Learn About Physical Therapy Degrees

Ultra-Competitive Jobs in Healthcare Demand Top Degrees

As I was exploring the opportunities for online healthcare degrees, Physical Therapy stood out. This field continues to offer extremely competitive positions with plenty of upward mobility. Online, or distance learning programs are all the rage, especially among adult learners with full-time careers and perhaps family. This segment of the population is a critical new demographic for college degree programs, both traditional and online. Surprisingly working PTs have little options among entry-level degrees, but instead the very upper level, prestigious degrees are available in an online format.

In many cases working adults have not earned a college education. As I explained in my article “What is Distance Learning?” online degrees now pose worthy alternatives to the traditional, campus-based degree programs.

Physical Therapy as a Career

Physical Therapists are a critical component of the healthcare world. PTs work in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and even in private practice. These highly skilled professionals are charged with guiding patients and clients with musculoskeletal injuries or limitations back to health.

PTs ultimately find a niche specialty such as orthopedics. This is the most common—it’s the one associated with sports rehab and athletic injuries, as well as everyday musculoskeletal injuries. Other specialties include:

Transitional Versus Direct Degrees in the PT Field

Once upon a time a Bachelors degree in Physical Therapy was professionally charged enough to get an entry-level Physical Therapist off and running, career-wise. Nowadays this field—a mix of healthcare and sports medicine—is more competitive than ever. Serious PTs don’t succeed without at least a Masters degree. Beyond this many choose to pursue a Doctoral degree.

Students approach these degrees either through direct degree programs or via transitional programs. For example, say you’ve earned a four-year liberal arts degree, but now want to pursue a graduate program in Physical Therapy. You would enroll in a Transitional Masters in Physical Therapy. The degree program is one year longer than the Direct Masters—one a Bachelor’s in PT would pursue—because it requires an extra year of “catch-up” PT work. So if you’re confused by the PT rhetoric of transitional vs. direct, this is it.

Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

The most commonplace online Physical Therapy degree is the Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. As I clarified above, the transitional element means that those students with a Bachelors degree in Physical Therapy may immediately and quickly prepare themselves for their Doctorate with earning this one to two-year degree online. According to Boston University, any upwardly mobile Physical Therapist will require a Ph.D. by 2020. This means the wealth of Transitional DPTs will be in high demand, especially in online programs that enable working professionals to flexibly complete studies on their own time.

Transitional DPT curriculums include movement, diagnosis, patient analysis, family practice, pediatric practice and geriatric practice, cultural and ethical issues and many other types of courses.

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Ph.D. in PT guarantees a professional PT the most prestigious position in the workforce. Like other Ph.D. programs this too is most emphasized for PTs interested in research or academia. Common curriculum at this level includes advanced research methods, statistics, Law for healthcare professionals, ethics, and advanced education topics. Nova Southeastern University in Florida reports that it is the only institution in the U.S. that offers an online Ph.D. in PT.