Contents

    20 best physical therapy schools in 2024

    20 best physical therapy schools in 2024
    Contents

      To become a licensed physical therapist, you’ll need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from a CAPTE-accredited institution.

      The best-value DPT programs in the country come from Northeastern University, Carroll University, and Angelo State University.

      Physical therapy, while a high-paying and rewarding career, can be expensive to pursue. Make sure that your PT program offers the right balance between cost and future earnings.

      www.degreechoices.com 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.

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      If you’re considering physical therapy as a career – great! Thanks in large part to a rapidly growing aging population, physical therapists are in high demand in the United States, with an above-average growth rate of 15% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Physical therapists are well paid, too, with a (2022) median salary of $97,720.

      To get there, though, you’ll need to put down a decent amount of money for a physical therapy program for licensure, and most PT programs are known to be costly.

      To support you in deciding on a PT school you can feel good about, we list the best physical therapy schools in the country by value for money.

      » More like this: Medical degrees and healthcare careers

      How to become a physical therapist

      Altogether, becoming a physical therapist takes about 7 years: 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and 3 years to complete a physical therapy graduate program.

      Steps to becoming a physical therapist

      • Earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
      • Earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from a CAPTE-accredited program.
      • Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for licensure.
      • Pass a jurisprudence exam (required in some states – contact your state licensing authorities for requirements) for licensure.
      • Optional: Complete a residency/get board certification for a physical therapy specialization, like women’s health or geriatrics.

      What is a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree?

      A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is the professional degree required to become a physical therapist in the United States, and the only degree given out by CAPTE-accredited physical therapy programs today.

      Despite what its name suggests, a Doctor of Physical Therapy is not a PhD. And DPT holders aren’t medical doctors either. A DPT degree is a clinical or “practice” doctorate that qualifies individuals for the profession – not a philosophical doctorate like a PhD, which is focused on research and scholarly work.

      A handful of schools offer a PhD in Physical Therapy program alongside their standard DPT program.

      Why a doctorate program?

      Before becoming a doctorate-only program, professional training for physical therapy in the United States took the form of a bachelor’s degree and certificate, then a master’s degree – at this point, more closely resembling physical therapy programs internationally.

      The move to a doctorate-level PT program has a few plausible reasons, such as expanding patients’ direct access to physical therapists, who normally require a doctor’s referral.

      Officially, though, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) stated that a DPT degree recognizes that patients have complex needs, and effective treatment of those needs requires a doctorate-level education.

      Top physical therapy schools – ranked by value for money

      Not every Doctor of Physical Therapy program is made equal in terms of its cost or future earning potential, and students can rack up a lot of debt on the path to becoming a physical therapist.

      With these metrics in mind, we’ve compiled the top 20 best-value physical therapy programs in the country.

      #1 in Physical Therapy

      Northeastern University

      Boston, Massachusetts

      Economic score 0.45

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $77,354

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.5

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $35,500

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The best-value physical therapy program in the country is at Northeastern University, a large private university in Boston. The school’s physical therapy program reports an average debt of $35,500 at graduation – the lowest debt of all programs on our list

      Northeastern’s Postbaccalaureate Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program is a 38-month program, consisting of both didactic and experiential learning, which culminates in a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.  

      A unique feature of Northeastern’s DPT program is Cooperative Education, the school’s trademark experiential learning program that provides students with 6-month paid professional experience in physical therapy. 

      The NPTE first-time pass rate for 2023 graduates was 81.4%.  

      See more
      #2 in Physical Therapy

      Carroll University

      Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Economic score 0.53

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $76,070

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.5

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $41,000

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The 2nd best-value physical therapy program on our list comes from Caroll University, a midsized Presbyterian-affiliated private university in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  

      Carroll University’s Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy Program consists of a 3-year pre-professional phase (in which students earn at least 98 credits at the undergraduate level and satisfy entry requirements for the next phase), and a 3-year professional phase, in which they work toward a DPT tile by completing coursework and earning clinical experience.  

      In 2022, the school had a first-time NPTE pass rate of 87.5% and a graduation rate of 97.37%.  

      See more
      #3 in Physical Therapy

      Angelo State University

      San Angelo, Texas

      Economic score 0.67

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $77,764

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.7

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $51,418

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Angelo State University, a midsized public university in San Angelo, Texas, offers the 3rd best Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the country by value for money.  

      Angelo State’s Physical Therapy DPT program is a 36-month program designed to develop skilled future physical therapists, with its small class sizes, various clinical rotations, modern facilities for on-site training, and research opportunities with faculty among the main draws for students.  

      And this affordable program leads to great results: its 2022-2033 class witnessed 90.45% first-time pass rates and 100% 2-year graduation rates.  

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      #4 in Physical Therapy

      Stockton University

      Galloway, New Jersey

      Economic score 0.67

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $83,037

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.7

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $56,000

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The 4th best-value DPT program comes from Stockton University, a public university in suburban Galloway, New Jersey. Many students flock to Stockton for its health programs – in fact, health services, allied health, and health sciences degrees are the most popular conferred degrees. 

      The 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Stockton’s School of Health Sciences offers small classroom sizes, research opportunities with professors from diverse medical backgrounds, and 3 full-time clinical rotations – preparing students with the expertise they’ll need to be effective physical therapists.  

      And the numbers have it: Stockton reports a 100% employment rate among its graduates. 

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      #5 in Physical Therapy

      Texas State University

      San Marcos, Texas

      Economic score 0.69

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $84,604

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.7

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $62,852

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Texas State University, a large public school in San Marcos, Texas, offers the 5th best-value DPT program in the nation.  

      Its 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, located on the Round Rock campus, offers a 99-credit hour curriculum covering subjects like anatomy, body systems, and neuroscience, alongside professional skills like patient care and clinical decision-making.  

      Among its 2023 graduates, 89.35% passed the NPTE on the first attempt and 100% were employed within 6 months of licensure.  

      See more
      #6 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 0.71

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $79,005

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.7

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $56,186

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Texas Woman’s University, a midsized public (co-ed) university in Denton, Texas, is a diverse institution classified as Hispanic-Serving. Health majors, its DPT programs among them, are the most popular fields of study after liberal arts and psychology.  

      The TWU School of Physical Therapy is home to a reputable 33-month Entry Doctor of Physical Therapy program (housed on both Dallas and Houston campuses) and, notably, a Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy (PhD) program and DPT-to-PhD fast track program – one of the few PhD programs for physical therapists in the country. 

      Among the program’s strengths is the breadth of its clinical education sites nationwide. At TWU, students can choose from 1,000 sites across the country for their clinical education to gain diverse hands-on experiences in the field. 

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      #7 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 0.79

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $76,755

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.8

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $60,446

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Ohio University, a large public research university in Athens, Ohio, is home to one of the most well-regarded and affordable physical therapy programs in the state.  

      Its 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate program focuses on developing a physical therapy practice imbued with compassion, confidence in one’s abilities, and humility. The third year allows students to take electives to explore a specialization of interest in depth.  

      Additionally, the school’s various residency programs, which include a women’s health residency program and a partnership with OhioHealth, offer unique opportunities for PT graduates to gain clinical experience in a specialization as they pursue employment.  

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      #8 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 0.89

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $76,671

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.9

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $69,893

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, a large public university and the largest in Milwaukee, offers an affordable 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in its School of Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology. UWM is home to the only DPT program in the Milwaukee area.  

      The program features small class sizes, earlier-than-average clinical experience opportunities (from the 2nd week), and the chance to collaborate with faculty on cutting-edge research in the field. UWM offers a post-graduate orthopedic residency program for those interested in pursuing a specialist certification.  

      Note that UWM’s DPT program is competitive, with only 36 students accepted per year and an average cumulative GPA of 3.65 among those admitted.  

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      #9 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 0.92

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $72,298

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.9

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $63,757

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      University of Wisconsin-Madison, the flagship school of the University of Wisconsin system and the oldest public university in the state, is another UW school with a highly respected and affordable Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Its DPT program, like UW-Milwaukee’s, is competitive, with only 40 students accepted annually.  

      The program comprises basic science, clinical science, and clinical practice tracks, with each semester’s coursework pulling from all 3. Clinical education is 42 weeks in length, and, as a non-concurrent model, allows students to dedicate themselves fully to hands-on learning.  

      Notably, University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of a handful of schools in the country to offer a DPT-MPH dual degree, which, in this school, means that students can earn both degrees within just 4 years.   

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      #10 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 0.93

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $79,151

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.0

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $75,967

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, or IUPUI for short, is a large Indianapolis-based public research university and collaboration between Indiana University and Purdue University.  

      Students of IUPUI’s 36-month Doctor of Physical Therapy program can take advantage of the school’s numerous clinical partnerships (offered locally and across the country), new medical facilities, and proximity to Indianapolis’ vast network of hospitals and other healthcare buildings.   

      IUPUI also offers a Dual DPT & PHD program for students interested in exploring the research side of their physical therapy practice.   

      Note that while the partnership between the two schools is due to end by fall 2024, most of IUPU’s existing academic programs will be absorbed into IU Indianapolis.   

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      #11 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 0.96

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $69,720

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 0.9

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $61,500

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is a small public health science center in Galveston, Texas, and a member of the University of Texas school system. The school has a much higher-than-average graduation rate of 94%.  

      The Entry-Level Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at UTMB offers students several program tracks: a residential program, a (PTA-to-DPT) bridge program, and a hybrid program. The latter program, the first of its kind in Texas, consists of a blend of online and in-person instruction and activities – a good option for busy (employed) learners.  

      These programs have excellent graduation and licensure exam pass rates across the board at nearly 90% and higher for both in 2023.  

      See more
      #12 in Physical Therapy

      University of Kentucky

      Lexington, Kentucky

      Economic score 1.06

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $77,577

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.1

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $83,167

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The University of Kentucky is a large public university in Lexington, Kentucky. Its 3-year Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program is offered on the Lexington campus and the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky.  

      The school’s program affiliates for its clinical education component consist of 30 sites across the country and even a few sites abroad in Australia, Italy, and Hong Kong.  At least 1 clinical course outside of Kentucky is required for graduation.  

      Program graduation rates are high – 91% as of 2023 – and the average licensure exam pass rate from the last 5 years is 97.8%.  

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      #13 in Physical Therapy

      West Virginia University

      Morgantown, West Virginia

      Economic score 1.08

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $78,236

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.1

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $85,308

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      West Virginia University (WVU) is a large public school in Morgantown, West Virginia, a university town close to the Pennsylvania border and south of Pittsburgh.  

      WVU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program is close-knit, with a small student-to-teacher ratio, and challenging, with a curriculum spanning 9 tracks total. The school also offers a DPT and PhD dual degree program, a 6-year program well-suited for students interested in pursuing research and/or academia.   

      Program graduates can later choose to take advantage of WVU’s residency programs, which collaborate with WVU Orthopedics Department, the WVU Cancer Center, and WVU Medicine.  
      Program outcomes include a 100% graduation rate for the last 5 years and a 2-year NPTE ultimate pass rate of 98.6%.  

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      #14 in Physical Therapy

      University of Indianapolis

      Indianapolis, Indiana

      Economic score 1.09

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $79,706

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.1

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $90,386

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The University of Indianapolis, or UIndy, is a midsized private United Methodist Church-affiliated university in Indianapolis, Indiana.  

      Its 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the Krannert School of Physical Therapy is a unique program that brings together in-person and online (around 15%) learning with clinical experience.  

      In the 115-credit curriculum, UIndy DPT students can elect to complete 5 credit hours toward either the Research or Independent Professional Project track. The program’s clinical experience component involves 39 weeks of full-time clinical rotations and, in the last semester, 15 weeks of clinical experience in a specialization.  

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      #15 in Physical Therapy

      The University of Montana

      Missoula, Montana

      Economic score 1.21

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $71,421

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.2

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $84,404

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The University of Montana is a midsized public university in Missoula, Montana, a mountainside college town known for its arts scene and outdoor activities.  

      Its 33-month Doctor of Physical Therapy program takes in just 36 full-time DPT graduate students, with 5 spots held for competitive University of Montana students. 

      The program consists of classroom and lab work, 3 full-time and 2 part-time clinical experiences, and unique opportunities for community outreach and interprofessional collaboration beyond physical therapy. A highlight is the University of Montana Physical Therapy Clinic (UMPT Clinic), which in part provides a teaching facility for physical therapy graduate students.  

      Program outcomes for the 2023 class were excellent, with a 100% graduation rate and 97.3% first-time NPTE pass rate.  

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      #16 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 1.21

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $70,709

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.1

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $79,721

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), a member of the University of Nebraska network, is a small public health science center in Omaha, Nebraska.  

      UNMC’s 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program is offered on both Omaha and Kearney (UNK) campuses.  

      Beyond the standard curriculum, which involves a mix of lab courses, seminars, and clinical experiences, students can also choose to develop their research, teaching, supervision, and other valuable skill areas in physical therapy.  

      The licensure exam first-time pass rate among the 2022-2023 class was 82%.  

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      #17 in Physical Therapy

      Sacred Heart University

      Fairfield, Connecticut

      Economic score 1.23

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $77,798

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.3

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $97,500

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Sacred Heart University is a midsized private Roman Catholic university in Fairfield, Connecticut, with allied health professions among its top 5 most popular majors. 

      Its 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program emphasizes patient care at the local level, with a capstone research project, practice project, and local service learning all offering unique opportunities to make a difference in the community.   

      The program is also available as a dual degree option, where students can earn both a bachelor’s degree and DPT degree in as little as 6 or 7 years.  

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      #18 in Physical Therapy

      Loma Linda University

      Loma Linda, California

      Economic score 1.29

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $90,126

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.5

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $138,071

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      Loma Linda University is a small private Seventh-Day Adventist Church-owned university in Loma Linda, a city in southern California. Prospective students looking for a faith-based approach to physical therapy training would benefit from Loma Linda’s entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program

      The program, which is 3 years in length, combines PT fundamentals with Christian ideals and service. It’s also competitive; the average accepted applicant has a GPA of 3.5 or higher.  

      Loma Linda’s DPT students have the unique opportunity to participate in mission work across the globe, from China to Brazil.  

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      #19 in Physical Therapy
      Economic score 1.30

      The Economic Score is the combination of debt-to-earnings ratio and earningsplus. We use the economic score to determine a graduate program’s rank. The lower the economic score the better. For an analysis of how we arrive at the economic score, and a description of our data sources, please visit our methodology page.

      Earnings $79,099

      Median earnings of all students 4 years after graduating.

      Debt to earnings 1.3

      The debt-to-earnings ratio is calculated by dividing student debt upon graduation by the annual salary. A debt to earnings ratio of 1 means that annual educational debt is the same as annual earnings.

      Debt $103,736

      The total debt accrued by the median student at the time of graduation.

      The University of South Florida is a large public research university in Tampa, Florida, and the first state school in Florida to offer a DPT degree.   

      USF’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program boasts a brand-new simulation lab (the only one of its kind in the state) that provides students with valuable hands-on training in inpatient settings.  

      The program has seen excellent student outcomes, with a 98% graduation rate and 96% first-time licensure exam pass rate among its 2023 class. 

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      Saint Joseph’s University

      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Economic score N/A

      Some schools may not provide complete data to IPEDS, impacting our ability to rank them. Unavailable information is marked N/A.

      Earnings N/A

      Some schools may not provide complete data to IPEDS, impacting our ability to rank them. Unavailable information is marked N/A.

      Debt to earnings N/A

      Some schools may not provide complete data to IPEDS, impacting our ability to rank them. Unavailable information is marked N/A.

      Debt N/A

      Some schools may not provide complete data to IPEDS, impacting our ability to rank them. Unavailable information is marked N/A.

      Saint Joseph’s University is a midsized private Roman Catholic university in Philadelphia.  

      Its 2.5-year Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, conveniently located by hundreds of clinical sites in Philadelphia (and beyond), offers plenty of choice to students for their 12-week clinicals.  

      The program’s length is unique, saving students 6 months to get a leg up on their licensure examinations and the job market. (This is also beneficial for students who can’t afford to hold off work for 3 years, which many DPT programs require). 

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      How we made this list

      From over 200 physical therapy doctoral programs in the United States, we identified the top 20 DPT programs that offered the best value for money to students.

      We define “best value for money” by average total debt at graduation among program graduates and their average yearly earnings 4 years after graduation.

      Depending on how well these factors balance each other out (i.e., how easily a graduate can pay for the program with their post-graduation earnings), each school program gets a unique economic score – and the lower the economic score, the smarter the investment.

      Our ranking methodology only uses government-sourced data, primarily from IPEDS, a survey system from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and College Scorecard, a user-friendly database of education data for the public from the Department of Education.

      What makes a physical therapy school “good”?

      Where you go to physical therapy school, whether it’s an ultra-prestigious institution, local college, or something in between, isn’t too important.

      Because the bulk of what you’ll learn later as a licensed physical therapist will be on the job, not in the classroom, school prestige isn’t what makes a DPT program good. It is, in part, what makes it expensive, though.

      These are some alternative indicators of a good-value physical therapy program:

      Tuition cost

      Rather than going exclusively for programs from “brand-name” schools, consider low-tuition programs and those which offer generous financial aid.

      Accreditation

      Pay attention to a school’s accreditation status. Licensed physical therapists in the US need to have graduated from a CAPTE-accredited institution.

      Clinical education

      In physical therapy, practical experience is a key differentiator in the entry-level job market. A few considerations for assessing the depth of a school’s clinical education component are:

      • Quality of a school’s clinical partner network
      • Number of credit hours put aside for clinical education
      • Whether the clinical education component is full time/non-concurrent

      Student outcomes

      An above-average graduation rate and National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) pass rate are often reliable indicators that a program is conducive to student success.

      In sum, try not to worry too much about school prestige and focus on value instead. After all, because DPT programs are notoriously expensive, you’ll need to make sure they pay off for you in the long term.

      Physical therapy school requirements

      Admissions for DPT programs are known to be competitive. Schools tend to accept a small pool of applicants, with acceptance rates often hovering around the low double or even single digits.

      To put your best foot forward as an applicant, take note of what most physical therapy schools look for in a well-rounded application.

      Physical therapy school requirements for admission

      • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, ideally in a related health or science field
      • Prerequisite courses, generally in anatomy, biology, physiology, physics, psychology, and statistics, among others
      • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores for most programs
      • Physical therapy experience, either through volunteering or paid work – the type and amount are specified by the school
      • In some cases, an interview to understand the applicant’s motivations for entering the field and their strengths

      Application process

      You can apply to most DPT programs through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), an online portal that allows users to apply to multiple programs in one application.

      For non-PTCAS participating schools, you’ll need to apply directly.

      Is a physical therapy degree worth it?

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists make a median salary of $97,720 as of 2022. That’s about 91% higher than the national average.

      However, the average debt at graduation for programs classified by IPEDS as “rehabilitation and therapeutic professions” is $105,698, based on debt data from College Scorecard and IPEDS. Take note that this category includes physical therapy but also related fields like occupational therapy, expressive therapies, and kinesiotherapy.

      So, with decent average salaries (paired with sky-high tuition costs to get there), it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether pursuing physical therapy is worth it. Paying off over $100,000 in debt in a few years isn’t impossible, but it’s no walk in the park, either, and may prove to be more stressful than it’s worth – especially if physical therapy isn’t the career you truly want.

      Before deciding, take stock of your goals – especially your financial ones – to gauge whether physical therapy school is a smart investment.

      » More like this: High-paying medical jobs in allied health

      Final thoughts

      Physical therapy programs can be gratifying in more ways than one. Apart from providing students with a strong knowledge base in the field, they offer exciting opportunities to take in these concepts firsthand in clinical settings.

      While the cost of DPT programs can add up, that final cost doesn’t have to be astronomical if you choose a program that offers the right balance between total cost and projected earnings.

      If you’re considering physical therapy but still curious about other fields, consider finding the right program for you in our quiz below.

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