Earning a Specialized Degree from Top Physical Therapy Schools

The physical therapy industry is sometimes overlooked as a first line of treatment for an assortment of common ailments. According to research, utilizing physical therapy can reduce patient costs up to 72% when used as the first method of treatment over other consultative types of services.

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Award Emblem: Best 6 Top Physical Therapy Schools & Colleges

Wouldn’t it make sense for you to go into an industry that helps patients relieve pain and saves them money?

The top physical therapy schools in the country are relatively spread out, but they hold a lot of promise for students. Receiving a degree from one of the accredited physical therapy schools gives you an advantage over some other fields that don’t have a future nearly as promising.

With a decent expected income and a healthy outlook for future employment opportunities, prospective students interested in attending physical therapy colleges will want to know which ones are the best of the best.

If you’re going to be treating patients, you should know exactly what you’re doing and how to handle every situation. The best physical therapy schools give you the tools you need to accurately assess and confidently handle anything your career throws at you. Why wouldn’t you want to find the best physical therapy schools around?

Our listing of the top ranked physical therapy schools will give you an idea of what each campus has to offer – and what it will cost you. If you’ve been considering a career change that involves pursuing a physical therapy degree, this is the place you’ll want to start for the most information upfront.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Physical Therapy Schools

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the schools below to go directly to the detailed review section for that physical therapy school):

Top 6 Best Physical Therapy Schools | Brief Comparison & Ranking

Schools for Physical Therapy



Emory UniversityAtlanta, Georgia$11,767 per semester
University of DelawareNewark, Delaware$1,051 per credit hour
University of IowaIowa City, Iowa$7,664 per semester for in-state residents
University of PittsburghPittsburgh, Pennsylvania$39,786 per three-term year
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, California$62,667 for the first year
Washington University in St. LouisSt. Louis, Missouri$18,634 per academic semester

Table: Top 6 Best Schools for Physical Therapy | Above list is sorted alphabetically

What Is the Outlook for a Physical Therapy Degree?

Attending any of the physical therapy colleges on our ranking may not mean much to you if you don’t know what the field has to offer. It’s no secret that PT schools are fairly expensive, so what does the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predict that the future will look like for professionals who hold a physical therapy degree?

top physical therapy schools

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During their 2014 survey, it was found that there were already more than 210,000 people employed within the industry as physical therapists. While that number may seem low, graduates of PT schools should have no difficulty finding a job in the coming years.

While many industries are seeing decreases in employment opportunities available over the next decade, a graduate from a doctor of physical therapy school will see an estimated 34% increase in job availability. This is much faster than the anticipated average of most jobs, according to the United States BLS.

In order to work within this field, you will need to attend an accredited physical therapy school. You must have a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) behind your name in order to claim the title and the salary expected from these positions.

The median income for 2016 was roughly $85,000 annually or $41 per hour.

Graduates from the best PT schools will have plenty of flexibility when it comes to working environments as well. Opportunities present themselves in hospitals, nursing homes, private practices, and more for those who are well-qualified from one of the many good physical therapy schools available.

The primary goal of someone in this profession is to help rehabilitate patients who have significant injuries, pain resulting from movement or mobility issues, and chronic conditions. Issues that affect mobility, including obesity and diabetes, will be very prevalent in physical therapy fields around the country.

Are you looking for the job stability, income, or rewarding experience that comes from this profession? If any of this sounds appealing to you, attending one of the best PT schools is the right place to start.

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Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Physical Therapy Schools

Below, please find the detailed review of each school on our list of physical therapy colleges. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these top physical therapy schools to score so highly in our selection ranking.

Emory University Review

Long celebrated as an institution with a history of excellence, Emory University is also known as one of the top physical therapy schools in the country. This physical therapy college is nestled right in the hubbub of the Atlanta region for a city experience like no other. Like many of the other accredited physical therapy schools, Emory emphasizes being well-prepared before you head into their program.

Prerequisites at this doctor of physical therapy school involve quite a bit more than a simple baccalaureate degree. Within five years of graduation, potential students who want to attend this physical therapy college need to earn an additional eight semester hours of human anatomy or human or mammalian physiology. Other requirements for admission to these schools for physical therapy include:

  • Eight semester hours of physics
  • Three semester hours of statistics
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Three essays
  • Extensive PT experience hours

The academics at this pick among best physical therapy schools give you plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning. Clinical experiences will begin in the third semester, lasting until your fifth semester. They resume again between your sixth and seventh semesters.

While this school for physical therapy may have stringent requirements for admission, it also has a hefty tuition rate. Between their standard tuition and all additional fees required for the program, one academic year is estimated to cost $68,164. Tuition alone is $11,767 per semester.

In order to earn your DPT at this physical therapy college, you can expect to spend nine semesters studying at Emory. They have an impressive success rate of having 100% of all graduates employed within the field six months following graduation.

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University of Delaware Review

Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best physical therapy schools in the nation, the University of Delaware also maintains a standard of excellence for their DPT program and PT schools. They boast an impressive success rate for graduates, with 96% of all admitted students completing the program within ten years.

Situated in Newark, Delaware, students at this physical therapy school will always find something to do in their spare time. This area is a hub of activity with events ranging from cultural shows to lounging on beaches on a sunny summer day.

Want to know what it takes to be granted admission at this choice among best physical therapy schools? Apart from a baccalaureate degree, here are the minimum standards for acceptance at the University of Delaware’s physical therapy schools:

  • Minimum of fifty hours observing a licensed physical therapist in patient care
  • Three letters of recommendation (two from physical therapists and one from a professor)
  • Completion of the required courses, including psychology, statistics, biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology

Enrollment is limited to just sixty students per class at this top physical therapy school.

Tuition is priced per credit hour at the University of Delaware, making it hard to compare to some of the other schools for physical therapy on our ranking. At this time, the price is set at $1,051 per credit hour, but they note that it is likely to increase approximately 4% each academic year.

This school for physical therapy maintains a program that lasts 2.5 years (nine semesters) with a combination of didactic and clinical experiences.

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University of Iowa Review

In the heart of the Midwest, you’ll find the University of Iowa right in the center of Iowa City. Each year, this top physical therapy school admits forty students to their prestigious doctor of physical therapy school to train for national licensure. Their entry-level program to the clinical field prepares students to enter the field 2.5 years after their initial classes begin.

Standards for admission are similar to most of the other schools on our ranking of the top schools for physical therapy:

  • Prerequisite courses in biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, physics, psychology, and math
  • Three letters of reference (one from a physical therapist, one from a professor, and one from a person of your choosing)
  • Minimum of fifty hours of observation in clinical practice

This physical therapy college requires students to attain 35 weeks of full-time clinical experiences prior to graduation in addition to their classes.

These physical therapy colleges boast impressive success rates with a 100% in licensure examination pass rates, employment rates, and graduation rates.

One of the nice features of this top physical therapy school is the ability for Iowa residents to receive in-state tuition. Residents and non-residents of this physical therapy college will pay $7,664 and $15,994 per semester, respectively. It’s estimated that residents will pay $59,810 for the program ($116,272 for non-residents).

Another unique aspect that makes the University of Iowa one of the best physical therapy schools is their DPT/PhD program. Students can earn their physical therapy degree (DPT) as well as a Doctor of Philosophy simultaneously to practice in the field and work on research for rehabilitation sciences.

University of Iowa - physical therapy colleges

Image Source: University of Iowa

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University of Pittsburgh Review

Another candidate marked as the best program by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Pittsburgh has some educational components that clearly set it apart from other schools for physical therapy. A combination of didactic education and clinical experiences sets students up for future success in their chosen career field. However, that does come with a cost.

While most schools for physical therapy average a program length of 2.5 years or nine semesters, the University of Pittsburgh requires three years or nine semesters and three summer terms. In exchange for the extra time spent at this good physical therapy school, you will also leave with significantly more experience in the field.

There will be a total of ninety weeks of clinical internships at this best physical therapy school.

In addition to the standard admissions requirements (previous credits for specific classes in a variety of fields, letters of recommendation, and some test scores), you can select from a number of majors within the program. Students can opt to study for a physical therapy degree, including:

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy and PhD in Bioengineering
  • MS in Physical Therapy
  • PhD in Rehabilitation Science

Tuition is priced at a flat-rate per year (three terms per year) for students enrolled in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at this top physical therapy school. The cost per year for this program is $39,786 for tuition alone. Other programs within their School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will come with various rates and fees.

University of Southern California Review

The University of Southern California has long been recognized as one of the best physical therapy schools in the nation. Tied for the top spot on U.S. News and World Report as the best school since 2004, this Los Angeles-based accredited physical therapy school provide a sunny alternative for students who want to attend the best of the best in the glamour of a big city.

Over the course of the past five years, graduates from this top ranked physical therapy school have all found employment within six months. This statistic is topped only by their graduation rates, which show consistent on-time graduation at a 94% to 95% rate. The ultimate pass rate for the national licensing exam ranges from an incredible 99% to 100% over the past four years as well.

The University of Southern California has a significantly larger class size than some of our other top physical therapy schools. Each year, they admit roughly 95 students into the new class, selecting from approximately 1,000 applications.

Students will be required to have prerequisite courses completed, as well as some form of substantial clinical experience to apply at this pick among top ranked physical therapy schools. These accredited physical therapy schools must see a minimum of 150 hours of experience in the field through volunteer work or paid positions.

Their program requires three calendar years or eight semesters to complete.

Tuition will vary depending on what year of the program you are in. For specific details regarding the costs, see the list of fees below. It should be noted that there are no additional fees for clinical experiences or labs.

  • First year: $62,667
  • Second year: $62,667
  • Third year: $37,862

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Washington University in St. Louis Review

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri offers students the opportunity for a top-notch education from physical therapy schools at a decent rate. With a variety of programs available in fields related to physical therapy, prospective students can begin to think through what their ultimate career aspirations are prior to selecting a path. Those who have already settled on a Doctor of Physical Therapy will be pleased with their decision at this physical therapy college.

This full-time, three-year program gives students all the tools they need to launch a successful career following graduation. Clinical education for their physical therapy schools is supported by a number of clinics in St. Louis and around the country. Two-thirds will be located elsewhere.

Prerequisites for application include a list of specific courses in order to be considered for the DPT program at these physical therapy colleges:

  • Eight credits of chemistry with labs
  • Eight credits of physics with labs
  • Six credits of biology for science majors
  • Eight hours in anatomy and physiology
  • Three hours in psychology
  • Three hours in statistics

Tuition is broken down a bit differently at Washington University compared to other schools for physical therapy. For the list of expenses that you should anticipate prior to enrollment at this best physical therapy schools, see the detailed breakdown below:

  • Five academic semesters at $18,634
  • Four clinical education segments at $3,004 to $4,566
  • Living expenses estimated at $19,808 per year

Washington University in St. Louis - schools for physical therapy

Image Source: Washington University of St. Louis

Conclusion—Top 6 Best Physical Therapy Schools

Attending one of the top physical therapy schools can give you all the benefits of a prestigious education. Future employers who can recognize one of the top ranked physical therapy schools on your degree may be more likely to make you a lucrative job offer in a rewarding field.

There are good physical therapy schools all over the country, depending on where you personally hope to reside during your time at one of the best PT schools. Weigh the final degree, cost, and location of each of these schools for physical therapy carefully to make the decision that is ultimately right for your future.

Higher education can influence a lot of your future options and abilities. You want to attend schools for physical therapy that can help you refine your skills to the best of your ability. Keep all of these factors in mind as you consider applying at one of these top physical therapy schools.

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