Cost of Physical Therapy Schools

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Physical therapists are health professionals who gauge and treat medical issues that can affect a patient's mobility. They must complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy or a physical therapy-based Master's degree program. The cost of a physical therapy degree ranges greatly based on the school you attend.

The Facts

  • To become a physical therapist, you need to complete either a DPT program or a physical therapy-based master's degree program.

    In most cases, you'll need to first complete your undergraduate degree; about two-thirds of the physical therapy programs require you to have one to be admitted. However, some will allow you to enroll after completing three years of undergrad studies at a university, according to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

    Once you've finished your DPT or master's degree, you'll also need to pass a national exam and become licensed in the state you plan to practice in.

Types of Programs

  • Many schools offer physical therapy programs. However, you can't take the national licensure exam, which you'll need to do to practice physical therapy, unless you've graduated from a program that is accredited by CAPTE.

    Approximately 199 colleges and universities offer accredited physical therapy programs that combine classroom learning with hands-on clinical education experience. The majority are DPT programs, but some schools offer master's degrees.

    The emphasis on DPT programs has definitely grown in recent years. By 2020, the American Physical Therapy Association hopes that the majority of physical therapists will hold a DPT degree.

TIme Frame

  • Because each program has different requirements, such as the number of general education courses, physical therapy program durations vary, which will also affect the overall cost of your education.

    However, in general, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that DPT programs typically last three years. Master's degree programs tend to take two years to complete.

Cost Considerations

  • The cost of a physical therapy program can vary greatly based on the school you choose and the length of the program. For example, tuition for a three-year program at Alabama State University costs out-of-state residents more than $42,000; yet a three-year program at California State University, Northridge costs in-state residents $13,000, according to the APTA.

    Other fees--such as the cost of books, lab fees and liability insurance--can add several thousand dollars to your educational expenses. At Northern Arizona University, additional coursework-related costs can be roughly $5,000.The cost of Ohio University's reading materials alone is about $2,000.

POTENTIAL

  • Although the cost of a physical therapy education program can be significant, the employment opportunities are positive. Physical therapists' median annual income in 2006 was $66,200. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $94,000.

    In addition, the industry appears to be growing: physical therapy jobs are forecast to increase 27 percent from 2006 to 2016.

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