Distance Learning Physical Therapy Education Programs and Courses

Physical therapists who have already earned a bachelor's or master's degree may choose an online program for their doctorate degree. The curriculum in the majority of distance learning degree programs at accredited colleges and universities is primarily the same as on-campus programs.

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Distance Learning Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs

These programs are called 'transitional' because the student is already a credentialed, practicing physical therapist. The programs offer courses and sometimes hands-on lab practice leading to the DPT degree (Doctor of Physical Therapy).


Expect 8-12 courses, depending on your previous degree level and experience. Coursework includes health care systems and economics, differential diagnosis and research skills.


Clinical practicum training, any professional seminars or orientations and the presentation of research must be done either on campus or at cooperatively-arranged internship sites. Practicum work is usually required for two clinical courses on current musculoskeletal therapeutic practices. Other residencies are usually planned for weekends.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs

Several universities offer 'blended' (both distance and on-campus) physical therapy doctoral programs for students without physical therapist credentials. To be eligible, students must hold a baccalaureate with certain prerequisite courses. The program takes roughly three years. Coursework includes anatomy and physiology, examination skills, neuroscience, diagnosis, therapeutic exercise and health care economics. Advanced classes look at musculoskeletal, neurophysiological, cardiopulmonary and medical physical therapy techniques. Many courses involve being on campus or at an internship site for extensive hands-on training and practice.

Continuing Education Courses

Physical therapists must complete continuing education units to maintain their licenses. Therapists may choose to complete these classes partly or completely online. Course options vary widely. Look for 'The Obesity Challenge in Public Health' in four online modules. There's a 30-hour certificate program in assistive technology which consists of ten weeks of online courses and three 5-hour Saturday classes on campus.

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