If you’ve been looking to get a deep insight into the best schools for physical therapy (PT) in the US, then this article is for you.
You’ll not just learn about the best schools for physical therapy in the US; you’ll also get to know other key information about PT. From what physical therapists do, and the demand for them, to the skills needed to succeed in the field.
Furthermore, you’ll learn about the states that pay the highest for physical therapists and the annual average salary for those in the field.
If you read to the end, you’d get answers to most of the important questions you have about PT as a career.
Let’s get right into it.
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What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists, or physiotherapists, are health specialists who examine and treat patients with abnormal physical functions like injuries and disabilities.
They are trained movement experts who are poised to help their patients restore body functionality by improving movements in affected parts of their bodies. They can perform clinical diagnoses and give treatments without any external help.
Most physical therapists have broad hospital affiliations, as most of their patients are referred to them by medical doctors.
Are Physical Therapists in High demand?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physical therapists will grow by 17 percent from 2021 to 2031. There’s a projection of about 15,400 openings for physical therapists every year in the US.
That goes to say, the demand for physical therapists will be really high in the coming years. So if you’re already in the field, or you’re planning to venture into it, don’t give up on your dreams.
Best schools for physical therapy in the US
Standing out and getting many recommendations as a physical therapist requires you to be really, really wonderful in this field. Here are the schools where you can receive the best physical therapy education in the US:
1. University of Delaware
The University of Delaware is a public land-grant research university in Newark, Delaware. It ranks as No. 1 on the list of the best schools for physical therapy in the US.
The school offers a 2.5-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program that includes six residency and fellowship programs. Part of its DPT curriculum is an interdisciplinary PhD program in Biomechanics and Movement Science.
The DPT program at the University of Delaware has full accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
The faculty at the University of Delaware are consistently deep in research on how to make movement less stressful and more enjoyable. You’d sure learn a lot from this school.
You can visit the school website to learn more.
2. University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh is a public research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It ranks as one of the best schools with awesome physical therapy programs in the US.
The department of Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh offers several PT programs to its students. There’s the DPT program, which is available in both on-campus and hybrid formats, and there’s the DPT-PhD track. There’s also the PhD program in Rehabilitation Science, which affords you the opportunity to be more involved in the cutting-edge research that goes on in the school.
All the programs in Pitt’s department of Physical Therapy have full accreditation from CAPTE. You can visit the school website to learn more.
3. Washington University in St. Louis
There’s no doubt that Washington University in St. Louis made it onto this list. It consistently ranks high for almost all of its programs.
Being a private research university with its main campus in St. Louis County, Missouri, Washington University is a leader in PT education, patient care, and research. The school offers two doctoral programs—a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a PhD in Movement Science program. It also offers fellowship and residency programs to give DPT students the best clinical experience they can get.
The PT programs at Washington University in St. Louis have full accreditation from CAPTE. You can visit the school website to learn more.
4. Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
Northwestern University, a private research university in Evanston, Illinois, ranks as one of the best schools for physical therapy in the US. The school is not just one of the best, but also one of the largest in the nation. It offers admission to over 90 students every year in its DPT program.
Northwestern University offers the DPT programs and other challenging individualized programs like the DPT/PhD Engineering Double Degree, PhD in Neuroscience, etc.
The CAPTE-accredited PT programs are structured to train students to be expert practitioners or researchers in physical therapy.
You can visit the school website to learn more.
5. University of Iowa
The department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science takes in 48 new DPT students every July. The 2.5-year DPT program at the public research university in Iowa ranks among the best in the country.
Students in the department receive hands-on training at the university hospitals and clinics. The school owns one of the nation’s largest university-owned teaching hospitals and prides itself on leveraging it to give its students the best clinical experience.
The DPT program at the University of Iowa has an awesome track record. With a 2-year average of 100 percent records in licensure exams, graduation rate, and employment rate, you can be assured that you’d emerge from the school fully ready to face the real world.
You can visit the school website to learn more here.
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6. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California at Los Angeles ranks as one of the top 10 schools for physical therapy in the US. The private research university offers the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in two formats—residential and hybrid formats.
The residential DPT program requires you to live near the campus where you’ll attend classes and receive clinical recommendations in Los Angeles. However, the hybrid program permits you to study online and attend clinical sessions in any convenient hospital near you.
The programs have full accreditation from CAPTE. You can visit the school website to learn more.
7. Duke University
The DPT program at Duke University was established in 1943 as a certificate program to train physiotherapists who would help heal injured WWII soldiers. The program has gone on to produce some of the nation’s best physical therapists.
The private research university in Durham, North Carolina, has consistently ranked as one of the best schools for physical therapy in the US. The 100% average employment rate and 99% ultimate board pass rate are proof of its high-standard educational system.
The DPT program has full accreditation from CAPTE and other relevant accreditation bodies. You can visit the school website for more information.
8. Emory University
Emory University has several physical therapy degree options available for its prospective students. They are the DPT, dual DPT/PhD, DPT-MPH, DPT-MBA, and the DPT/MA-Bioethics dual degree programs. The school also offers a residency program to give students quality clinical experience.
Emory, a private research university in Atlanta, ranks as among the best schools for physical therapy in the US. All the PT programs at Emory University have full accreditation from CAPTE.
You can visit the website to get more information.
9. Creighton University
Creighton University is a private, Jesuit university in Omaha, Nebraska. This Catholic research university ranks as one of the best schools for physical therapy in the US.
Due to its commitment to providing quality physical therapists to areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals, it recently launched a 2nd DPT program in Phoenix, Arizona.
In addition to its rich academic curriculum, the department of physical therapy at Creighton has PT specialization tracks for its students. This is to enable students to gain more experience in the areas they want to specialize in, in the future.
The DPT programs at Creighton University have full accreditation from CAPTE. You can visit the school website for more information.
10. MGH Institute of Health Professions
MGH Institute of Health Professions is a private university in Boston, Massachusetts. As a health sciences-focused university, MGH Institute ranks among the best schools for physical therapy in the US.
The DPT students at MGH Institute learn from industry-leading experts who have enough clinical experience under their belt. The structure of the program gives students the opportunity to provide pro bono care to patients who might otherwise not receive services. This is done under the supervision of licensed clinicians at the on-campus PT Center.
The DPT program at MGH Institute has full accreditation from CAPTE. You can visit the school website to learn more.
11. Ohio State University
Ohio State University (OSU) is a public land-grant university in Columbus, Ohio. It’s one of the best schools for physical therapy in the US.
OSU offers an extensive Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy program to its students. It also offers five clinical residency programs for those who are already physiotherapists. The school has an experienced faculty and state-of-the-art facilities that provide the students with the best education.
The DPT program at OSU has full accreditation from CAPTE. You can visit the school website to learn more.
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What GPA Do I Need for Physical Therapy?
Most schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0 for their DPT programs. However, this is dependent on the institution. Some schools require a GPA higher than 3.0, while others accept a GPA of less than 3.0.
How Many Years Do I Need to Study to be a Physical Therapist?
You need to study for six to seven years to become a physical therapist. This is because most DPT programs require you to have completed a bachelor’s (which takes approximately four years to complete) before enrolling in the program.
Schools that offer DPT to high school graduates do so in a 3+3 program. This program requires you to complete 3 years of undergraduate coursework before starting the DPT program proper.
What Subjects Do I Need to Study for Physical Therapy?
Most schools for physical therapy in the US require you to complete the following prerequisites:
- Anatomy & Physiology 1 with lab
- Anatomy & Physiology 2 with lab
- Biology 1
- Biology 2
- General Chemistry 1 with lab
- General Chemistry 2 with lab
- General Physics 1 with lab
- General Physics 2 with lab
What are the Key Skills I Need to Succeed as a Physical Therapist?
Here are the key skills you need to succeed as a physical therapist:
- Communication skills
- Physical stamina
- Treatment planning
- Attention to details
- Interpersonal skills
- Operating medical diagnostic equipment
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Are There Specializations in Physical Therapy?
Here are the key areas you can specialize in as a physical therapist in the US:
This specialty deals with bones, joints, and spinal issues.
Physical therapists in this specialization attend to the physical needs of athletes.
Physical therapists in this specialization help cancer patients recover from loss of bone density and other issues.
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
This specialization deals with heart and lung issues.
Geriatrics deals with aged people who are suffering from musculoskeletal issues.
Physical therapists in this specialization deal with brain muscle issues.
It deals with nerve and muscle damage caused by wounds.
Pediatrics deals with children’s physical health needs.
What Jobs Can I Do With a Physical Therapy Degree?
As a physical therapist, you can work as:
- An exercise physiologist
- Physical therapist consultant
- Geriatric physical therapist
- Orthopedic physical therapist
- Neurological physical therapist
- Cardiopulmonary physical therapist
- Travel physical therapist
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Physical therapist trainer
- Sports physical therapist
What is the Salary Structure of Physical Therapy?
The salary structure of physical therapists can be captured in the following headings:
What is the Highest Salary a Physical Therapist Can Earn?
Sports medicine physical therapists are the highest-paid physical therapists with a salary range of $14,821 to $396,665.
What is the Average Salary for a Physical Therapist in the US?
According to Salary.com, the average annual salary of a physical therapist in the US is $95,101.
Those in the 10th to 25th percentile make between $81,537 and $88,001.
Those in the 75th to 90th percentile make between $102,801 and $109,811.
How Do I Become a Physical Therapist?
To become a physical therapist, you have to follow these steps:
Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field
Though some schools offer the 3+3 DPT program, most schools require you to complete a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in a related field like health science, physiology, sports, etc. will be an added advantage.
Complete the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Program
After your bachelor’s, you have to enroll in and complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy program in an accredited school.
Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)
Next, you must write and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination to qualify for licensure in the US. The computer-based test consists of 250 multiple-choice questions scored on a scale of 200-800. You’d need to score up to 600 on the test to get a pass mark.
Obtain a License to Practice
The next thing is to obtain your license and apply for physical therapist jobs in the state where you took the examination.
What are the Best Paying States for Physical Therapy?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the top paying states for physical therapists in the US:
|State||Mean Annual Salary|
Conclusion on Schools for Physical Therapy in the US
The role of physical therapists in the healthcare system cannot be overemphasized. There’s no wonder as to why their demand keeps rising in the labor market.
The schools listed in this article are the top in the nation. They have the faculty, the facilities, and the educational structure to give you the best education in physical therapy.
Now that you’ve learned about them, I hope you’ll stop at nothing to make your dream of becoming a physical therapist a reality.
Frequently Asked Questions About Schools for Physical Therapy
What Major is Best for PT School?
Any major in health science, exercise, or sports-related field will give you an edge in physical therapy admissions.
What PT School Has the Highest Acceptance Rate?
The University of Iowa, with an 82.55% acceptance rate, is the easiest school to get into for a PT program.
Which is Harder, PT School or Med School?
Med schools require more classroom and clinical rotation hours than PT schools. Therefore, it is safe to say med school is harder than PT school.
Do I Need an MCAT for Physical Therapy?
An MCAT is not required for admission into a school of physical therapy. Most PT schools, however, require the GRE for admission.
Are Physical Therapists Doctors?
Technically speaking, physical therapists are doctors. This is because of their doctorate degree awards upon completion of their programs. However, physical therapists are not physicians.
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