Best Online Physical Therapy Programs
Why Should I Become a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapy is a fast-growing job. Our top 20 accredited online colleges in physical therapy give you a good start.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for physical therapists will grow by 22% by 2028. This is more than four times the average growth rate for all jobs! The need for physical therapist assistants is expected to increase by 27% in the next ten years, too.
More than 72 million Americans are Baby Boomers. They were born between 1946 and 1964. This is the second-largest generation. It’s aging, too. This is causing growing demand for physical therapy.
If you become a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant, you’ll gain job security. It’s a rewarding career as well. As a physical therapist , you’ll help patients live healthier lives. They’ll also live lives free of pain. A physical therapy degree will set you up for a stable career in the physical therapy field.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
What will you do with a degree in physical therapy? Simply put, physical therapists help patients improve their mobility. They help patients manage pain, too.
First, physical therapists diagnose a patient through observation and screening. Then, they develop a plan for recovery. That plan might include exercises or stretching. It might also include the use of specialized equipment.
A physical therapist assistant helps put a patient’s care plan into action. They do treatments like stretching and massage. A PT assistant also often keeps track of a patient’s progress. They might make suggestions for improved patient care to the physical therapist.
Physical therapists have a fulfilling career in a much-needed profession. A physical therapy degree prepares you to enjoy your career.
Can I Earn a Physical Therapy Degree Online?
Yes! There are fully online physical therapy degree programs. These tend to be Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy programs. These are designed to help practicing physical therapists meet today’s educational standards for the industry.
What if you’re just starting out and need a physical therapy bachelor degree online? You’ll likely need to attend an on-campus program for your physical therapy education.
On this list, you’ll find traditional programs offered by universities. They have respected online learning as well. At these schools, you can complete some of your coursework online for your physical therapy education.
What Are the Best Online Physical Therapy Programs?
So, you’re interested in the career of physical therapists? Accredited Online College can help with our list of the best physical therapy online programs.
We use the most recent data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Each online program is scored individually. It’s then compared to other universities that offer the same degree. We then determine the final score you see by each ranking.
Accredited Online College considers many factors when ranking “physical therapy schools online accredited.” Among them are the affordability, student-to-faculty ratio, and the number of programs offered on-campus and online. To learn more about out online programs, visit our methodology page.
Check out these Online Physical Therapy Degrees!
1. Baker College
Baker College is the largest not-for-profit, private college in Michigan. It is a top choice for physical therapy programs. It is also holds the top spot in our rankings of online schools for physical therapy.
Baker offers courses online and at several campuses across the state. This school caters to non-traditional students who need flexibility. With Baker Online, you can easily access your virtual classroom. You can do so at any time and from anywhere.
Baker College has an Associate of Applied Science program. It’s designed to train future physical therapist assistants. It’s a 78-credit-hour program. You are required to attend classes on campus. This can be done at:
- Baker’s Allen Park
- Auburn Hills
However, you can complete several of the 28 general education credit hours through Baker Online. This includes online classes in psychology, composition, and anatomy.
Fifty credit hours in Baker’s AAS program focus on the physical therapist assistant major. There are three clinical experiences. This gives you a total of 18 hours. The clinical ensure that you train in a real work setting for physical therapists. Graduates will be prepared to sit for the National Physical Therapy Assistants Examination exam.
Learn more about Online Physical Therapy Programs at Baker College here.
2. Siena Heights University
Siena Heights University is a Catholic school. It’s based in Adrian, MI. It has eight additional locations across the state. The university serves about 2,300 students. SHU Saints benefit from a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Siena Heights offers a pre-physical therapy concentration for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree. This online physical therapy school concentration helps you focus your undergraduate studies. The classes prepare you to work toward a Doctor of Physical Therapy. You are supported by a student advisor.
SHU’s pre-physical therapy students are encouraged to major in biology. The biology program offers four courses with the Gray Institute. The Institute is a leading online educator for physical therapists. They train athletic trainers and chiropractors as well.
Biology is not a major offered through SHU’s fully online bachelor’s degree program. However, you might be able to complete general courses online.
Learn more about this Physical Therapy Degree Online at Siena Heights University here.
3. University of South Dakota
The University of South Dakota is based in the town of Vermillion. It is the state’s main university. There are more than 10,000 students.
Become a Coyote by enrolling in USD’s Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (t-DPT) program. It is the first online doctoral program in the South Dakota university system.
USD’s online physical therapy degree program is for licensed physical therapists that want to advance their education. You can get a doctoral degree while you continue to practice.
Licensed physical therapists in this program take 25 credit hours over five semesters. This means you can finish the program in about two years.
All coursework aligns with the American Physical Therapy Association’s educational standards. To graduate, you must complete a clinical research project. You do so with help from a faculty mentor.
This is an fast path to a doctoral degree. This means there is a lot of job experience required. For example, applicants with only a bachelor’s degree should have at least ten years of experience.
Learn more about these Online Physical Therapy Programs at University of South Dakota here.
4. Washburn University
Washburn University is located in Located in Topeka, KS. It offers an Associate of Science program for future physical therapist assistants.
The program has really good success rates. Over the past three years, 95% of Washburn’s PTA graduates have passed the National Physical Therapy Exam. Additionally, 80% of Washburn’s students earn their degrees in just two years.
Washburn’s PTA students have access to a 2,500-square-foot facility on campus. This building allows you to gain hands-on experience with advanced physical therapy equipment.
This is a 70-credit-hour program. It’s housed in Washburn’s Allied Health Department. Twenty-four students are admitted each year. All students take three clinical experiences. Clinicals last 17 weeks.
Washburn’s PTA is a traditional on-campus program. But, this university offers many courses online. The Allied Health department has classes online. You might be able to complete your general classes through the College of Arts and Sciences’ online coursework.
Learn more about these Online Physical Therapy Programs at Washburn University here.
5. Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University is in downtown Cleveland. It is close to the Cleveland Clinic. It is one of the biggest hospitals in the country. It is also one of the most respected.
Students in CSU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program benefit from partnerships with the Clinic. The school has partnerships with more than 140 additional clinical sites. As such, physical therapists receive a quality education at Cleveland State.
Cleveland State’s three-year DPT program requires 133 credits. There is a core physical therapy curriculum. CSU’s doctoral students also take six elective credits.
Many students choose to conduct research. This is done with help from a faculty member. This work can lead to publication. It might also lead to presenting at a national conference. CSU’s DPT students also undertake 41 weeks of off-campus clinical training.
To apply, you should already have a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t meet the requirements, you might be able to earn these online.
CSU also offers limited online classes in the DPT program. For example, you can take a basic pharmacotherapeutics course online.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Cleveland State University here.
6. Northern Illinois University
At Northern Illinois University, you get the perks of joining a large student body. But you don’t sacrifice attention from your professors. NIU has more than 16,000 students. However, it maintains a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
NIU is based in Dekalb, IL. It’s about 60 miles west of Chicago. Students in NIU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program get a unique advantage. They have access to the university’s Physical Therapy Clinic.
Here, you begin working directly with patients within your first year of study. This initial experience is in addition to four off-campus clinical experiences. This totals at least 30 hours. All that hands-on learning is very helpful for finding a job.
In fact, in the last three years, all of the program’s students have found employment after graduation.
To apply, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. You will also need at least 50 hours of documented experience in a physical therapy work setting. There are required courses, too. Many of them can be completed through NIU Online.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Northern Illinois University here.
7. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Based in Lubbock, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is the state’s leading educator of health care professionals. More than 28,000 graduates earned their degrees from one of TTUHSC’s five schools and online programs.
TTUHSC offers a Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy. It has a focus in orthopedic practice. This Sc.D. program allows practicing physical therapists to keep working. Candidates often use their work to inform their final dissertation. This can be in either clinical research or clinical teaching. The curriculum also prepares graduates for the Orthopaedic Certified Specialist (OCS) exam.
The Sc.D. program combines weekend in-person courses with additional online learning. On campus, candidates train in cutting-edge technology in TTUHSC’s newly built, multi-million dollar facilities.
All TTUHSC graduates who have applied for academic positions in the past have been hired. Additionally, many of its students go on to teach entry-level physical therapy programs. They also lead their clinic’s post-professional courses.
Learn more about the Physical Therapy Degree Online at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center here.
8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina ranked at No. 5 on U.S. News & World Report’s Top Public Schools. The University is one of the most well-respected colleges in the country.
This university has two Nobel Laureates among its faculty. Its School of Medicine has earned its fair share of accolades too. It holds the No. 15 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the top physical therapy schools online.
Within UNC’s School of Medicine is the Department of Allied Health Sciences. This department offers a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. The two-year, part-time t-DPT prepares physical therapists to teach. It also prepares them for work in a clinical setting. The degree is ideal for those who want to start their own clinical practice, too.
UNC’s t-DPT program is meant for distance learners. It includes online coursework. To graduate, you’ll take at least 12 courses and complete a case study capstone project.
Learn more about the Online Physical Therapy Programs at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill here.
9. University of Michigan-Flint
The University of Michigan is a nationwide leader in higher education. It ranks No. 3 on U.S. News & World Report’s Top Public Schools. UM-Flint is part of the mission to extend academic excellence across the state. UM-Flint’s students have access to research and student resources at all of UM’s campuses.
UM-Flint offers a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program. It is highly customizable. The program takes about three years to finish. It does not follow a set curriculum. Instead, new students work with a faculty advisor to develop an learning plan. This program is for practicing physical therapists.
This degree’s coursework is delivered entirely online. All candidates take two core classes. These courses are in evidence-based practice and service-learning.
From there, you can choose from several courses. These classes cover topics like:
Classwork is complemented by hands-on learning. This includes interviewing and developing business plans for practicing physical therapists.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at University of Michigan-Flint here.
10. Wayne State University
Wayne State University is in downtown Detroit. This university puts research to work for its community. For example, WSU launched an Integrative Biosciences Initiative. This research effort helped reduce Detroit’s health inequities.
By enrolling in WSU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, you’ll be on your way to joining the ranks of licensed physical therapists. You will have extensive research opportunities. This research can cause positive change.
This DPT degree takes ten semesters or three and a half years to complete. The program is designed for full-time students. Pursuing it part-time might be an option.
Students follow a set curriculum. You will complete significant clinical hours at one of WSU’s sites. It has more than 170 partners. In the last three years, all of WSU’s graduates have passed their exams and found employment.
As with many online PT schools, you must take certain courses before enrolling. Many of these classes can be done through Wayne State Online.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Wayne State University here.
11. Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University was established in 1997 in Fort Myers, Florida. It’s a young university. However, it’s growing fast. Enrollment has grown from 200 to 15,000 students in two decades.
The growth of the school is due to the business drive among FGCU’s faculty and students. In fact, one-fifth of FGCU’s students have started their own businesses.
Is your goal to open your own clinical practice? If so, FGCU’s Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program might be the right fit.
This physical therapy program is for distance learners. Students are experienced physical therapists seeking to advance their practice. This can be done by studying the field’s latest practices.
You will complete 30 credit hours of required courses. These classes cover topics like:
- diagnostic imaging
- medical Spanish
- professional issues in physical therapy
To graduate, you must complete a case study as your capstone project.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Florida Gulf Coast University here.
12. Utica College
Utica College is based in Utica, NY. It’s a private university with a strong online presence. There are several fully online degree programs.
Utica is also a top online school. It is ranked by U.S. News & World Report for its online undergraduate and graduate learning opportunities.
Utica’s Post Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy is an online physical therapy program. There is only one on-campus course. This ppDPT’s curriculum goes into topics like:
- Running your own practice
- Using the latest diagnostic imaging technology
- Addressing global health care issues
Only 18 credits are required for graduation.
As a Utica doctoral student, you can customize your capstone project. This means you can match it to your specific goals for the program.
For example, if you intend to use your ppDPT to teach, then your project might be on a new teaching-learning discovery. Or, if your goal is to improve the services offered at your current workplace, your project might focus on a research initiative that you then present to your colleagues.
This program is for already working physical therapists.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Utica College here.
13. Andrews University
Andrews University sits a few short miles from Lake Michigan’s beaches in Berrien Springs, MI. This Christian university serves less than 5,000 students. Within its College of Health & Human Services is the School of Rehabilitation Sciences. The school offers two distance learning opportunities for physical therapists.
The first is a Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy. This is the highest degree a student can earn in this field. Andrews partners with the North American Institute of Orthopaedic Manual Therapy to ensure its degree-holders earn recognition as Certified Manual Physical Therapists. Andrews’ candidates are also prepared to teach at a university and undertake scholarly research.
This physical therapy program is 35-64 credit hours. Its requirements depend on your previous school experience. Online learning is done in addition to clinical practice. There are a few on-campus intensives, too.
Andrews also offers a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. This program can be completed mostly online. It can also be completed in as little as 18 months.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Andrews University here.
14. Kent State University at East Liverpool
Kent State University at East Liverpool is on the Ohio River. It’s near the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The university has just over 1,000 students. East Liverpool’s graduates benefit from a close-knit campus. You will also benefit from the connection with Kent State University. Kent state has more than 250,000 alumni.
Kent State’s East Liverpool campus offers an Associate of Science degree in Physical Therapy Assistant Technology. It takes two years to earn. This program combines on-campus classes and lab work. There is also off-campus clinical training.
What if you’re also interested in becoming a certified athletic trainer? Then Kent State might be the best school for you. This campus is the first in the country to offer a hybrid ATC-to-PTA program. This degree covers the core competencies needed by both athletic trainers and physical therapy assistants. Coursework is completed online. There are also six required visits to Kent State’s Ashtabula Campus.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Kent State University at East Liverpool here.
15. The College of Saint Scholastica
The College of Saint Scholastica is a Catholic university. It has campuses across Minnesota. A majority of this school’s student body is made up of non-traditional students. And with St. Scholastica’s long list of fully online, accelerated degree programs, it’s not hard to see why.
St. Scholastica has a 16-credit-hour Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program delivered entirely online. Distance learners undertake six courses. These classes are focused on topics like:
- Diagnostic imaging
- Evidence-based practice
Online classes can be accessed anywhere and at anytime. To maintain personalized attention from professors, St. Scholastica caps its online classes at 24 students. You are assigned an academic advisor who will provide support throughout the program.
If you were trained as a physical therapist in another country, then St. Scholastica is a great option. A quarter of its t-DPT students are trained abroad.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at The College of Saint Scholastica here.
16. Arcadia University
Arcadia University is well-known for its global opportunities. Here, studying abroad is the norm! This university’s Philadelphia campus is enhanced by locations in Greece, Spain, South Africa, and seven more countries.
With such worldly connections, Arcadia’s Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy is an attractive option for international students. No matter where you come from, earning a t-DPT from this school comes with respect. Arcadia ranks at No. 20 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top physical therapy schools.
This t-DPT takes between one and three years to earn. Students educated in the U.S. must earn 18 credits. Students trained abroad need 22 credits to graduate.
The t-DPT is delivered through synchronous and asynchronous online coursework. The coursework will help you align your skillset with the current best practices. As such, physical therapists can use this degree to enhance their knowledge. You can specialize in:
- cardiopulmonary physical therapy
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Arcadia University here.
17. University of New England
The University of New England’s tagline is “innovation for a healthier planet.” This institution’s courses go beyond health studies. However, UNE has a strong tradition in physical therapy.
The school is based in Portland and Biddeford, Maine. UNE is the leading educator of the state’s healthcare professionals. It is also home to the only medical college in Maine.
UNE offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy program for aspiring physical therapists. The program requires eight semesters or 106 credit hours. You will undertake classes, lab work, and three full-time clinical experiences. In addition to the core coursework, two electives are provided. These courses are in orthopedics and pediatrics.
To graduate, UNE’s students take a comprehensive exam. You must also complete a research project or case study.
You should have a bachelor’s degree to apply. You will also need to fulfill several prerequisites. The science requirements for UNE’s DPT degree can all be completed through UNE Online.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at University of New England here.
18. Northeastern University
Northeastern University has its main campus in Boston. The university is well-known across the country for its academics. This private school holds the No. 40 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s National University Rankings.
Northeastern has taken advantage of its national reputation by opening graduate campuses in several states. There are programs based in:
- North Carolina
Northeastern’s Seattle campus offers a fully online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. This is perfect for practicing professionals. It allows you to gain knowledge and skills. You will then have this great school’s name on your resume.
This t-DPT requires 26-35 quarter hours. The number of hours depends on what level of degree you already have.
Concentrations are available in several areas. This includes advanced nutrition and women’s health. You can also focus on business management. There are four additional areas of study.
If none of these work for you, then you can do a directed study project. This allows aspiring physical therapists to focus on desired areas. You will perform a case analysis as your final project, too.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Northeastern University here.
19. A.T. Still University
A.T. Still University is named for Andrew Taylor Still. He was a groundbreaking physician who founded osteopathy in the late 19th century. The university is committed to osteopathic principles. This includes a focus on Still’s emphasis on the patient as a whole unit. Therefore, you will learn to treat the body, mind, and spirit.
ATSU enrolls nearly 4,000 students . You can attend classes at its locations in Arizona and Missouri.
Its Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy is delivered through the Arizona School of Health Sciences. However, you never need to visit campus. This program’s online classes are flexible to fit the schedules of practicing physical therapists.
Courses start every six weeks. They can be done one at a time. Each student sets their own course of study. On average, ATSU’s t-DPT students take 22 months to finish.
As a final project, you will prepare a manuscript. This might lead to publication. Several courses in evidence-based practice and research methods help you write this final paper.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at A.T. Still University of Health Sciences here.
20. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is named for Dr. Rosalind Franklin. Their photography first showed DNA’s structure in 1952.
Inspired by this scientific pioneer, RFU seeks to help shape the healthcare industry. It does so by graduating highly motivated and knowledgeable professionals. RFU emphasizes interprofessional education. It also encourages students to interact and learn alongside faculty and peers in other disciplines.
RFU has a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. It is delivered almost entirely online.
This two-year, part-time program is designed for practicing physical therapists. You must already have a master’s degree. Required courses go into topics like screening for diseases and anatomic imaging. You will study healthcare delivery as well.
You will also take 14-20 quarter hours of electives in this physical therapy program. These classes might be in nutrition or cultural diversity. You might also study healthcare policy and practice management.
To graduate, you need to do either an independent study or practicum. No final exam is required.
Learn more about Accredited Online College Programs for Physical Therapy at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science here.
Frequently Asked Questions about Physical Therapy Programs
Why Is Accreditation Important for Online Physical Therapy Programs?
Enrolling in an accredited college or university is important no matter what degree you want. Accreditation guarantees that a school provides a quality education. It also shows that the school adheres to national educational standards. Additionally, employers recognize the value of your academic achievements.
Accreditation is especially vital for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. To gain employment, you’ll need to be licensed in your state. To be licensed, you’ll need to pass an exam. And to even be eligible to take the exam, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited program. State licensing boards only recognize accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Thus, the online PT programs on this list are accredited by CAPTE. However, CAPTE does not offer accreditation for post-professional programs. This means that the Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy and Post Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy programs on this list are not accredited. This is because no accreditation is available.
Will I Need an Additional Certification in Addition to My Degree?
Yes. Physical therapist assistants need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam for physical therapist assistants. Doing so is one step to gain licensure in any U.S. state.
Likewise, physical therapists need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam to earn licensure. Academic programs are designed with these exams in mind. The test scores of past graduates can be key indicators of a degree program’s quality.
Physical therapists can also choose to become board-certified. This is done in specialty areas of physical therapy. Three examples are:
- women’s health
To earn certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialities, you’ll need to pass an exam. You must also document 2,000 clinical hours in your chosen specialty.
How Much Do Physical Therapists Earn in a Year?
In 2018, the BLS reported an average annual income of $87,930 for physical therapists. Physical therapists working in nursing homes or residential care facilities reported the highest salaries. The top paying states for physical therapists are:
- New Jersey
How Much Do Physical Therapist Assistants Earn in a Year?
The median annual income for physical therapist assistants in 2018 was $58,040, according to the BLS. Physical therapist assistants are some of the highest-paid holders of two-year associate degrees. The top-paying states for this job are:
- New Jersey
Physical therapy programs can prepare you for this rewarding job field.
Why Should I Earn a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy?
Today, a Doctor of Physical Therapy is the required degree for entry-level physical therapists. This wasn’t always the case. In the past, physical therapists could begin their practice with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in physical therapy. If this is your academic background, then a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy can help you advance your education to meet today’s industry standards.
Education is about more than adding a new title to your resume. A Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy is also a good idea for physical therapists who want to use the best practices with their patients.
Technology is always changing. New advances can really improve a patient’s diagnosis and treatment. That’s why many t-DPT programs offer courses in diagnostic imaging and medical screening. Additionally, t-DPT programs often have a research or case-analysis final project. These give you the chance to add a scholarly work to your field. You might also create a researched solution to an issue in your workplace.
Since these programs are geared toward working professionals, they are often delivered in a distance learning format. In most cases, this is online coursework. There might be limited on-campus work, too. This means t-DPT students can receive all the benefits of their program while continuing to earn a paycheck.
What Scholarships Are Available to Physical Therapy Students?
Scholarship and financial aid are available for physical therapy programs. Each university has its own institutional scholarships. Some online physical therapy schools might offer departmental scholarships that are only open to physical therapy students.
Additionally, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers several financial awards to aspiring physical therapists. This includes the Minority Scholarship Award for physical therapists. It also includes the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award, which is given to students in their last year of study.
What is the American Physical Therapy Association APTA?
APTA (American Physical Therapy Association)’s mission is “Building a community that advances the profession of physical therapy to improve the health of society”. By supporting the physical therapy profession, APTA hopes to create change and positive influence for it’s members.
Continue Your School Search With Other Online Programs
If you’re interested in pursuing higher education, then you should check out our Top 20 Easy Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs. Also see the 15 Most Affordable, Accredited Online Associate Degree Programs!