The Guide to Online Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Programs

Physical therapists help patients by providing hands-on care to improve motion, strengthen physical function, reduce pain, and minimize the potential for (or impact of) physical disability.

Online doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) programs combine both distance learning and on-site experiences to offer aspiring healthcare professionals a pathway to these goals. For aspiring physical therapists with the requisite pre-med backgrounds, this hybrid approach may be a convenient way to earn the required credentials to practice physical therapy.

Online Physical Therapy Programs

The Hybrid DPT Program From USC — Bachelor’s Req’d

With USC’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, aspiring physical therapists can earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in an innovative hybrid format. Bachelor’s required.

  • Full-time, three-year program 
  • 44 weeks of rich, varied clinical experiences 
  • Regular visits to USC for on-campus, skill-building immersions


Learn from Arcadia’s expert DPT faculty in an online program. Complete in 25 months.

Earn your DPT from a hybrid program. Experience on-campus immersions and apply skills learned online to patients in person. Complete the program in 25 months. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree but do not need to submit GRE test scores for admission.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) 
  • Complete in 25 months  
  • 32 weeks of in-person experience


Online DPT Program Experience

Online DPT programs vary by school, but the best include a mix of both online academic coursework and hands-on physical therapy experiences. For those already working full-time, completing a DPT program online is much more feasible than attending scheduled classes at a local college or university. In some cases, online DPT programs even allow students to pursue a DPT degree from a school that is farther away than they would otherwise be within commuting distance

On a practical level, online courses allow students to reference relevant materials and complete their work anywhere with a reliable internet connection. Furthermore, the fact that courses are offered online does not negatively impact the quality of instruction. Most schools rely on their experienced faculty to create engaging, multimedia-infused content that either rivals or exceeds the quality of a traditional classroom experience. Virtual workspaces allow for interaction and collaboration with both instructors and peers. Most schools even provide remote technical support to help prevent and solve any computer-related issues that may arise.

Be advised that online coursework is only a portion of the DPT degree experience. In order to be eligible for certification, DPT candidates must participate in lab and clinical experiences under the supervision of trained professionals. Naturally, these experiences cannot happen online. A minimum of 30 weeks of clinical experience is required – many DPT programs require more.

Online DPT Program Admissions Requirements

While schools may vary in their online DPT program entry requirements, most share some common expectations:

Competitive Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores can help separate your application from the competition.

Relevant work experience in the physical therapy field is either a requirement or strong suggestion for most DPT programs.

Prerequisite coursework in the core sciences, anatomy, physiology, statistics, and geometry is crucial to be prepared for the rigors of DPT courses.

A bachelor’s degree that includes pre-med experience and a strong GPA (particularly in the sciences) is a must for a competitive application. Some schools have tracks that allow students to begin working towards a DPT as undergraduates; however, students typically obtain a bachelor’s degree as part of these paths of study.

Strong written supporting materials, including recommendation letters and/or required application essays, are as (if not more) important than test scores.

As with any online medical program, be sure to check with your top choices for their specific admissions requirements.

DPT Program Online Curriculum

Online DPT programs include a variety of courses and clinical experiences. Most of these hybrid DPT curricula are tailored to both the content on the National Physical Therapy Examination as well as essential practical knowledge for work in the field. DPT students can expect to take courses in a wide variety of areas including:

  • Anatomy
  • Behavioral sciences
  • Biology
  • Cardiovascular Systems
  • Cellular Histology
  • Clinical Reasoning
  • Communications
  • Endocrine Systems
  • Ethics
  • Excersize Sciences
  • Finance and management
  • Kinesiology
  • Lab sciences
  • Metabolic systems
  • Musculoskeletal systems
  • Neuroscience
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Sociology

Some online DPT programs also expose students to the nine clinical specialization areas that can be pursued through additional board certification programs – either in conjunction with a DPT degree or as a postdoctoral effort.

Physical Therapist vs Occupational Therapist

Physical therapy and occupational therapy are similar disciplines in that they are lucrative career paths for those looking to help patients with specific physical and motor skills. That said, there are some key differences in the two disciplines:

 Degree ComponentsPhysical TherapistOccupational Therapist
Focus on restoring and/or rehabilitating the patient’s biomechanical abilities – improving motion and reducing pain are common goals
Focus on holistic rehabilitation and/or improvement of patient’s daily life activities – treatment combines physical, emotional, and behavioral therapy techniques
Education Requirements
Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or Clinical Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
Additional Certification Requirements
National Physical Therapy Examination, state licensure
Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) exam, state licensure
Median Salary (based on May 2018 BLS data)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy jobs are expected to grow by 28% in the decade from 2016 to 2026. This is four times the projected growth of all jobs over the same span.

A notable reason for this projected growth is the fact that as medical advancements have continued to lead to new treatments and surgical procedures that require physical rehabilitation to maximize their effectiveness. Add to that an aging population and an increase in instances of physically debilitating chronic conditions (like obesity) and the field of physical therapy becomes increasingly more indispensable.

As medical procedures and research continue to advance, physical therapists are an ever-more necessary part of the patient care experience. This demand makes the pursuit of a DPT degree a strong choice for those looking for a career that makes undeniable improvements in the overall quality of patients’ lives.

Effective rehabilitation from an injury or as a treatment for a physical ailment can make all the difference in restoring patients to lives of independence and comfort. As such, online DPT programs are an excellent and convenient route to joining the rewarding and in-demand field of physical therapy.

Finding the Best Online DPT Program For You

In searching for the best online doctor of physical therapy programs across the United States, it’s important to take into account the specific type of degree being offered, the credit hours requirements, and any minimum GPA requirements that must be met for admission. Comparing DPT online programs is a great way to choose a degree program that will work with your schedule and provide the best return on investment.

Online DPT Programs to Consider

We’ve compiled a list of the online DPT programs across the United States along with degree and program requirement information. An important component to any online healthcare degree program is their ability to provide top tier clinical placements as well as great online coursework. Comprehensive physical therapy programs, even if they are conducted online, will include placements in high-level clincal facilities in order to best prepare you for your career. Explore each program thoroughly to find out which will be the best suited DPT program online for you!

Last Updated January 2021