Doctor of Physical Therapy: Degree Overview
Read detailed information about doctoral degree studies in physical therapy. Learn about enrollment requirements, curricula details, outcomes, career prospects and professional licensing information. Find statistics pertaining to projected job growth and salary figures for those in the physical therapy field.
Physical therapists assess patients with functional limitations, impairments, injuries and disabilities, such as musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. A degree program that culminates in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) caters to individuals interested in the management of the whole patient, addressing not only issues with movement and function, but preventative care to minimize further injury. Within a DPT degree program, students learn to work with patients to increase strength and eliminate pain as well as improve on the normal functions of body systems, such as the respiratory, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems.
Students also complete required clinical experiences, which generally include patient observation and examination, through campus clinics or at affiliated physical therapy facilities. Physical therapy programs are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education. Upon successful completion of a DPT degree program, graduates are eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination for state licensure.
In general, a student seeking admission into this type of degree program require a baccalaureate degree. Some academic institutions require students to complete prerequisite courses in biology, statistics, chemistry, physics, social science and psychology. Additionally, programs could require letters of recommendation and GRE scores.
Studies in a DPT program focus on advanced topics relating to human movement, physical therapy methods and physical sciences. Students learn to use problem-solving activities and case studies in order to enhance the learning experience. Common physical therapy course topics include:
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Injuries of the musculoskeletal system
- Research methods
- Community health
- Pediatric physical therapy
Popular Career Options
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists could see an employment growth of 39% from 2010-2020 due to increases in elderly populations and survival rates of infants with birth defects (www.bls.gov). The median wage for physical therapists was $79,860 in May 2012, according to the same agency. Graduates can provide community service, conduct research and practice in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including:
- Rehabilitation centers
- Private physical therapy offices
- Nursing homes
- Sports facilities
Licensure and Continuing Education Information
All states require practicing physical therapists to obtain a license. To renew a license, physical therapists usually need to participate in continuing education, and some states require specific courses or activities.
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