Scholarships for Physical Therapy Students

Physical therapists develop treatment plans and work alongside patients to improve their mobility and strength. These professionals have flexibility in their work environment and are employed by universities, hospitals and private practices, among other places. Physical therapists earn a median salary of $87,930 and employment in the field is projected to grow by 22%, which is faster than the average rate for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational outlook handbook.

Much of the growing demand for physical therapists comes in part from aging baby boomers, who need physical therapists to treat their mobility issues. Due to this increase in demand for PTs, now could be an opportune time to pursue a career as a physical therapist. In order to do so, you must earn a DPT, a doctor of physical therapy degree.

Keep reading to learn more about the cost of a doctor of physical therapy degree and explore DPT scholarships that may be available.

What is the Average Tuition for a Physical Therapy Doctorate?

Earning a doctoral degree can be a costly endeavor. However, the price of physical therapy school tuition varies from school to school.

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) (PDF, 1.1MB) released average yearly tuition costs to earn a DPT. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the average tuition cost was $18,390 per year for public schools and $37,014 for private institutions. Tuition rose in the 2019-2020 academic year with the average tuition cost for public institutions at $18,989 and $37,448 for private schools.

How long does it take to become a physical therapist? The typical length of time it takes to complete a DPT program and earn your degree is three years. This is assuming you have already earned an undergraduate degree in a related field like kinesiology, exercise science or biology.

There are many factors that affect tuition prices. These include whether you are an in-state student or out-of-state student, the ranking of the school you choose to attend, and whether you pursue a hybrid online PT program where you might continue to work part time to offset the cost of PT school.

Grants for Doctor of Physical Therapy Students

There are numerous PT organizations and professional associations that offer funding to aspiring physical therapists. Explore some options below.

  • American Association of University Women—Career Development Grants
    These grants are awarded by the AAUW to “provide funding to women who hold a bachelor’s degree and are preparing to advance or change careers or reenter the workforce.” Award amount varies but can range from $2,000 to $12,000. The money awarded in these grants can be used for tuition and other educational expenses, including books and transportation.

    Explore this grant from the AAUW.
  • Foundation for Physical Therapy—Acute Care Research Grant
    The Foundation for Physical Therapy funds several academic research grants each year. These are awarded to graduate students who are undertaking research related to physical therapy.. This specific grant is awarded to “an emerging investigator seeking to advance the practice of acute care physical therapy.”

    Explore this grant and others grants from the FPT.
  • National Athletic Trainers Association—Educational Grants
    If you are an athletic trainer or looking to work in that field post-graduation, explore the grants offered by NATA. These awards provide “funding to support research grants designed to produce educational research in athletic training.” In order to qualify, you or a member of your research team must be a NATA member and a certified athletic trainer.

    Explore this grant and other grants from NATA.
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association—Graduate Student Research Grant
    This program funds the research of graduate students in strength and conditioning related areas. Graduate students must submit a proposal detailing expenses. The maximum amount awarded for this grant is $15,000. However, the NSCA offers other grants with higher award amounts. The student must be actively pursuing a doctoral agreement at the time of application.

    Explore this grant and others from the NSCA.

2020 Guide to Physical Therapy Scholarships

In addition to seeking physical therapy grants, you can also apply for doctor of physical therapy scholarships.

Scholarships for graduate-level PT students are not as easy to come across as those for undergrads. However, there are still resources for students seeking financial assistance in earning a DPT.

We’ve compiled a list of physical therapy scholarships for doctoral students to help you discover awards that may you qualify for. Explore the options below.

  • AMBUCS—Scholarship Program for Therapists
    This award is open to physical and occupational therapy students pursuing a doctoral degree. FAFSA information and a personal statement are required to apply. You do not have to be affiliated with an AMBUCS chapter to qualify for this scholarship. Award amounts range from $500-$3,000.

    View details and apply to the AMBUCS Scholarship Program for Therapists here.
  • HIE Help Center—Scholarship for Physical and Occupational Therapy Students
    Each year, the HIE Help Center awards $1,000 to a student pursuing a career in physical or occupational therapy. This is open to graduate-level students and can be awarded to someone currently in a PT program or planning to enroll in one. Applicants must submit an essay detailing what drew them to the field.

    View details and apply for the HIE Help Center scholarship here.
  • ASDAR—Katherine H. Dilley Scholarship Fund
    If you are studying at an accredited Arizona university or plan to, consider applying for this award. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to physical or occupational therapy students. The application calls for two letters of recommendation. It also asks for an outline of the candidate’s future plans.

    View details and apply to the ASDAR scholarship fund here.
  • John Randolf Foundation—Franklin D. Boyce Scholarship
    This scholarship is awarded based on many factors, including applicant academic history and community involvement. It takes into account financial backgrounds, so applicants must demonstrate financial need. The $2,500 award is open to graduate students in health-related fields.
  • Brightlife Direct—Physical Therapy Scholarship
    The $1,000 annual Brightlife Direct Scholarship is open to PT and PTA students. To qualify, you must be a full-time student who has completed at least one year of PT education. Also required is a letter of recommendation and a minimum of 3.0 GPA.

    View details and apply for the Brightlife Direct scholarship here.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Scholarships

  • Challenge Scholarship
    Multiple awards are given out each year to students pursuing either an undergraduate or graduate degree in a strength and conditioning-related field. Physical therapy students are welcome to apply for this $2,000 award. Students are eligible to win this award twice, meaning this award could help you for two years if you qualify.

    View details and apply for NSCA scholarships here.
  • Jerry Martin Memorial Scholarship
    If you are planning to become a strength and conditioning coach, consider applying for this scholarship. As the requirements outline, this award has “the specific purpose of providing tuition assistance to students planning careers as strength coaches, and majoring in a related field.” Physical therapy does qualify as a related field per NSCA guidelines. The amount awarded is $2,000.

    View details and apply for NSCA scholarships here.
  • Minority Scholarship
    For minority students seeking a DPT scholarship, this award offers $2,000 in tuition assistance. The NSCA states that applicants “must demonstrate they have been accepted into an accredited institution working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree in the strength and conditioning field.”

    View details and apply for NSCA scholarships here.

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Scholarships

  • Outstanding PT Student Award
    If you are not a member of APTA, consider joining the association to access physical therapy scholarships they provide. For instance, the Outstanding PT student award offers $1,000 to a student in their final year of a PT educational program. The student must demonstrate a history of accomplishments.

    See if you meet the eligibility requirements for the Outstanding PT Student Award.
  • Minority Scholarship Award
    Funded by the Physical Therapy Fund, this award is open to minority PT students who are APTA members. The amount varies, and multiple awards are given each year to deserving students.

    See if you meet the eligibility requirements for the Minority Scholarship Award.
  • Mary McMillan Scholarship Award
    This $5,000 award is open to physical therapy students in their last year of schooling. Recipients are those with a history of high grades and those that demonstrate strong professional potential. In order to apply for this award, you must first be nominated.

    Learn more about the requirements for the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Scholarships

If you’re a woman pursuing higher education, the AAUW is a great resource. The AAUW awards $4 million annually in grants and scholarships to aid women in academic endeavors.

Many of their awards are location-based, so visit the AAUW local scholarships list to see what awards are available in your area. Below is a list of current AAUW awards.

  • Returning Scholar Scholarship
    This award is open to graduate students who are continuing their education. To apply, you must have completed at least 12 credit hours of an undergrad program. Two awards are given out each year in the amount of $2,500 per recipient. This scholarship is restricted to residents of Illinois, but there are similar ones for states across the country on the AAUW website.

    See if you meet the eligibility requirements for the Returning Scholar Scholarship.
  • Catalyst for Change Scholarship
    The AAUW mission is to “advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy.” The Catalyst for Change scholarship is awarded to women who are activists in line with this mission. Two of these awards are given each year in the amount of $4,000 each.

    Learn more about the requirements for the Catalyst for Change Scholarship.

Updated: April 2020