University of South Dakota

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Updated August 6, 2020

University of South Dakota appears in the ranking of the 10 Most Affordable Doctorate in Physical Therapy Online.

The University of South Dakota is located in the southeastern part of the state in Vermillion, a town whose population is roughly doubled by the 10,000 students in attendance at the university. From its founding in 1862, USD has expanded to include 280 degree programs including 32 that are completely online and offers classes at satellite campuses in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Pierre. The university also is home to the only medical and law schools in the state. Diversity, inclusiveness, and relationships are key elements of USD's mission as evidenced by their low 17:1 student to faculty ration. They also pride themselves as being the only liberal arts school in South Dakota and work hard to graduate students who possess a breadth of knowledge across varying topics and the ability to think critically. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked the graduate school in the top sixth in their list, Best Online Graduate Education Programs, and in the top half of the country specifically for online physical therapy degrees.

University of South Dakota Accreditation Details

As a whole, USD has earned continuous accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1913 with the latest review in 2012. The HLC is the organization responsible for evaluating all colleges and universities in 19 states in the Midwest and southwestern regions of the United States. The Commission focuses on five main characteristics including teaching and learning, integrity, and resources, planning, and institutional effectiveness to ensure that the school is providing quality education and is practicing sound business principles. Certain industries have developed their own educational standards and accredit individual degree programs and academic departments. At USD, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) has certified that all physical therapy programs offered by the university adequately prepare graduates for professional life.

University of South Dakota Application Requirements

The transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program only accepts individuals who have previous education and experience in the field. There are a few different ways applicants can demonstrate this including the following.

  • Master's degree in physical therapy with at least 2 years of work experience
  • Bachelor's degree in physical therapy with 10 years of work
  • Certificate of Physical Therapy and 20 years of experience

In order to qualify, previous PT education needs to have been completed with a GPA of at least 2.7 from institutions that are specifically accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Physical Therapist Education or Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada. Additionally, regardless of their degree level, all incoming students must have a current physical therapy license.

The application process for the online t-DPT program is straightforward. The first step is to complete a general application for the University of South Dakota Graduate School and pay the standard $35 fee. The program also requires complete transcripts demonstrating an undergraduate degree in health sciences, biochemistry, biology, or chemistry as well as any previous graduate work attempted or completed. Other supplemental material includes a professional resume, two letters of recommendation from teachers or employers, and a personal statement. Before enrollment, accepted students also must pass a criminal background check and produce a copy of their physical therapy license. For the online t-DPT program, students are admitted every two years, and the deadline for admission is July 31st on even years. Directors evaluate applications and make admission decisions on a rolling basis throughout the year as long as there are still openings in the program.

Tuition and Financial Aid

At the University of South Dakota, online tuition rates are equal for in-state and out-of-state students. For all online graduate programs including the t-DPT, tuition is about $450 per credit hour, so for the entire 25-hour track, students will pay approximately $11,250 in addition to other miscellaneous fees. Individuals in the South Dakota National Guard or on active duty in the military receive discounted tuition at a rate of about $290 per credit hour for a total program cost of $7250.

USD offers financial counseling through the Office of Financial Aid where staff members help students fill out FAFSAs, evaluate individual financial situations, and explain funding options for graduate students including federal and private loans. While the university does not offer any scholarships for this physical therapy program, there are a variety of outside organizations that do. These awards are based on academic achievement, financial need, and/or community service and leadership experiences. Some examples include the American Academy of Physical Therapy Scholarships, the American Physical Therapy Association Outstanding Physical Therapy Student Awards, and the Gary L. Soderberg Doctor of Physical Therapy Award. Additionally, since all t-DPT students are already PT professionals, another funding option is tuition reimbursement from employers. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations offer this perk to entice students to remain with the employer after graduation.

Online Degree Available

The transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy track is designed to take five semesters including the summer in between the first and second years and includes a total of 25 credit hours. Through the entire two-year program, all work can be completed online without any on-campus visits required. Since all students are already practicing physical therapy, courses involve more advanced topics in the field. Students learn how to think critically and evaluate new trends in the industry through classes like Critical Evaluation of Literature and Evidenced-Based Practice in Physical Therapy. The program also includes a series of courses designed to provide a more comprehensive view of healthcare and improve diagnostic skills including Pathophysiology and Differential Diagnosis of Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, and Other Systems Conditions and Health Promotion in Physical Therapy. Near the end of the program, there is a group of professional development classes like Leadership and Management for the Healthcare Professional. Before graduation, all students also need to complete a clinical research project in an area of their choosing and present findings to faculty members.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for DPTs is growing much faster than average, and a doctoral degree can open doors professionally for lower-level physical therapists. At the University of South Dakota, the transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy Degree is entirely online, so students can maintain employment while gaining valuable insight into the theory and practice of their field.

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