How to Pay for Physical Therapy Graduate School

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Attending graduate school to become a physical therapist requires a serious financial commitment. The University of Nevada in Las Vegas estimates that Nevada students spend approximately $30,000 to $40,000 on tuition, fees and books obtaining their degree in physical therapy, and this cost is even higher for out-of-state students, who pay an additional $10,000. To ensure that money doesn't prevent you from earning your degree, it's important to learn how to pay for physical therapy graduate school.

  • Apply for scholarships. Some foundations and organizations, such as the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, provide scholarships for graduate students studying to be physical therapists. Other scholarships are available from the school a student plans to attend. For example, Georgia State University offers the Gordon Seagraves Cummings Scholarship and the Virgil Jacobs Scholarship solely to students in their physical therapy program.

  • Find grant money. Graduate students don't qualify for federal financial aid grants, such as the Pell Grant, to pay for physical therapy school. However other grant opportunities exist through state governments and private foundations. For example, the state of Maryland offers Workforce Shortage grants to help with the shortage of physical therapists in the state. A student can receive $2,000 per year for three years, as long as he commits to working in the state as a physical therapist for a period of time after he graduates.

  • Apply for graduate assistantships. Students earn tuition waivers and a stipend if they qualify for a graduate teaching or research assistantship. To earn an assistantship, a student submits an application and references to the department where she wants to work. Physical therapy students apply to their own department or a related field such as kinesiology or science, since many graduate students have the qualifications to teach lab sections of human anatomy and physiology.

  • Look for fellowships. The American Physical Therapy Association lists on their website a variety of different fellowships exclusive to the physical therapy field. Some of these fellowships are only available at a specific school while others can be used anywhere. Getting a fellowship provides a student with the money to pay for physical therapy graduate school tuition as well as to conduct research in the physical therapy field under the guidance of a professor.

  • Borrow money through student loans. Taking out a student loan isn't an ideal way to pay for physical therapy graduate school, but it is an option for students unable to qualify for other funding opportunities. The Federal Perkins Loan offers a low interest rate for students who qualify for it based on financial need. The maximum amount for students to borrow through this loan program is $8,000. Stafford loans are also available to graduate physical therapy students, with each person allowed to borrow up to the maximum of $20,500 per year. However, only $8,500 of the Stafford loan can be subsidized, allowing the government to pay the interest on the loan while a student is in school.

Tips & Warnings

  • Talk with academic advisers or professors in the physical therapy graduate school. They often know of additional scholarships, grants and fellowship opportunities that provide students with money they will not have to pay back after completing the program.

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