Physical Therapist PhD Program Information

Learn about Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in physical therapy. Get information on curriculum, admission requirements and career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in physical therapy are typically designed for current physical therapists who want to prepare for research, teaching or advanced leadership roles. This program is different than a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), which is a professional program that prepares students to become licensed physical therapists who provide therapeutic and rehabilitative treatments to patients.

The Ph.D. in Physical Therapy is a post-professional program that requires students to complete 45-60 credits, depending on the school. The programs can often be completed in less than two years and typically require both a comprehensive exam and a dissertation project. Some schools may offer a portion of the program through distance learning, though some on-campus appearances are often required.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to Ph.D. programs in physical therapy must hold either a master's or doctoral degree in physical therapy from a Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)-accredited program. Applicants who only have a master's degree may be required to complete additional prerequisite or elective courses. Some programs prefer applicants who have current physical therapist licenses. Additional requirements may include practical physical therapy experience, GRE scores, professional references and an interview.

Program Coursework

With a heavy emphasis on research, common courses in a physical therapist Ph.D. program include a set of core research courses, electives chosen based off of a student's specialization area and a dissertation. Some common course topics include:

  • Research design, methodology and measurement
  • Teaching foundations
  • Ethics
  • Grant writing and proposals
  • Human motion analysis
  • Pathokinesiology research
  • Physical therapy management
  • Health care policy
  • Advanced kinesiology

Popular Career Options

Through physical therapy Ph.D. programs, students gain the leadership skills and scientific knowledge needed to advance the profession through careers in research or education. Possible career titles include:

  • Physical therapy consultant
  • Physical therapy educator
  • Physical therapy researcher
  • Physical therapy advocate
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must complete an application online and submit transcripts for their highest degree earned.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 21 years of age or older and have completed some college or 24 years of age or older and a high school graduate for a Bachelor's degree
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    Do you prefer online or campus based learning?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Applicants must have a bachelor's degree or higher
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
        • Physical Therapy
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
        • Music Therapist
        • Physical Therapy
  • School locations:
    • Wisconsin (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Marquette University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Nursing Professions
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
        • Physical Therapy
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Temple University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
      • Podiatry - DPM
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
        • Music Therapist
        • Occupational Therapy
        • Physical Therapy
        • Therapeutic Recreation
  • School locations:
    • Delaware (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Delaware include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, Master
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Nursing Professions
      • Nutrition Services
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
        • Physical Therapy
  • School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Baylor University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Nursing Professions
      • Nutrition Services
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
        • Physical Therapy

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