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Becoming a physical therapist involves obtaining a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) from an accredited college. The accrediting body for physical therapist schools is the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Many programs require that prospective students hold a bachelor’s degree and complete prerequisite coursework in order to apply for admission. After completing the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, graduates can apply for state licensure.


1 University of Southern California Los Angeles

The #1 physical therapy program in the country is located at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The school is known for its quality education, research, and educational advancement in the field.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy program a UCLA provides students with the tools to pursue a career in physical therapy. The program consists of 115 units over six semesters and two summers. Students must complete a clinical clerkship. Residencies are also offered in the areas of Neurologic, Orthopedic, Pediatric, and Sports Physical Therapy.

2 University of Delaware

With world class faculty and five rehabilitation clinics that provide services to members of the community, the University of Delaware’s physical therapy program is one of the best physical therapy schools in the United States.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy program provides students with ample clinical opportunities to gain experience in the field. In addition to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, the college also offers an Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Biomechanics and Movement Science.

3 University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh is home to one of the top physical therapy programs in the country. The school features top notch faculty and partnerships with the university’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Services, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Centers for Rehab Services.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy program is 3 years in length and applicants must already have a bachelor’s degree in order to be accepted. In addition to substantial hours spent learning in the classroom, the program includes a clinical internship that lasts more than 90 weeks.

3 Washington University in St. Louis

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, the physical therapy program at Washington University is known for its exceptional faculty, some of whom are nationally recognized for their work and are in positions of leadership in the American Physical Therapy Association.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program is a three year program that includes both classroom hours and 38 weeks of clinical training experience. Throughout their studies, students are challenged with various cases that become more difficult as they progress in the program. To be eligible for admission to the DPT program, prospective students must have earned a bachelor’s degree and completed prerequisite courses.

5 University of Iowa

The University of Iowa’s physical therapy program is ranked #5 by US News. At the university, physical therapy students learn fundamental skills in a top medical education center located in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa City, IA
The school has two degree programs in physical therapy. The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is a 2½ year program consisting of classroom instruction and 35weeks of clinical training. The program only admits 36 students each year.
The PhD program is geared towards students who wish to pursue research and teaching as a career. The school also offers a combined DPT/PhD for students who would like to work as physical therapists and conduct research.

5 U.S. Army-Baylor University

Situated in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy was established in 1971 and ranks as one of the top physical therapy schools. The students in the program are military officers who receive a salary according to rank while attending school. In addition, they will be required to serve 81 months active duty which includes their time in the physical therapy program.
To gain entrance into the DPT program, prospective students need to contact a Regional U.S. Army Health Care Recruiting Counselor to begin the process. Once accepted, students will spend 3 semesters studying anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, evaluation and treatment of each region/system. The last semester consisting of 36 hours is spent in a physical therapy internship.

7 Emory University

Ranked #7 by US News, Emory University’s physical therapy program offers students the opportunity to study in an environment with small class sizes of 65-70 students and faculty who are dedicated to helping their students grow in the program.
The program is 35 months long and is comprised of 3 semesters of coursework studying the human body, principles of movement, pathophysiology and disease processes. 30 hours of clinical training in a diverse setting must also be completed before graduating. In addition, students complete a research project in their final year.

7 MGH Institute of Health Professions

The MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, Massachusetts is ranked by US News as one of the top physical therapy programs. Many of the program’s faculty and clinical instructors are practitioners at the distinguished local hospitals and medical facilities in the Boston area. The program emphasizes critical inquiry, clinical science, and case analysis so that students will be equipped with these skills when they enter the field.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree takes three years to complete and begins in the summer. During the first two and a half years, students engage in coursework, clinicals and research. The conclusion of the program is a paid internship.

9 Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s Physical Therapy program is ranked #7 by US News. Located in Chicago, it is the oldest physical therapy school in the United States. The program enrolls 75 students in each entering class.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program consists of coursework and clinicals. Students participate in part time clinicals throughout the program and an additional 38 weeks of full time clinicals in four different sites working in a variety of physical therapy areas.
Admission to the program is based on prior academic achievements and knowledge and experience in the physical therapy field. Prospective students can obtain experience through volunteer work, observation, or working in some capacity within a physical therapy setting.

9 University of Miami

Located in Coral Gables, Florida, the University of Miami’s Department of Physical Therapy is highly ranked and is part of the Miller School of Medicine and the graduate school at the college. Classes are small in the department, which enables faculty to give students more individualized attention.
The school offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree which is a three year program that prepares students for a career as a physical therapist. For those seeking a career in research and academia, there is a PhD in Physical Therapy.

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