British Columbia Physical Therapy Graduate Schools

Potential Benefits of Physical Therapy Graduate Schools

Physical therapy graduate schools may provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to properly help patients recover, prevent, and manage pain from chronic conditions or surgeries. Plus, the educational requirement to become a physical therapist in the US is now a doctorate of physical therapy. This is a recent change and means masters of physical therapy (MPT) or masters of science of physical therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered at American universities. Therefore, if you’re hoping to pursue a career as a physical therapist, earning your DPT degree may be the only way.[i]

Because physical therapy is such a hands-on profession, and graduate degrees typically require a combination of coursework, lab study, and 30 weeks of clinical work[1], earning your physical therapy graduate degree on-campus might be a great option for you. The on-campus format may allow students to gain real life experience under the guidance of professors and learn from in person demonstrations. So, if you enjoy helping others and want to use that passion to aid patients managing pain from chronic conditions, illnesses, or surgeries, continue reading to learn more about physical therapy graduate schools.

Did You Know? Physical therapists may be able to treat vertigo in as little as one session. 

Physical Therapy Graduate Schools: Basics

Physical therapists help patients recover, rehabilitate and prevent and manage pain. Therefore, everything at physical therapy graduate schools promotes the education of students to get to that point. Typically, physical therapy graduate programs consist of coursework, lab study, and clinical experiences. This type of well-rounded education might instill the continued learning necessary for physical therapists to keep up with new techniques and technologies. The clinical work typically enhances what students are taught during lectures and lab study and is for a minimum of 30 weeks.[2] This hands-on learning may provide students with supervised experience in such areas as acute care and orthopedic care, and makes physical therapy graduate programs perfect for on campus learning. 

As stated above, a doctorate of physical therapy is now the educational requirement for licensed physical therapists. Normally, a full-time student can earn their doctor of physical therapy degree in three years. However, some physical therapy graduate schools offer a six or seven year option that, upon graduation, awards students both a bachelors in physical therapy and a DPT degree. Program lengths vary by school.  Graduate certificate programs in physical therapy may also be available, allowing current physical therapists to continue and specialize their knowledge. Programs vary, so contact your preferred schools for details.

Accreditation and Admissions for Physical Therapy Graduate Schools

When it comes to physical therapy graduate schools, there is only one national accrediting agency, the Commission on Accrediting in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Accreditation may be one of the more important aspects when researching physical therapy graduate programs because a requirement for sitting for the national physical therapy licensing exam is earning your DPT degree from a CAPTE-accredited program. Attending a CAPTE-accredited program ensures that the program meets the education standards set forth by the physical therapy profession and assures the public that all physical therapists are healthcare professionals.[ii]Currently, CAPTE accredits over 200 physical therapist education programs, so there might be plenty of schools to choose from!

To attend physical therapy graduate programs, applicants typically are required to have a bachelors in physical therapy or a masters of physical therapy. This helps establish a solid foundation of skills and knowledge that graduate programs will build upon. Some programs also require that you’ve taken specific science courses while earning your undergraduate degree. These may include anatomy, biology, and physiology, all of which are important for earning your graduate degree and pursuing a career as a licensed physical therapist.[iii] Other programs may also require a minimum GPA while earning your bachelors and a separate, minimum GPA in the science courses. Programs vary, so read listings carefully and contact schools for more details.

The good news is that the admissions process to physical therapy graduate schools may be simpler than most. This is because of the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), a service which allows students to upload their application and official transcripts and easily share them with specific schools. And, because all physical therapy graduate programs have different admission requirements, PTCAS also allows students to upload additional items, which may include GRE and TOEFL scores, references, and signed PT observation hours. 

Curriculum and Clinical Work Required to Earn Your Physical Therapy Graduate Degree

The curriculum at physical therapy graduate schools often focuses on the human body and science. This may provide students with an understanding on how to use stretches, exercise, and training to help ease patients’ pain and increase their mobility. Sometimes, coursework could cover the use of equipment such as canes, walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs, as well.

Physical therapists typically diagnose patients by talking to them about their pain and concerns, and observing their movements and functions. By developing a complete understanding of the human body, and of the responsibilities of physical therapists, graduate degrees might help you prepare to evaluate a patients’ progress, modify the plan as needed, and educate patients and their families on what to expect during recovery.[iv]

Common courses include, but are not limited to:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Biomechanics
  • Pharmacology[i]
  • Kinesiology

While earning your physical therapy graduate degree, you will also be required to perform 30 weeks of clinical work.[3] This provides students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge obtained in the classroom to real patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Some physical therapy graduate schools use both integrated and full-time approaches to clinical work. This means observing licensed physical therapists as part of some courses and then spending a certain number of consecutive weeks in clinical study without any coursework. This approach may facilitate learning by providing structured learning experiences and providing students the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired.

Potential Benefits of Earning Your Physical Therapy Graduate Degree On-Campus

Traditional, on-campus physical therapy graduate schools most frequently offer an entry-level doctor of physical therapy degree program, which is required to sit for the national physical therapist licensing exam. If you aren’t a licensed physical therapist and want to become one, earning your DPT is the only way to become a physical therapist.

There are, however, other potential benefits to earning your graduate degree on-campus. These potential benefits include a more structured environment, face-to-face communication, and the ability to solve problems in real time. Especially when it comes to health care professions such as physical therapy, often it may be easier to learn and apply knowledge to a lab study or clinical experience while attending classes in person. 

On-campus learning may also provide students with more resources while pursuing their physical therapy graduate degree. This may include in-person office hours to meet with professors, tutors, and various resources at the campus library. Plus, taking classes and completing degree requirements side-by-side with your peers could create camaraderie and friendship that you may not be able to get through online learning. 

Take the Next Step to Earn Your Physical Therapy Graduate Degree

Physical therapy graduate schools could help prepare you to pursue a career as a physical therapist. Ready to take the first steps? Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page for more information about individual schools. From there, you can see curriculum, admission requirements, and even request more information! Research these physical therapy graduate schools to find the perfect match to earn your doctor of physical therapy degree.


Sources:[1]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [i]apta.org/PTEducation/Overview/ | [2]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [ii]capteonline.org/WhatWeDo/ImportanceofAccreditation/  | [3]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [iii]capteonline.org/WhatWeDo/ | [iv]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [v]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-2

Find Schools