How Do I Pick Which PT Schools to Apply To?

How Do I Pick Which PT Schools to Apply To?

There are over 200 accredited doctoral physical therapy programs in the US. Doctoral physical therapy programs are typically three years in length and challenge students with a curriculum comprised of about 80% of didactic/laboratory material and 20% of clinical education in internships.¹ With so many options, how do you choose which PT schools to apply to? Let’s dive into how PT schools differ and factors you should consider when making your decision, and learn more about our services to help you pick your PT schools here!

Location, Location, Location

PT schools are located across the US, with some located in large, urban cities and others located in smaller, more rural areas. The majority of PT schools are located on the East Coast followed by the Midwest and the West Coast. New York, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania have the most PT programs of all the states. Additionally, some PT schools are attached to university (teaching) hospitals.¹

Public? Private? What About Class Size? Faculty?

Which PT Schools Should I Apply To?The majority of PT schools are part of private institutions (54%). Class sizes vary significantly. Overall, classes can vary from 3 to 117 students (per year). However, class sizes for PT programs at public schools range from 12-72 students, while class sizes for PT programs at private schools range from 3-99 students.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, the average core faculty to student ratio was 1 faculty member to 12.1 students. The average number of core faculty members at a PT program is 11. However, PT programs also employ adjunct faculty members, instructors, lecturers, and teaching assistants to round out the teaching experience.

The vast majority of PT schools use a semester-based system (86.3% of programs), while other PT programs use a trimester or quarter system.¹

What Should I Know About the Curriculum?

All physical therapy programs include certain core elements and classes in their curricula as defined by the Commission on the Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Individual programs may differ in the electives they can offer. Examples of some electives include:

    • Vestibular Therapy
    • Sports Rehabilitation
    • Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation
    • Pilates and Yoga in Physical Therapy
    • Service Learning
    • Business Management for the Rehab Professional
    • Manual Therapy
    • Medical Spanish

Some programs also offer specialty tracks that allow you to learn more about a particular type of physical therapy, such as orthopedics, sports, neurology, and pediatrics.² ³

All physical therapy students are required to complete a certain number of hours in clinical settings while enrolled in school. Physical therapy programs offer these clinical internships at different types of sites (i.e. physical therapy settings and geographic locations), and the structure of how students complete these internships may differ in length and required settings. Some programs offer clinical education experiences abroad.

Show Me the Money

Physical therapy programs carry different price tags. Many factors can influence the total tuition price, such as whether the program is attached to a public or private institution, and a student’s state of residence. Annual tuition may vary between $4,028 and $71,220.¹

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  1. 2020. Aggregate Program Data: 2019 Physical Therapist Education Programs Fact Sheets. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  2. 2020. Emory Division Of Physical Therapy | Electives. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 June 2020].
  3. Columbia: Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. 2020. Electives. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 June 2020].

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