Online Doctoral Programs in Physical Therapy

Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
Updated June 17, 2024
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Physical therapists help patients recover from injuries, improve mobility and stability, and regain strength.

In a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program, you’ll strengthen your understanding of anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, and therapeutic treatment modalities. Explore the top-ranked online DPT programs, including typical courses and career options.

Degree Snapshot

  • Typical Admission Requirements: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; prerequisites in STEM.
  • Time to Completion: 3 years
  • Common Courses/Subjects: Coursework in kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, and biomechanics; clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience in healthcare settings.

Popular Online Healthcare Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Why Get a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree?

With a doctor of physical therapy, you’ll gain advanced knowledge and clinical training. Here are some benefits of earning a DPT:

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    Advanced Physical Therapy Coursework

    As a doctoral student, you’ll explore the musculoskeletal system, common physical therapy injuries, and treatment methods. These doctoral-level courses prepare you for careers in physical therapy.

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    Clinical Experience

    During a DPT, you’ll complete hands-on training under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Your clinical education will help you meet the licensure requirements, which include a minimum of 28 weeks for PT programs.

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    In-Demand Skills

    Physical therapists report higher demand than other healthcare practitioners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% job growth for physical therapists — much faster than average — and 9% job growth for other diagnosing and treating practitioners will see 9%.

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    Preparation for a Residency or Fellowship

    After earning a DPT, you can complete a clinical residency to gain experience in a specific area of clinical practice or a clinical fellowship to further specialize your skills

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    Board Certification Readiness

    DPT-prepared physical therapists can pursue board certification in 10 specialty areas, including geriatrics, pediatrics, and orthopedics. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers board certification for physical therapists.

Typical Physical Therapy Doctoral Courses

During your doctoral physical therapy program, you’ll take courses in human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. You’ll also explore kinesiology and exercise physiology to strengthen your understanding of evidence-based physical therapy approaches.

In addition to classroom requirements, you’ll complete labs, simulations, and clinical training to strengthen your hands-on skills. These components pair students with licensed physical therapists to gain clinical expertise.

While DPT programs have different curricula, many include these common courses:

  • Physical Assessment: You’ll learn how to conduct musculoskeletal assessments, including screening tests, scanning exams, and anatomical knowledge.
  • Therapeutic Exercises: Explore evidence-based exercise procedures to treat physical therapy conditions through clinical simulations.
  • Rehabilitation Procedures: Examine the best practices for rehabilitation, including assisted ambulation and training methods.
  • Pediatric Physical Therapy: Survey the applications of physical therapy for pediatric patients, including examination and evaluation techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Doctor of Physical Therapy

Physical therapists earn a median annual salary of $99,710, according to BLS data.

What Can You Do With a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree?

You can become a licensed physical therapist with a doctor of physical therapy degree. You’ll need a DPT from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education to meet licensure requirements.

As a physical therapist, you’ll help patients recover from injuries, gain strength after an illness, and manage chronic conditions. Physical therapists assess patients to create a specialized care plan. They guide patients through exercises and other therapies that improve mobility and encourage health.

Career Advancement

After earning your DPT degree, you can advance your career with a clinical residency or fellowship. You can also pursue board certification.

Postgraduate Programs

Physical therapists may complete a clinical residency or a fellowship to gain additional expertise in a specialty area. Residency programs typically take one year and include specializations in acute care, pediatric, and neurologic physical therapy.

With professional experience, physical therapists can also pursue board certification through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.


With a DPT degree, you can apply for licensure as a physical therapist in your state. You’ll typically need to pass a national exam and meet continuing education requirements to maintain your license. Because the licensure process and requirements vary by state, check with the licensure board in your state for specific information.

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations help physical therapists and students network, find job opportunities, and stay current. The American Physical Therapy Association is the most prominent professional organization. APTA hosts a career center, provides digital health tools, and offers clinical practice guidelines.

Take the Next Steps

Physical therapists are in high demand. Launch your career in this exciting field by applying to a doctoral physical therapy program.

Page last reviewed on May 17, 2024

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