Becoming a physical therapist involves between 6 and 7 years of advanced education and numerous clinical experience segments.
While online education can be helpful to some in helping them to obtain their degree, there are a number of majors – physical therapy being one of them – in which hands-on education is critical to the student.
Because of this, there are no fully online physical therapy programs, although it may be possible for students to take some of their education online, especially prerequisite classes.
Educational Requirements for Physical Therapists
In order for an individual to gain their Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, they must fulfill a number of educational requirements. An undergraduate 4 year Bachelor’s degree is the first of these necessities.
It can usually be taken from any school, although top schools do recommend concentrating on a study course that includes any prerequisite classes in order to gain easier acceptance into a PT program.
These are usually English courses, maths, sciences and some sociology and social science classes. A list of prerequisite courses is generally available from the different physical therapy programs, and getting those classes taken care of earlier in a student’s educational career can be extremely helpful, leaving the student more time for their technical courses and clinical experiences.
After completing their Bachelor’s degree, students who are accepted to a physical therapy program – and who have presumably completed the necessary prerequisites and general education classes – students move on to the technical portion of their education.
This will involve lab classes where techniques are practiced on each other, more technical and difficult science and medical classes, and most importantly, numerous segments of clinical experience education. After completing all of these specialized requirements, students then graduate with their degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy.
Online Education going Forward
Since the second portion of their training is so technical and intensive, most schools do not offer online programs. Most of the experience that students will gain is based on hands on learning and practice, which is something that cannot be duplicated in an online environment.
Other than some of the more basic required courses, students should be wary of programs offering technical courses working toward a degree in physical therapy in an online format.
For those seeking the ability to study online, a recommendation is to look into Bachelor’s programs geared toward medical and physical therapy post-graduate education that sometimes offer a good portion of their classes online.
Since these are usually very general classes, and are not necessarily technical courses for the physical therapy major, many schools do offer them online. So, while it is not exactly the same thing as taking an online physical therapy program, it can at least offer the flexibility of distance learning through the first four years.
A Note About Accreditation
Anyone studying to become a physical therapist should take note that when applying to programs, accreditation is essential. In order for students to gain their DPT and be eligible to take their licensing examination, they must have graduated from a physical therapy program that is accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Failure to do so means that graduating students will likely end up in a position where they still need to fulfill certain educational requirements at an accredited institution, which will only slow down their process of becoming a licensed DPT.
According to the APTA, of all their currently accredited physical therapy educational courses, there are only two that offer a considerable amount of the classroom coursework via online programs formats, those being Nova Southeastern University and University of St Augustine for Health Sciences, both of which are in Florida. Although they offer a considerable portion of their classwork through distance learning, students are still required to complete all necessary clinical experiences in order to earn their degrees.
While it may be disappointing to some to know that they may not be able to take an online program, this should be looked at as a means of judging whether or not this type of degree is really right.
Educational requirements are intense, so students who are unable to devote the time to the learning process may not do as well in these programs. Not just that, but once they have their degree, the job itself is just as intense, being very busy professionals in an ever-increasing portion of the medical industry.
On the other hand, those students who manage to put aside the time to get their degree even though they cannot enroll in online physical therapy programs usually end up in a highly rewarding, pleasurable “dream job” of sorts. This is a career that has been estimated to be one of the best, from peers and professionals actually doing the job.