Physical Therapy General

Physical therapy, or physiotherapy, is focused on helping patients recuperate following acute illness or debilitating injury. Physical therapists, or simply "PTs," are trained to help people regain their former mobility and function so they can live a normal life. U.S. News & World Report included Physical Therapy on its Top 10 Best Careers list for 2012.

The physical therapist's tools may be very simple, such as heat and ice, or very complex, involving ultrasonography or electrical stimulation of the muscles. Other interventions include joint mobilizations, strength training, bracing, taping, and the use of orthotic and prosthetic devices.

Anyone who has experienced an impairment or loss of physical function may seek help from a physical therapist. PTs apply subclinical and clinical treatments to reduce pain and swelling, minimize stiffness, maximize mobility, strengthen the body, and promote proper ergonomics. They also engage in substantive patient education.

About Physical Therapy

Physical therapists work in hospitals, inpatient and outpatient clinics, universities, pediatric centers, patients' homes, nursing homes and assisted living. Often, they go to where the injuries are. In pediatrics, for example, PTs may conduct therapy at home or in the child's day care facility. Home delivery of rehabilitation services is on the rise, mainly because it cuts costs and crowds at hospitals.

There is overlap between the fields of occupational therapy and physical therapy, which are both healthcare-oriented disciplines that provide rehabilitation services. However, occupational therapists do not usually apply direct clinical treatments, whereas a physical therapist is licensed to administer, for example, manual therapy and wound care, as well as more advanced treatments such as vestibular rehabilitation, acupuncture, and decongestant lymphatic drainage massages.

Physical therapy is increasingly seeing the integration of cutting-edge technologies unprecedented in the field. Emerging applications include the use of humanoid robots to deliver both physical and speech therapy to stroke patients, as seen in research conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst earlier this year.


The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, or CAPTE, is the chief accrediting body for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in the U.S. There are 218 accredited physical therapy programs as of 2013, according to the organization, all of which offer degrees up to the master's level. A complete list of CAPTE-accredited programs can be found at the American Physical Therapy Association's website.


Physical therapists must acquire a license to practice in every American state. Licensure is normally issued through each state's regulatory board. A PT's licensure must also be renewed on a regular basis through the accrual of continuing education credits, a requirement typical of skilled professions.

Many states utilize the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), the entry-level professional PT certification test, to verify whether licensure candidates are competent to safely deliver physical therapy in the United States.

Educational Options in Physical Therapy

The American Physical Therapy Association has set up a common application platform with numerous participating PT programs, called the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service, or PTCAS. PTCAS offers prospective students the convenience of applying to multiple physical therapy schools with the same information.

Primary Certification

The primary certification exam for physical therapists is the National Physical Therapy Exam, or NPTE, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. All PT school graduates must go on to pass the NPTE in order to become a licensed physical therapist the United States. Typically, around 90 percent of graduates from accredited physical therapy programs pass the NPTE on the first try.

Although it does not issue certifications or accreditation, the American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA, is an extraordinarily helpful organization for students and practitioners in this sector. The group's website may be consulted for topics ranging from education to career development and specialization.

Post-Secondary Degrees

A bachelor's degree is a critical prerequisite for gaining entry to any kind of graduate program. Students who plan to earn a graduate PT degree should be sure their undergraduate program of choice supplies the recommended curriculum. This includes biology, chemistry, physics, and basic social science.

A master's degree is considered entry-level for the profession, and is sufficient to sit for the professional licensure exam. The Master of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (M.S.P.T.) are among the most common physical therapy degrees.

For those who decide to advance to the doctoral level, some physical therapy schools offer the Ph.D. in Physical Rehabilitation Science. There is also a truncated, entry-level doctorate called the Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.).

Secondary Certifications

Some physical therapists work as general PT practitioners; others specialize. Orthopedic physical therapy is by far the most popular specialty.

Orthopedic therapists help individuals recover from surgical procedures, sprains, amputations, arthritis, fractures, tears, herniated discs, tendinitis, whiplash, and virtually any other injury involving the musculoskeletal system.

Specialty certifications in physical therapy are issued by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). Its "Certified Specialist" credentials include:

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary (CCS)

Clinical Electrophysiology (ECS)

Geriatrics (GCS)

Neurology (NCS)

Orthopedics (OCS)

Pediatrics (PCS)

Sports (SCS)

Women's Health (WCS)

One of the best ways to keep up with the latest in specialization programming is by joining one or more "sections" hosted by the APTA for its members. Sections help participants keep up with current research, network with other professionals, and access continuing education discounts. Awards, research funding, publishing, residency and fellowship opportunities are also available.

APTA member sections include:

Acute Care

Aquatic Physical Therapy

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary

Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management


Federal Physical Therapy


Hand Rehabilitation

Health Policy and Administration

Home health





Private Practice


Sports Physical Therapy

Women's Health

No schools found or there was a problem, please try again later. (error: 6, http code: 0)

We found 231 schools offering physical therapy degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 231 Physical Therapy General Colleges in the U.S.

Physical Therapy Schools Ranked By US News and World Report

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 29194

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
University of Delaware
Newark, DE  |  Total Enrollment: 19072

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's
University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus
Pittsburgh, PA  |  Total Enrollment: 26329

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Washington University in St Louis
Saint Louis, MO  |  Total Enrollment: 12118

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA  |  Total Enrollment: 28311

Degrees Offered: Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Mgh Institute of Health Professions
Boston, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 524

Degrees Offered: Master's, Post-Masters certificate
Emory University
Atlanta, GA  |  Total Enrollment: 11398

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 16952

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 13963

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC  |  Total Enrollment: 24892

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree

Browse All 231 Colleges With Physical Therapy Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Institute of Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Honolulu HI 30
Mayo School of Health Related Sciences Rochester MN 248
Andrew College Cuthbert GA 329
University of St Augustine for Health Sciences Saint Augustine FL 419
Mgh Institute of Health Professions Boston MA 524
Samuel Merritt College Oakland CA 693
Russell Sage College Troy NY 819
Chatham College Pittsburgh PA 1002
A T Still University of Health Sciences Kirksville MO 1028
Suny Health Science Center at Syracuse Syracuse NY 1096
Gogebic Community College Ironwood MI 1106
Notre Dame College Manchester NH 1121
Claflin University Orangeburg SC 1130
Independence Community College Independence KS 1144
Keystone College La Plume PA 1220
Clarke College Dubuque IA 1249
Northwest Nazarene University Nampa ID 1316
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science North Chicago IL 1360
Suny Health Science Center at Brooklyn Brooklyn NY 1470
Western University of Health Sciences Pomona CA 1471
Midwestern University Downers Grove IL 1499
New York Medical College Valhalla NY 1502
The University of Texas Southwest Med Ctr - Dallas Dallas TX 1505
Wheeling Jesuit University Wheeling WV 1515
Walsh University North Canton OH 1545
University of Mississippi Medical Center Jackson MS 1674
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Lubbock TX 1719
Oakwood College Huntsville AL 1767
Neumann College Aston PA 1804
Daemen College Amherst NY 1824
Alpena Community College Alpena MI 1853
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 1927
The University of Texas Medical Branch - Galveston Galveston TX 1927
Medical College of Georgia Augusta GA 1932
Husson College Bangor ME 1944
Dillard University New Orleans LA 1953
University of Mobile Mobile AL 1968
Allen County Community College Iola KS 1968
Siena Heights University Adrian MI 1972
Mount St Marys College Los Angeles CA 1973
Pacific University Forest Grove OR 1979
Oklahoma Baptist University Shawnee OK 2017
The College of Saint Scholastica Duluth MN 2054
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis TN 2069
Saint Francis University Loretto PA 2129
Utica College of Syracuse University Utica NY 2188
College of Mount St. Joseph Cincinnati OH 2221
Galveston College Galveston TX 2255
Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia PA 2256
College Misericordia Dallas PA 2271
East Central Community College Decatur MS 2291
Hardin - Simmons University Abilene TX 2304
Mid Michigan Community College Harrison MI 2316
Wytheville Community College Wytheville VA 2339
University of Mary Bismarck ND 2343
Dyouville College Buffalo NY 2397
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Denver CO 2399
Sage College of Albany Albany NY 2407
University of Kansas Medical Center Kansas City KS 2409
Shenandoah University Winchester VA 2428
Mcp Hahnemann University Philadelphia PA 2500
Hill College Hillsboro TX 2512
The University of Texas Health Science - San Antonio San Antonio TX 2543
University of Evansville Evansville IN 2636
Cisco Junior College Cisco TX 2642
University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha NE 2695
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center at New Orleans New Orleans LA 2720
Rockhurst University Kansas City MO 2727
Arcadia University Glenside PA 2736
Andrews University Berrien Springs MI 2749
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City OK 2759
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville MS 2796
Langston University Langston OK 2826
Winston - Salem State University Winston-salem NC 2857
University of Puget Sound Tacoma WA 2865
Carroll College Waukesha WI 2902
Alcorn State University Alcorn State MS 2936
Belmont University Nashville TN 2976
Snow College Ephraim UT 2999
Saint Ambrose University Davenport IA 3011
Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis MO 3055
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA 3153
Saint Mary S University of Minnesota Minneapolis MN 3200
Coastal Bend College Beeville TX 3259
University of Maryland - Eastern Shore Princess Anne MD 3297
Gannon University Erie PA 3377
Marymount University Arlington VA 3422
Simmons College Boston MA 3488
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco CA 3517
Monroe County Community College Monroe MI 3555
Southwest Baptist University Bolivar MO 3593
University of Indianapolis Indianapolis IN 3599
Kilgore College Kilgore TX 4000
North Idaho College Coeur Dalene ID 4049
Elon University Elon NC 4138
Muskegon Community College Muskegon MI 4311
College of St Catherine Saint Paul MN 4487
The University of Findlay Findlay OH 4510
North Georgia College & State University Dahlonega GA 4552
Concordia University - Wisconsin Mequon WI 4603
 1 2 3 >