy programs could explore professional practice skills, leadership and interpersonal communication. You could study how to make clinical decisions based on research, manage conflicts or help patients. Then see if you can apply your new insight into your workplace.

Apply Research

Applied research is key to most Physical and Occupational Therapy Online Programs. In some programs, students take courses in research methods and design. This type of course could help students develop a research proposal. For instance, students could learn to identify an issue, review literature, develop a hypothesis, design and submit a written study. Other courses in this genre might explore statistical analysis, and ways to collect and analyze data. More than just research, students could learn how to implement solutions to problems in their technical area.

Search for Online Physical and Occupational Therapy Programs

Potentially earn your online degree in physical therapy, occupational therapy, athletic training or kinesiology without the need to relocate or put your career on hold. Review online Physical and Occupational Therapy programs in your desired field easily with the on-page tools. Then request information from schools directly to get started today.

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