Online Physical Therapy Graduate Programs

Potential Benefits of Online Physical Therapy Graduate Programs

Online physical therapy graduate programs may be the perfect option for licensed physical therapists to further their education and enhance their career. As a doctorate of physical therapy degree is now the standard of education required for physical therapists, currently practicing professionals who have a master of physical therapy may want to earn their doctorate to meet new industry standards[i]. Or, they may want to become a board certified specialist in one of eight different areas to show patients they’re an expert in a specific area. Online graduate certificate programs in physical therapy could be a great way to develop specialized knowledge and prepare for certification exams.

So, if you’re a physical therapist looking to continue your education online, continue reading to learn more about online physical therapy graduate programs.

We asked Mark Blankespoor how online physical therapy graduate programs can advance your career:

"My Physical Therapy degree has significantly impacted my personal and professional life. Because of the focus on wellbeing in Physical Therapy education, I have been able to stay focused on optimizing my personal health and relationships and have developed significant leadership skills in the health professional world."online physical therapy graduate programs

 Mark Blankespoor of Protactive PT Coach 


Earning Your Online Physical Therapy Graduate Degree: Basics

Online physical therapy graduate programs are generally limited to two different types of programs: the transitional doctor of physical therapy (tDPT) and physical therapy graduate certificates. That’s because physical therapy doctorate programs typically have a hands-on educational process and require a certain number of clinical hours. Those new to

the profession, and pursuing a DPT, may be better served through on campus programs. However, those pursuing either a tDPT or a board certification are typically licensed physical therapists and have already acquired a certain number of clinical hours. Therefore, online learning may be the most convenient and effective option.

Online tDPT Programs

The doctor of physical therapy has become the standard degree to practice physical therapy, as it is now required for licensure in the US. Masters in physical therapy (MPT) or masters of science in physical therapy (MSPT) degree programs are typically no longer available.[iii] Those that have already been licensed may not have a doctorate degree however. These professionals might want to pursue an online physical therapy program to meet new industry standards.[iv] This is where the tDPT comes in.

Transitional doctor of physical therapy (tDPT) programs are the most common online physical therapy program and may take one to three years to complete, depending on previous education and experience. Program lengths vary by school.  While pursuing your tDPT, you’re likely to take classes in the sciences and courses specifically related to the human body.[v]These courses may include medical screening, pharmacology, and diagnostic imaging.

To apply for to a tDPT program, students may need a bachelors in physical therapy degree, a masters in physical therapy, or a certificate from a CAPTE-accredited program. You also will likely need to be a licensed or licensure-eligible physical therapist. This ensures that you have already acquired the clinical knowledge, skills, and behaviors to a level consistent with industry standards. [vi]

The Physical Therapy Evaluation Tool (PTET) helps take your current knowledge and skills into account. This is an online tool that allows applicants for an online transitional doctor of physical therapy to upload their experience and avoid taking classes they’re already proficient in. The PTET includes two different sections, a task performance component and a professional portfolio, which document areas that have contributed to a physical therapist’s professional development.

The PTET combined with the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) makes the application process unique to online physical therapy programs. After using PTET, applicants can use the PTCAS to upload the completed application and official transcripts from every regional accredited school attended.[vii] And because different online tDPT programs have different admissions requirements, applicants can also upload references, signed PT observation hours, and official GRE scores. This may make it easier for applicants to apply to several different schools.[viii]

When it comes to earning a doctor of physical therapy degree, which is an entry-level degree, one of the requirements to sit for the national licensing exam is graduating from a CAPTE-accredited school.[ix] However, because those pursuing an online tDPT degree are already licensed physical therapists, there is no need for CAPTE to accredit the programs. It’s still important to keep in mind that there are many regional accreditations that hold tDPT programs to similar standards as DPT programs. Also, many institutions that offer tDPT degree programs also offer accredited DPT program. This may mean there may be similarities between the two programs.[x] Carefully research your preferred programs to ensure you find a program that may meet your needs.

You can learn more about online tDPT programs by browsing sponsored program listings and contacting schools directly.

Online Physical Therapy Graduate Certificates and Specialty Board Certification Programs

Earning your board certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) may be a great way to enhance your physical therapy career. ABPTS certifications demonstrates that you have the advanced clinical skills and knowledge in a certain physical therapy specialty. To earn certification, you must pass a specialist certification examination and have a current physical therapy. At least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the specialty hours, 25% of which must have occurred in the last three years, is also required.[xi] Online physical therapy certificate programs might be the perfect way to expand your skills and knowledge and prepare for certification.

Typically, physical therapy post-professional clinical certificate programs are part-time and online. This may make it convenient for those who are working full-time to take courses and perform coursework according to their schedule. The curriculum of these programs is normally evidence-based courses designed to help students succeed as clinical specialists.

The ABPTS offers board certification in eight different areas:

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary

  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports
  • Women’s Health

However, not all schools offer programs for each of the certifications. That’s why it’s important to research individual schools to find a perfect one for you. Browse our online physical therapy certificate program offerings to learn more.

Potential Benefits of Earning Your Physical Therapy Graduate Degree Online

Online learning continues to grow in popularity because of the freedom it might provide students. Online tDPT programs and physical therapy certification programs may allow students to continue working and maintain their current responsibilities while earning their degree. However, this doesn’t mean that online courses are easier. In fact, because of this freedom, it’s important to remember that more of the scheduling responsibility falls on the student.

There are more potential benefits to online learning than simply the freedom of scheduling. Typically, researchers have found that there may be more in depth discussions in online classes because students don’t have as much anxiety about sharing their true feelings. Also, students could improve their virtual communication skills through the use of multimedia, such as podcasts, webinars, videos, and even social media aspects such as Facebook groups and blogs. Different schools and programs offer different online formats and tools, so be sure to read program descriptions carefully and contact schools for further details. 

Take the Next Step to Earn Your Online Physical Therapy Graduate Degree

Online physical therapy graduate programs may help licensed physical therapists enhance their career by furthering their skills and knowledge. Online tDPT programs or physical therapy certificate programs could help you develop the clinical knowledge to provide patients with the best possible care. Ready to get started? Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page for more information on individual online programs. Or use the menu to view online programs by degree level. Then, request more information to find the perfect school to further your education!

Sources:[i] | [ii] |[iii] |[iv]|[v] |[vi] |[vii]|[viii][ix] |[x] |[xi]

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