10 Most Affordable Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online in 2021

10 Most Affordable Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online in 2021
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Did you know that physical therapy is a top-paying job, with fast growth in every U.S. state, alongside careers like software development? But unlike similar healthcare service field, physician therapy requires advanced graduate education. 

 If you’re considering a career path as a physical therapist, earning a doctorate in physical therapy will help you meet licensure requirements, and open doors to work in hospitals, private practice or other healthcare organizations.   

While doctoral degrees in physical therapy can be expensive — the median cost ranges from $18,000 to $37,000 per year — you’re likely to see a return on your investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for a physical therapist is $91,010, but the top 10% of earners make considerably more.

We’ve rounded up ten of the most affordable doctorate in physical therapy online programs to help you achieve your career goals while still saving on your degree.

Accredited Online College Programs

Affordable Doctorates in Physical Therapy Online in 2021

  • Alabama State University
    Location

    Montgomery, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students at Alabama State University will be offered the chance to complete an online transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree that is tailored to their educational requirements and specialty areas. This degree is offered 100 percent online through asynchronous and synchronous courses which are taught by the same professors who teach the courses on campus. Students will find that this degree focuses on both research and applied practice, making it a great fit for students who are interested in learning about the theory behind physical therapy prior to moving into the field after graduation. Students will be required to complete 30 credit hours of postgraduate work, a research project, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Clinical Pharmacology, Evidenced Based Practice, and Pathophysiology in Physical Therapy.

  • College of St. Scholastica
    Location

    Rutland, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The College of St. Scholastica offers students from both the United States and abroad an online transitional doctorate of physical therapy that can be completed in two years. This is a 100 percent online degree that consists of six classes and is one of the most affordable entry-level programs on this ranking. The program is built specifically for practicing physical therapists, enabling them to transition from undergraduate or graduate education to doctoral study. This degree is limited to 24 students per each cohort, making it easier for students to have close relationships with their professors and the faculty that administer the program. This degree requires 16 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Differential Screening, Pharmacology for Physical Therapists, and Evidence-Based Practice.

  • Florida Gulf Coast University
    Location

    Fort Myers, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Florida Gulf Coast University offers students the chance to earn a transitional online Doctorate in Physical Therapy. This program is committed to ensuring that physical therapists earn a comprehensive degree that will help them advance in their career once they graduate. Students should take note that this degree is open only to students who have earned an accredited bachelor's degree from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education as well as have earned licensure in the state of Florida. This degree is delivered entirely online and can be completed in less than three years. Students will find that the degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework, a capstone project, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Applied Critical Inquiry, Wellness and Health Promotion, and Professional Issues of the Doctoring Profession.

  • Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students at Northeastern University will be offered a unique Doctorate in Physical Therapy online degree that will help physical therapists advance their careers by learning better business practices and incorporating more soft skills into their skill set. This program comes with a variety of specializations, including the following: Business Management, Geriatrics, Orthopedics, and Women's Health. Students will be able to further specialize in their chosen field through the flexible curriculum, which enables them to use nearly half of their credit hours for their own chosen expertise area. Students will find that this program requires 28 quarter credit hours of coursework, a case study, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Differential Diagnosis and Medical Screening, Health Aging: Nutrition Strategies for Optimal Longevity, and Sports and Fitness Nutrition.

  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
    Location

    Lubbock, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center confers an online doctor of science in physical therapy degree, a unique program that is rare in the United States. This is a hybrid degree that is designed for students who are already working as physical therapists, providing them with the necessary skills and expertise that are currently required by employers in the field. Students will complete the majority of their degree requirements online; however, some courses require long weekend residencies on campus. Students will also be required to complete a thesis that focuses either research or clinical teaching. Other requirements include 48 semester credit hours beyond the graduate level, clinical experience, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Screening, Neuroscience of Pain, and Clinical Studies in Anatomy.

  • Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Texas Woman's University provides students with the option to earn an online Doctorate in Physical Therapy in a specialized area. This program is conferred by the only university in the state of Texas to offer a doctorate in the field. This degree is built on a hybrid model, meaning that students will be required to take up residence on campus for two to three weekends every semester. It is possible to pursue this degree either as a full-time or part-time program; students can continue to work in their current career while earning their degree. This degree can be completed in three years with full-time study. Degree requirements include 48 credit hours of coursework, a thesis, a practicum that takes place in a student's community, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Research for the Clinical Scientist, Psychometric Properties of Rehabilitation Tests and Measures, and Academic Issues in Physical Therapist Education.

  • The University of Michigan at Flint
    Location

    Flint, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Professionals interested in an online physical therapy doctorate degree need look no further than the University of Michigan at Flint. This program is delivered 100 percent online and through the asynchronous format. Students will find a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum, small class sizes, online office hours, and a program that is focused on evidence-based practice. This program is built to provide professionals with choices based on their educational needs; there are two required courses with the rest of the credit hour requirements coming from free-choice electives. Students will be required to complete 30 credit hours of postgraduate coursework, a capstone project, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Literature Analysis in Evidence-Based Practice, Post-Professional Neuroscience in Physical Therapy, and Systems Review and Screening in Clinical Decision Making.

  • The University of South Dakota
    Location

    Vermillion, SD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of South Dakota is proud to present the first online doctoral program available in the state's Regental System. The physical therapy doctorate online degree was designed to adhere to the American Physical Therapy Association's Preferred Curricular model for doctoral programs and also adheres to the association's Transitional Clinical Doctorate Competencies Document, making it a great choice for professionals who are interested in a professional degree. This is a 100 percent online cohort program that is available to students who hold a license to practice physical therapy in their state. Students can expect to complete 25 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Introduction to Physical Therapy Communication Skills, Applied Critical Inquiry, and Professional Issues of the Doctoring Profession.

  • Wayne State University
    Location

    Detroit, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Wayne State University offers an exceptional transitional online Doctorate of Physical Therapy for students who are already working in the field. This degree plan is meant to build on the knowledge and skills that professionals already have in the field and provide them with a curriculum based on practical skills and knowledge that will help them advance to the highest careers possible in their field. Students with both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree are welcomed into this program, although it is important to understand that undergraduate students will have more requirements to fulfill than graduate students. Students are offered an online degree program that offers different online courses throughout the year; depending on a student's degree plan, it is possible to complete the program in less than three years with full-time study. The transitional program requires 24 credit hours, a practicum, directed study, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Motor Learning and Motor Control, Critical Thinking and Inquiry for Health Sciences, and Teaching and Learning in Health Care.

  • Winston-Salem State University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The cheap physical therapy doctorate available at Winston-Salem State University is one of the best programs for professionals who are actively working in the field. This degree was built specifically for students who are interested in earning a degree that is in step and up-to-date with the needs of the field. The tDPT is a practical degree and can be completed in three years with part-time study; the school provides asynchronous and synchronous courses online and during traditional academic terms as well as the summer term schedule. Students will be expected to complete 24 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Clinical Decision Making in Physical Therapy, Foundation of Autonomous Practitioner, and Pharmacology for Physical Therapists.

  • Our Methodology, Explained

    Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.
    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 20%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 40%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 15%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%
    A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.

Answering your questions about an online doctorates in physical therapy


  • How much can you earn in this field?

    The current salary range for physical therapists is between $65,000 to $120,000. The average salary is around $85,000. This range and the median salary accounts for professionals from all different career paths in the field, different levels of experience, private and public sector jobs, size of a company, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and more.


  • What is a transitional doctor of physical therapy?

    A transitional doctorate of physical therapy, also known as a tDPT, is a new term that the field uses for most new doctoral physical therapy programs created after 2015. While traditional doctoral programs in the field still exist, most students pursue the tDPT if they are already working in the field.


Affordable Doctorate Programs in Physical Therapy Online Overview

Online education programs are an excellent way to earn a degree with a more flexible schedule to fit your lifestyle. But unlike many other degrees, a physical therapy doctorate can’t typically be done entirely online. Instead, these programs are a hybrid model, where your education is divided between online classes, and in-person labs and clinical practice.

The structure of these hybrid programs provides plenty of benefits to students. First, given the accelerated nature, you can earn your doctorate in as little as two years. Additionally, the online learning component marks it easier to learn in an environment you’re most comfortable in. The in-person components usually happen quarterly, making them easy to schedule around.

The online learning component of these programs makes them no less rigorous. You will learn various topics, including anatomy, physiology, evidence-based practice, and many more.

Choosing an Affordable Doctorate in Physical Therapy Program

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right doctorate in the physical therapy program. Here are a few factors to look at when choosing the right program.

Rewarding Work
A degree in speech pathology positions individuals to make a positive difference in other’s lives. Speech pathologists get to use the information they learn to help individuals cope with challenges that impact their daily lives.
Higher Earning Potential

While individuals with a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology can often work as medical assistants in this field, they miss out on the higher earning potential that graduates with a master’s degree enjoy. According to the BLS, speech pathologists earn a median salary of $79,120 per year, while medical assistants earn $34,800 per year.

Option to Work as a Traveling Speech Pathologist
Graduates with a master’s in speech pathology qualify for jobs as traveling speech pathologists. These professionals get to see different parts of the country by switching employment locations about every three months.
Job Security

Since the BLS projects jobs for speech pathologists to grow 25% between 2019 and 2029, these professionals enjoy above-average job security.

Work-Life Balance
Speech pathologists typically only work business hours, unlike many other professionals in the medical field. Some speech pathologists who work for school districts even benefit from paid summers off.

What Are the Career Options for an Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy Degree?

A doctorate in physical therapy prepares you to work as a physical therapist. The distinction of the doctoral accomplishment is meant to help professionals find high-paying positions at senior levels in their field. But even within that field, there are many career paths available. Some go on to work in hospital settings, while others offer home healthcare services. Many also work in nursing homes or residential care facilities. Finally, many physical therapists go into business for themselves.

Here’s the breakdown of where most physical therapists work:

Work environments for physical therapist Employment percentage 
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists33%
State, local, and private hospitals26%
Home healthcare services11%
Self-employed workers8%
Nursing and residential care facilities6%

The median annual salary for a physical therapist is $91,010, according to the BLS. The bottom 10% earn less than $63,530, while the top 10% earn more than 126,780. Your earnings may also depend on where you work.

Take a look at the wages for physical therapists based on where they work:

Source: BLS

What are other career paths for an online doctorate in physical therapy degree?

It’s possible to become a teacher or instructor in the field, helping the new generation of physical therapists learn the necessary components of becoming a professional. Other options can include working as a motivational speaker, podcast host, blogger, or journalist in the field. The options are endless for those with a doctorate in physical therapy.

Concentrations in an Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy

    Within the field of physical therapy, there are several specialties to focus on. Some schools may offer these as concentrations within their degree, while others may simply offer elective courses.

  • Pediatric physical therapy

    A pediatric physical therapist works specifically with children to diagnose, treat, and manage health problems or injuries. They address diseases that affect the muscles, bones, and joints while also treating injuries.


  • Geriatric physical therapy

    A geriatric physical therapist generally works with older individuals through conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, hip replacements, and other causes of limited mobility.


  • Sports physical therapy

    A sports performance physical therapy program prepares students to work with athletes in various types of sports and environments. The focus is on both training and injury recovery.


  • Orthopedic physical therapy

    An orthopedic physical therapist treats injuries and disorders related to muscles, bones, and joints. They work with patients as they recover from orthopedic surgeries and help them to heal correctly.


  • Cardiovascular physical therapy

    A cardiovascular or pulmonary physical therapist works in rehabilitation with patients with cardio and pulmonology disorders. They help patients to increase their endurance or recover from surgeries.


  • Neurological physical therapy

    A neurological physical therapist works with individuals with neurological disorders or who have suffered brain injuries. These therapists help patients heal after an injury or increase their quality of life as their disease progresses.


What are the various disciplines of physical therapy?

Physical therapy focuses on rehabilitating and recovering patients who may have suffered from illness, an accident, or a developmental disorder. Physical therapy is used in everything from rehabilitation after surgery to recovery efforts for elite athletes, making it one of the most utilized fields in medicine that does not require a doctoral degree.

Physical therapy encompasses several disciplines. These include kinesiology, anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation sciences, sports medicine, exercise therapy, and more. Additionally, physical therapists are responsible for research, education, administrative duties, and even consultation work, which would require a strong set of communication and interpersonal skills.

What Are the Requirements for a DPT Program?

To be admitted to a doctorate of physical therapy program, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in a related field. Unlike many other doctoral programs, a DPT program doesn’t require that you hold a master’s degree. Most schools will have an undergraduate or graduate GPA requirement of 3.0 or higher.

Another requirement unique to doctorate of physical therapy programs is that you must have completed observation hours, either in a paid or volunteer capacity. A licensed physical therapist must sign off on these hours.

Applicants usually must also have completed the GRE or GMAT and have scores that meet the school’s standards. Other standard requirements include letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement.

Common Online Physical Therapy Program 

A hybrid physical therapy program generally has two components: online and in-person. The online component is made up of the coursework. Common courses include:

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience
  • Physiology
  • Pathology 
  • Musculoskeletal physical therapy
  • Geriatric physical therapy
  • Pediatric physical therapy
  • Motor control and development
  • Prosthetics and orthotics 
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary management 
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Research methods and statistics 

The other component of the program takes place in person and involves the clinical experience requirement. Depending on the program, your clinical practice may take place at the location of your school, but it could also take place in your community. Clinical practice may take place quarterly, though it could also be an entire semester of your program.

Is Licensure Necessary for the Physical Therapy Field?

Yes, licensure is necessary to become a physical therapist in the United States. Not only is it required, states have different requirements for physical therapists, so these professionals may be required to resit for licensure should they decide to move to a different state.

The reason for licensure is two-fold: to ensure a high standard of professionalism for physical therapists and to adhere to regulatory board guidelines. Both are equally important, especially for physical therapy, a field in which professionals are tasked with the recovery and rehabilitation of patients who may have undergone surgery, are recovering from an accident, or need rehabilitation for any number of reasons.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Physical Therapy

Joining professional organizations can be an excellent way to network with those in your field and open yourself up to a variety of jobs and other opportunities. There are many professional organizations available to physical therapists.

The primary professional organization for physical therapists is the American Physical Therapy Association. Founded in 1921, the organization represents more than 100,000 physical therapists. There are 51 state chapters, meaning you can connect with physical therapists specifically in your state.

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid for DPT Students

A doctorate-level degree can be a significant financial investment. Luckily, there are plenty of scholarships available to help ease the financial burden.

Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy Outstanding PT Student Award
Who Can Apply: Students demonstrating interest in the field of geriatric physical therapy and enrolled in an accredited DPT program.
Amount: Varies

AMBUCS Scholarship Program for Therapists
Who Can Apply: Graduate students enrolled in a graduate physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech pathology program.
Amount: Up to $6,000

American Academy of Physical Therapy Scholarship
Who Can Apply: PT and PTA students in their final year of training.
Amount: Up to $2,500

APTA Outstanding Physical Therapy Student Award
Who Can Apply: PT and PTA students who are APTA members and in their final years of school.
Amount: Up to $1,000

Daughters of the American Revolution Physical/Occupational Therapy Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students accepted to or enrolled in an accredited PT or OT program.
Amount: $2,000

Mary McMillian Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students in their final year at an accredited PT or PTA program.
Amount: $5,000

Why Should I Get a DTP Degree?

Rewarding Work
A degree in speech pathology positions individuals to make a positive difference in other’s lives. Speech pathologists get to use the information they learn to help individuals cope with challenges that impact their daily lives.
Higher Earning Potential

While individuals with a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology can often work as medical assistants in this field, they miss out on the higher earning potential that graduates with a master’s degree enjoy. According to the BLS, speech pathologists earn a median salary of $79,120 per year, while medical assistants earn $34,800 per year.

Option to Work as a Traveling Speech Pathologist
Graduates with a master’s in speech pathology qualify for jobs as traveling speech pathologists. These professionals get to see different parts of the country by switching employment locations about every three months.
Job Security

Since the BLS projects jobs for speech pathologists to grow 25% between 2019 and 2029, these professionals enjoy above-average job security.

Work-Life Balance
Speech pathologists typically only work business hours, unlike many other professionals in the medical field. Some speech pathologists who work for school districts even benefit from paid summers off.

Top Affordable Doctorates in Physical Therapy Online

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Erin Gobler

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Erin Gobler is a freelance writer who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Graduate School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, among others. Her work has been published on sites like Fox Business, Rocket Mortgage, and The Balance.

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