Grad School Hub - Most Affordable Online Programs-01

Click here for high resolution badge

Many pre-service professionals may wonder what the draw is to earning an online Doctorate in Physical Therapy. After all, there can’t be that many programs that are accredited and provide the necessary certification for this profession. And with traditional programs still outnumbering online programs, is it really worth the time and effort to research these programs in order to find one that meets the requirements for an individual who wants to work as a physical therapist?

Online programs do exist for working professionals in physical therapy and generally speaking, they provide the same curriculum, taught by the same professors, that are available on campus; the programs also provide the same access to resources, albeit online, such as tutoring, professor office hours, a bookstore, and an online library. Students will find that the 10 programs listed below not only are competitive with traditional programs, they are also more affordable, flexible, and can be completed faster than on-campus offerings.

Methodology

The research for this ranking would not have been possible without the information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. Out of an initial pool of 25 schools, 10 were ultimately chosen for their in-state graduate tuition rates; these can be found below in descending order.

Ranking Low-cost Online Physical Therapy Doctorate

10. Wayne State University

Detroit, Michigan

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

For more information: Wayne State University

Tuition: $17,163

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.

9. Northeastern University

Boston, Massachusetts

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

For more information: Northeastern University

Tuition: $16,796

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.

8. Florida Gulf Coast University

Fort Myers, Florida

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

For more information: Florida Gulf Coast University

Tuition: $12,787

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.

7. Alabama State University

Montgomery, Alabama

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

For more information: Alabama State University

Tuition: $11,068

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.

6. The University of South Dakota

Vermillion, South Dakota

Online Transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy

For more information: University of South Dakota

Tuition: $10,822

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.

5. The University of Michigan at Flint

Flint, Michigan

Online Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy

For more information: University of Michigan at Flint

Tuition: $9,804

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.

4. Texas Woman’s University

Denton, Texas

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy (Ph.D.)

For more information: Texas Woman’s University

Tuition: $9,070

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.

3. College of St. Scholastica

Duluth, Minnesota

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

For more information: College of St. Scholastica

Tuition: $5,952

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.

2. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Lubbock, Texas

Online Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy

For more information: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Tuition: $5,688

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.

1. Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

For more information: Winston-Salem State University

Tuition: $2,313

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

The most obvious career option for professionals who pursue an online Doctorate in Physical Therapy is that of the physical therapist. It’s also the most popular option, as a doctoral degree in the field is a terminal professional degree and the distinction of the accomplishment is meant to help professionals find high-paying positions at senior levels in their field.

However, it is possible to branch out from being a physical therapist. One option is to work as a freelancer, either as a consultant or a writer. Physical therapists and their level of education are in high demand, especially by patients who feel that they are not being helped by the healthcare industry. Becoming an author is also a possibility, especially if a professional excels at communicating and teaching aspects of their field to other people.

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.

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.

The highest paid physical therapists often work in large private hospital systems or for sports teams; these positions are prestigious and often very competitive when an opening appears. Professionals on the lower end of the salary spectrum often work in public sector jobs or for themselves; this provides them with a lower salary to begin with but they often make more money because they work for themselves.

What are the Various Disciplines of Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy focuses on the rehabilitation and recovery of patients who may have suffered from illness, an accident, or a developmental disorder. Physical therapy is used in everything from rehabilitation after to 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 is a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy?

A transitional doctorate of physical therapy, which is also known as a tDPT, is a new term that the field uses for most new doctoral physical therapy programs that were 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.

The term technically refers to a program that can only be undertaken by a professional who holds an accredited bachelor’s or a master’s degree in the field. As of 2015, the year that the first tDPT was used, all new and developing accredited programs are designated tDPT.

The term should only be a consideration for professionals who do not currently hold licensure as a physical therapist or do not have an educational background in physical therapy. In this case, a traditional doctoral program is a better fit, however, it would be advised that a professional choose to earn a master’s degree first prior to moving into the terminal degree.

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 therapist 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.

The first reason for licensure is pretty straightforward: states need to ensure that if a patient goes to see a physical therapist that their physical well-being is not put in jeopardy by an incompetent professional. Additionally, because physical therapists work closely with doctors and healthcare facilities, these settings may be liable should a patient be put at risk by an unlicensed physical therapist. It’s also important that clients understand that if a physical therapist is licensed, they can rest assured they have the proper education necessary in order perform their responsibilities adequately.

The second reason for licensure is the need to adhere to regulatory boards. These are boards set up to oversee the physical therapy field in the state. They are responsible for setting the standard for the physical therapists under their supervision and have the ability to revoke licensure from a physical therapist should they fail to meet the standards set forth by the board.

Students will find that no employer will take on a professional in this field without a license. Thankfully, physical therapy doctoral programs do not accept students without licensure, making it less likely that an incompetent professional will earn a doctorate in the field.

Physical therapy is a field that demands a strong educational foundation, especially if an individual is classed as a pre-service professional. There is a need for competent professionals who understand the complexities that come with physical therapy, including understanding a patient’s condition and medical history, the complexities that come with recovering from surgery and evaluating a patient’s progress. For these reasons, and so much more, it is advised that any professional interested in entering this field research the above online Doctorate in Physical Therapy programs to see if they can find the right degree for their goals.

GSH Staff
June 2018

This concludes our ranking of the Top Ten Most Affordable Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online for 2018.