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Physical Therapy Degree

Physical therapy is medical care that treats disease, injury, or deformity that aims to reduce pain and improve function through exercise or other non-drug-related methods, such as massage. Physical therapy is often a key component for athletes and rehabilitation plans, but each patient requires individualized treatment. It can also be used to relieve pain or other symptoms related to chronic conditions.

Physical therapy education will provide a solid foundation in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. This degree is not offered at the baccalaureate level anymore, but it can be studied at the associate level. The standard requirement for this are of study is offered at doctorate level since Physical Therapists are required to have a PhD to practice, as well as state licensing.

The only accrediting agency for physical therapy degrees is the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). To become licensed, the education program must be accredited by CAPTE, and all states require licensure.

Associate Level

Physical therapy may be studied at the associate level and can typically be completed in 2 years. The curriculum for a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) degree is typically a mix of general educations courses and physical therapy courses, with roughly a fourth of time spent in clinical education. This degree is considered a pre-professional degree and leads to a job as a Physical Therapist Assistant, which requires licensure.  

Physical Therapist Assistants take part in educating other health care providers, providing psychosocial support for patients, assist in training with mobility devices such as canes or walkers, and administering electrotherapy.

PTAs can typically be found working at: hospitals, outpatient clinics, hospices, homes, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, fitness centers, education or research centers, occupational environments. The average annual salary for this profession is $56,000.


While a Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy isn’t a typical option, there are a number of suggested majors that offer a smooth transition into graduate education in this area of study, much like Pre-Med degrees. Useful courses during a baccalaureate program include courses on health science statistics, health, athletic injuries, and psychology.

Most common baccalaureate degrees for students intending to become Physical Therapists: Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Biology, Health Science, Psychology, Athletic Training, Exercise Physiology, Science, Physiology, Nutrition

Doctoral Level

A Doctor in Physical Therapy (DTP) degree is the required level of education for working as a practicing Physical Therapist. Coursework at this level will cover applied physical therapy, as expected, but will also include courses on life span development and pharmacotherapy, the second of which is drug-based medical treatment. While Physical Therapists work with non-medication-based methods, they’re required to evaluate all aspects a patient’s medical circumstances and treatments. Programs typically take three years to complete.

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