12 Best Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) – 2024 Best Schools and Info Guide

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: July 12, 2024, Reading time: 25 minutes

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Without a comprehensive roadmap, pursuing a hybrid physical therapy program or a doctor of physical therapy degree online can leave you with the wrong program, missed career opportunities, and income loss. This guide to finding and getting into the best online doctorate in physical therapy program aims to help progress your career. 

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Guide to Getting an Online Doctorate in Physical Therapy: Best Online Schools

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, Arcadia University, and Northeastern University are among the top universities that offer doctor of physical therapy degrees through online or hybrid delivery methods. Make sure you prepare your application, test scores, letter of recommendation, essays, resume, work experience, and official transcripts to get into an online doctorate in physical therapy.

Doctor checking the pulse of his patient

You can specialize in different disciplines that will help improve your career path. Eventually, you can attain a higher paycheck – something that’s difficult to achieve if you don’t hold a Ph.D.

SchoolProgram LengthAcceptance RateMinimum Cost Per Credit Hour
A.T. Still University of Health Sciences3 years31%$565
Arcadia University25 months78%$815
Northeastern University38 months18%$785
Allen College3 years100%$110
Winston-Salem State University36 months81%$186
Shenandoah University3 years62%$968
University of Michigan-Flint3 years74%$785
The College of Saint Scholastica4 years73%$775
Utica University16 months to 4 years86%$785
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center3 years72%$724
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill1-3 years25%$235
University of Southern California4 years93%$973

The Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree program is an advanced course of study focused on preparing graduates to become skilled physical therapists. The course of study emphasizes developing clinical and research skills through extensive supervised clinical internships, coursework, and research opportunities.

The number of aging Americans is increasing by the day, which is why physical therapists must have this level of education to meet the growing needs of the elderly.

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences

A.T. Still University’s online Doctor of Physical Therapy program is designed to meet the needs of every practicing professional physical therapist. This program provides students the flexibility they need through the program’s personalized and student-centric curriculum plans.

ASHS is one of the very few schools with a complete online post-professional Doctor of Philosophy. Since its inception in September 2002, the school has accepted 35 to 75 students each quarter.

This program works on your schedule and terms, allowing you to receive the best value for your education. In effect, it propels your relevancy and passion within your community and profession.

Arcadia University

Arcadia University

Arcadia University’s hybrid online Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program stands out as one of the nation’s premier pathways for aspiring physical therapy professionals. By thoughtfully blending online learning with intensive clinical immersions, this innovative program provides the flexibility of remote study combined with invaluable in-person, hands-on training experiences. 

The highly-regarded 26-month curriculum strategically integrates engaging online sessions with on-campus skill intensives. This helps graduates enter the workforce as knowledgeable, clinic-ready practitioners.

Coupled with the accomplished faculty, affordable tuition, and the university’s century-long legacy of excellence in healthcare education, it’s clear why Arcadia stands as one of the best schools for an online doctorate in physical therapy.

A key strength of Arcadia’s online DPT is its seamless blend of academic rigor with practical applications. The case-driven, patient-focused courses expose students to diverse practice areas while consistently reinforcing connections to real-life clinical scenarios.

This emphasis on hands-on learning culminates in immersive clinical rotations where students apply their skills under the guidance of licensed therapists in rehabilitation facilities and health systems. 

Arcadia University’s hybrid online transitional doctor of physical therapy program has earned the vital seal of approval by achieving CAPTE accreditation for the next decade. This prestigious accreditation guarantees educational quality for graduates to pursue licensure and reciprocity in any U.S. state.

The flexible hybrid format allows students to earn their degrees without relocating, while the lack of GRE requirements for admission opens doors for a wider range of qualified applicants.

These student-centric policies combined with the program’s stellar academics and robust clinical experiences solidify Arcadia’s online DPT as a truly exceptional option for the next generation of physical therapists.

Northeastern University

Northeastern- University

Northeastern University’s Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy is a 100% online program that integrates art and science and professional and experiential learning to provide students with the correct knowledge base.

It offers one of the few online courses with a review of advanced pharmacologic management concepts. The university’s online DPT discusses physical therapy interventions and pharmacologic management interrelations.

A graduate degree from Northeastern University – one of the top 50 universities in the US – can help advance your career through hands-on professional experience and intensive academic coursework in your field of interest.

Core courses of this program include human anatomy, medical imaging, medical screening and nutrition, motor control, and pharmacology.

The program is for current practicing therapists who hold a master’s or a higher education degree in physical therapy.

Because it is an online course, this gives working professionals the flexibility they need to balance work, school, and personal life seamlessly.

Students are required to declare their preferred track option: education or clinical track. The program has a capstone course, Comprehensive Case Analysis, to culminate all the work within your DPT curriculum.

Allen College

Allen College

Allen College’s Physical Therapy Hybrid Program stands out as one of the nation’s premier online programs for aspiring physical therapists. 

When combined with reputable faculty, affordable tuition for high-caliber education, and the program’s legacy of producing practice-ready physical therapy professionals, it’s clear why Allen’s online DPT stands as a top-ranked option for remote learners across the country.

It blends online learning with hands-on clinical immersions wherein students are offered flexibility through online coursework while receiving invaluable in-person training and experience during the required lab intensives.

This innovative approach helps you enter the workforce as a knowledgeable, highly-skilled doctor of physical therapy prepared for success.

What truly sets Allen College apart is its uncompromising focus on developing strong clinical reasoning abilities in students.

The meticulously designed three-year curriculum emphasizes application over theory through case-based learning. Synchronous virtual sessions foster engaging discussions and realistic patient scenarios.

This consistent emphasis on blending academics with practical application comprehensively prepares online students to pass the pivotal National Physical Therapy Examination and thrive in various clinical settings after graduation.

In addition to its exceptional academics, Allen College’s online programs hold the vital stamp of accreditation approval. This seal of quality assurance allows graduates to pursue licensure and reciprocity nationwide. 

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University’s online Transitional Doctorate of Physiotherapy Program is designed for professionals with a higher education degree in physical therapy or those professionals already practicing physical therapy.

From geriatric physical therapy and pediatric physical therapy to orthopedic physical therapy screening and many more, this online program will prepare students to succeed in various areas of the physical therapy profession.

The tDPT program at Winston-Salem State University is one of the most affordable DPT programs in the US. WSSU strives to facilitate and promote the delivery and development of credit-bearing courses, degree programs, or certificates supporting every student’s academic enrichment goals.

Shenandoah University

Shenandoah University

Since the courses are offered asynchronously, this online transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy program is ideal for people who have busy lifestyles as practicing clinicians. 

It brings out the reflective and critical thinker in you and shapes you into becoming a compassionate licensed physical therapist.

The program prepares practicing therapists to become doctoral-level clinicians through evidence-based practice and critical thinking skills in a personalized and collaborative environment.

Students with a master’s or bachelor’s degree will gain further skills and knowledge in just one to two years. This will prepare them for the present and future PT roles and practices in academia.

Track 1 (one-year program) is suited for a practicing physical therapist who has a solid background in evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning. This advanced clinical course only works for those who can dedicate their time to balancing a double course load.

Track 2 (two-year program) and Track 3 (BS to TDPT) are for students who only hold a bachelor’s degree in any health sciences program. In comparison to Track 1, Tracks 2 and 3 take longer to complete.

While most online programs only provide scholarships to US residents, SU offers aid to both US and Canadian licensed practicing PTs.

The University of Michigan- Flint

The University of Michigan- Flint

University of Michigan-Flint’s two-year Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is designed for current PT practitioners who wish to accelerate their bachelor’s or master’s degrees to earn a DPT degree.

Offered 100% online, this program can help contribute to your professional growth by broadening your clinical perspective, improving your skills and knowledge, and preparing you to become a competent doctoral-level PT practitioner.

While the majority of online programs are offered full-time, UM-Flint has full-time and part-time enrollment options so that each student can choose how to fit their coursework into their schedules.

The in-depth curriculum of the program is challenging, intensive, and well-rounded. The courses are delivered from an evidence-based standpoint to help develop your clinical practice knowledge and obtain a specialized understanding to help you excel in your field.

Teaching formats of this online DPT program include discussions, presentations, didactic teaching, case reports, and group projects.

UM-Flint’s College of Health Sciences is very engaged in research. The subject matters are very diverse, allowing faculty to engage with their colleagues, students, the community, and the industry on different projects.

When you become a part of the University of Michigan community, whether as an online or on-campus student, you are given access to various research and academic resources at the Flint, Dearborn, or Ann Arbor campuses.

The College of Saint Scholastica

The College of Saint Scholastica

Designed and created for those already in the PT field, this Transitional Online Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program is distance learning. Courses are delivered online, enabling you to interact with your colleagues and faculty easily.

Every course is offered each semester (summer, fall, and spring), giving students an individualized learning plan. To make sure academic excellence is maintained, the online doctorate program only accepts 24 learners per course.

Because the enrollees are relatively smaller, it becomes easier for the course faculty to maintain individualized and more personal contact with distant or international students.

The program is known for its tough academic standards and intensive career preparation. It also has experienced clinical practitioners as faculty.

Streamlined online programs are designed to address the needs of every practicing physical therapist. It has an option for foreign-trained physio/physical therapists. About 25% of the school’s present students are foreign-trained PTs.

It is 100% online and consists of six classes and 16 total program credits.

With quality education and professional involvement, St. Scholasticas’ online tDPT program is bent on helping enrollees accomplish the goals set by the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) to prepare students to become effective and efficient doctoral-level therapists.

Utica University

Utica University

Online programs prepare students for the mastery and skills they need to stand out in their field.

At Utica College, the school’s transitional Online Doctor of Physical Therapy Program is perfect for physical therapists.

This will give them the industry-standard skills, experience, and knowledge needed to improve on what they have learned as practicing physical therapists. While you have four years to complete your requirements, you can finish the program early in just 16 months if you work on it full-time.

Full-time working students looking for online physical therapy programs can take advantage of Utica’s online DPT program since you will only take two courses per 16-week semester. You are also qualified to earn CEUs (continuing education units) for every completed course.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

While most programs are delivered online, there are also hybrid programs like the one offered by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

This Hybrid Doctorate in Physical Therapy Program is considered one of the most thorough and unique post-professional orthopedic physical therapy programs in the US.

From 2019-2020, 99% of TTUHSC graduates passed the licensure exam. During those same years, 100% of the graduates immediately found employment in the PT field, just within six months after they successfully passed the licensure examination.

Within the School of Health Professions, the Center for Rehabilitation Research comprises four clinical research laboratories: Clinical Postural Control, Clinical Biomechanics, Clinical Anatomy, and Clinical Musculoskeletal.

The online doctorate program offers students the foundational concepts of enhanced patient care. It’s suitable for practicing therapists who plan on continuing their post-professional education.

This three-year entry-level program combines academic instruction with practice and internships. Classes include pharmacology, biomechanics, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular physical therapy degree, orthopedics, and prosthetics.

When you complete the program, you are qualified to sit for the National Physical Therapy Licensure Examination (NPTE). After that, you can apply for state licensure. 

From 2020 to 2021, DPT program students at TTUHSC had an average graduation rate of 94%.

Another great thing about the school’s DPT program is the research-centered faculty committed to research, service, and teaching.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - School of Medicine

This university’s online Transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy is for licensed therapists who wish to add more skills along with their doctoral degrees. It combines web-based instruction and distance learning with ongoing clinical application.

Those with extensive experience in the field can also seek board certification and become clinical specialists or secure positions in physical therapy education programs as clinical faculty.

UNC-Chapel Hill is the very first public university in the US. It is an international student-accepting public university, which isn’t a common attribute of higher education institutions in the US.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California

The Hybrid Online/On-Campus Doctor of Physical Therapy offered by the USC combines hands-on, immersive training with online coursework. For full-timers, this physical therapy degree online may be completed in three years.

You will also become more effective in caring for individuals with different needs, from prevention and wellness to persons with debilitating and complex medical conditions.

For years, USC has produced leaders in the field of PT who have integrated advances in research, technology and practice to give the best experience for clients and patients.

Students will learn the important foundational sciences of the field. However, like most online DPT programs, USC also requires students to have at least 150 hours of clinical experience in a PT setting.

Knowledge of how to care for patients with conditions affecting major body systems (neurologic, cardiopulmonary, and musculoskeletal) is also thoroughly discussed.

As a PT practitioner, you will further understand the three major perspectives surrounding evidence-based practices: professional expertise, current research, and the patient.

This program provides the prerequisite courses necessary to prepare students for a career in physical therapy. Before admission, you need to have a bachelor’s degree from any regionally accredited university or college in the country. Official transcripts and three letters of recommendation are also required.

After you graduate, you can take the National Physical Therapy Examination to become a full-fledged licensed therapist.

Methodology for Choosing Physical Therapy Programs

If you’re interested in an in-depth explanation, you can check out my methodology for the detailed ranking process. The following are a few factors I considered while choosing the best schools for physical therapy programs:

Doctor massaging a woman's nape

Overview of Physical Therapy Education

To become a licensed physical therapist, you need to earn a Ph.D. in physical therapy education. However, you can also pursue other specialties within this field, like sports clinical therapy, geriatric physical therapy, neurology, and many more.

Physical therapists work in physical rehabilitation centers, clinics, hospitals, or private practice. These health workers provide personalized therapy treatments and care for patients with health conditions or physical injuries.

Mary Jane Harris, former accreditation director of the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of APTA, reiterates that in the healthcare industry, the amount of information one has to learn is non-stop.

Physical therapists need more knowledge and information to function efficiently in the healthcare delivery system. It also pays that they obtain valuable skills in the business management side of the field.

Man using a device to massage a woman's back


In certain environments, physical therapists can take home a huge paycheck, especially if they hold a doctoral degree. The median salary for therapists in 2024 is $101,000. Most physical therapists holding a doctorate and working full-time can earn over $127,110 every year.

Job Opportunities

When you hold a doctoral degree in physical therapy, you have so many employment opportunities waiting ahead. You can secure a career in practically any medical facility or practice.

You may also consider teaching at a medical school, handling courses like human anatomy, women’s health, motor control, and health promotion. Physical therapy programs also help you open your own practice or get involved and commit to spending observation hours in research.

Stability and Outlook

Online transitional doctor of physical therapy programs are the gateway to securing one of the fastest-growing vocational opportunities today. Because most baby boomers have started to retire, the growing aging population needs more physical therapists than ever.

Based on a report by the BLS, PTs have a projected growth of 15% between 2022 and 2032. Having a doctorate, whether online or in an on-campus program, gives you an advantage over any other available career opportunity.


PT is a valuable area of health improvement and maintenance, just like occupational therapy. People with chronic health conditions heavily rely on therapists to give them a better quality of life.

Graduating from the best online doctorate in physical therapy school can help guarantee you the highest level of technical competence in the field. As your experience grows, you’ll become more efficient in the field.

Online Doctor of Physical Therapy - fact

What to Consider when Selecting an Online Physical Therapy Program

It’s important to remember that online doctorate in physical therapy programs have specific qualifications and requirements that prospective students must meet. Thoroughly researching admission criteria can help you have a smooth application process and get into your desired program.

Eligibility and Admission Process

Qualifications for enrolling in a doctorate in physical therapy can vary significantly between schools. Students may need to have already earned a master’s degree in a related field while meeting minimum GPA requirements, or they may need to have completed a set number of clinical volunteer hours.

Common admission requirements across doctorate in physical therapy programs include:

The APTA offers a comprehensive guide outlining the various potential requirements for admission to a doctorate in physical therapy program to aid prospective students in their preparation.

School Accreditation

Students are recommended to apply only to accredited online DPT programs approved by recognized accrediting bodies like the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or regional accreditors such as NECHE or NWCCU.

Without proper accreditation, you may be ineligible for licensure, unable to access financial aid, and restricted from transferring credits. Consequently, any of these situations may render your degree effectively useless.

Program Format

Another thing to consider when selecting a program is the course format and delivery method. Programs may offer synchronous courses with set virtual class times, asynchronous self-paced courses without live sessions, or a blend of both formats. 

It’s important to select a program structure that aligns with your learning preferences and scheduling needs. Potential formats include:

Person massaging a patient's foot


Most online doctorate in physical therapy programs require some form of practical experience or on-campus attendance. This may involve occasional travel or even relocating closer to physical therapy clinics for clinical rotations. 

Prospective students should prioritize online programs aligned with their desired specialization. It’s also important to remember that for certain specialties, being close to the affiliated clinical sites or campus may be necessary despite the online curriculum delivery.


While online physical therapy programs can sometimes reduce certain costs, like transportation and relocation, the tuition expenses for an online doctorate in physical therapy should be carefully evaluated.

A CAPTE study found the average annual tuition to be $18,989 for in-state public schools and $37,448 for private institutions offering DPT programs. However, higher costs do not necessarily equate to higher quality. Prospective online program students should thoroughly research and compare program fees across multiple options before making a decision.

Application Requirements for Online DPT Programs

Online program applicants should be prepared for a somewhat complex graduate admissions process. Having a clear understanding of the expected application components can help prospective online doctoral students approach the process in a less stressful, more streamlined manner.

Test Scores

For most online programs, prospective students applying for a doctorate in physical therapy will need to take an entrance examination like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Performing well on the GRE can greatly impact one’s chances of being accepted into their desired online physical therapy doctoral program.


Many doctorate in physical therapy programs require interviews or graduate application essays to better understand applicants beyond academics. These essays demonstrate an applicant’s goals, values, and potential fit within the program’s philosophy, allowing the colleges and schools commission to make informed admissions decisions.

Official Transcripts

Official transcripts are usually required for admission to prove coursework completion, as doctorate in physical therapy programs have specific prerequisites recognized. Some programs may also consider relevant life/work experiences when evaluating applicants for these rigorous national physical therapy exam preparatory curricula.

Letters of Recommendation

Obtaining strong letters of recommendation is a common requirement when applying to online programs for a doctorate in physical therapy. Some online programs may require as many as four recommendation letters from sources like former professors or professional supervisors.

Resume and Work Experience

When applying for physical therapy doctoral programs, applicants typically must submit a resume highlighting prior work experiences, especially any roles or volunteer positions relevant to physical therapy. This allows admissions committees to evaluate a candidate’s potential for the rigor of these programs.

Man massaging a patient's arms while he's lying on a bed

Things to Expect from Online Physical Therapy Programs

Online physical therapy programs offering a doctor of physical therapy provide flexibility for aspiring physical therapists and working professionals alike. These programs accommodate different backgrounds. 

Some cater to college graduates entering the field, while others are geared toward physical therapists seeking advanced credentials. Though requirements vary, online physical therapy doctorates typically involve: 

Tailored for aspiring students or licensed physical therapists, some on-campus, online, and hybrid programs emphasize clinical experiences. Meanwhile, others culminate in a capstone project or dissertation defense.

Reasons Why Online DPT Programs Are Worth It

A Ph.D. in physical therapy, whether earned through face-to-face or online DPT programs, is worth it, knowing this is a prerequisite for the career. With a projected job growth rate of 15% between 2022 and 2032, becoming a physical therapy doctor is a career worth having.

How Long Does the Online Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Take?

Completing a doctor of physical therapy online usually takes three years. There are also some programs that allow students to finish the whole course in just two years. For those working full-time and only studying part-time, the doctorate program takes about four to five years to complete.

The online doctorate program is the best option for those who plan to gain more knowledge about physical therapy yet have no time to go to school full-time. Since online courses offer flexibility, you can complete your tasks and assignments without having to go to class physically.

Can a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program be Completed Entirely Online?

No, most doctor of physical therapy programs cannot be completed entirely online. Most programs include clinical placements, which cannot be completed online.

What are the Highest-Paying Jobs for Someone with a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree?

Physical therapists specializing in sports medicine or cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation can typically expect to earn the highest salaries in the field. However, this could still depend on your experience, training, education, and even location.


By enrolling in the best online physical therapy program, you can achieve a transitional doctor of physical therapy diploma to achieve your career goals. With your experience and further education, you can confidently embark on your journey to becoming a successful physical therapy doctor.

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