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The top 100 physical therapy schools in the United States

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Whether you’re a foreign national or U.S. citizen who intends on practicing physical therapy in the U.S., you can find a top-notch education at many of these institutions. In this article, we share a detailed overview of the top five PT schools and as well as a list of the other top-ranking PT programs in the country.

The top 100 physical therapy schools in the United States

Nova Credit receives compensation from third-party advertisers. This content is not provided by them. Any reviews, recommendations, opinions and analyses expressed in this article are those of the authors alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

The United States is home to some of the best physical therapy (PT) schools in the world.

The requirements to become a physical therapist vary from country to country. Generally speaking, however, physical therapists need secondary or post-secondary education and training in areas that include anatomy, biology, kinesiology, physical fitness and even psychology.

Whether you’re a foreign national or U.S. citizen who intends on practicing physical therapy in the U.S., you can find a top-notch education at many of these institutions. In this article, we share a detailed overview of the top five PT schools and as well as a list of the other top-ranking PT programs in the country. 

The top 5 physical therapy schools in the United States

The University of Southern California Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy

The University of Southern California earns the title of the best PT school in the nation. Located in sunny Los Angeles, California, USC’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy was established in 1954 and is considered a pioneer program for physical therapists.

The program has been ranked the top program by U.S. News & World Report since 2004. A recognized center of excellence for physical therapy research, USC’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy offers a wide range of degree programs, including:

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • Master of Science in Biokinesiology
  • Master of Science in Biokinesiology with Sports Science Emphasis
  • PhD Program in Biokinesiology

The University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Therapy

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburg’s Department of Physical Therapy is one of the nation’s oldest and most highly-regarded and ranked PT education programs. U.S. News & World Report regularly ranks Pitt PT as one of the top graduate schools for PT in the nation.

Pitt PT offers a variety of programs in the science of physical therapy, including:

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy – PhD in Bioengineering
  • Master of Science in Physical Therapy
  • PhD in Rehabilitation Science

Washington University School of Medicine

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, the Washington University School of Medicine combines exceptional education, advanced research and top-notch clinical care to prepare aspiring physical therapists with the knowledge and experience they need to excel in their field.

The Program in Physical Therapy was founded in 1942 as a six-month program with the goal of training physical therapists to treat World War II soldiers who were injured in combat. Over time, the program has advanced exponentially, and now it’s one of the best physical therapy programs in the United States.

Washington University School of Medicine now offers a wide range of degree programs for students who wish to become professional physical therapists. Options include:

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • PhD in Movement Science
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
  • Movement System Clinical Fellowship

The Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis uses a “movement-based approach to physical therapy,” which focuses on the body’s movement mechanisms and exercise physiology. Their objective is to train physical therapists that can effectively improve the lives of their patients through effective movement techniques.

University of Delaware Department of Physical Therapy

The University of Delaware’s Department of Physical Therapy (UDPT) has also received outstanding recognition. In 2017, their physical therapy program was named the top graduate program in the U.S. in the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Graduate Schools.

This program focuses on teaching students evidence-based physical therapy methods. All graduate students enrolled in UD’s physical therapy program work in the Delaware Physical Therapy Clinic, a part of the STAR Health Science Complex.

Here, students have the opportunity to advance and practice their skills as they work with patients under the direct supervision of board-certified clinicians in the Sports and Orthopedic Division and the Neurological and Older Adult Division. During clinical rotations, students, researchers and physical therapists devise and utilize advanced treatment programs for real patients.

UDPT aims to enhance the practices used by physical therapists to improve patient care and outcome. There are several departments within the University of Delaware’s Department of Physical Therapy, including:

  • Behavioral Health and Nutrition
  • Kinesiology and Applied Physiology
  • Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • School of Nursing
  • Physical Therapy
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders

University of Iowa Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

A part of the Carver College of Medicine, the University of Iowa’s Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science offers a “multi-level educational department” and takes a comprehensive approach to teaching the prospective physical therapists and experienced health care providers and clinicians the science of PT.

The physical therapy degree programs offered at the University of Iowa’s Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences are among the best in the nation. The school offers three main degree programs, which include:

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). An entry-level professional clinical program, students acquire advanced knowledge and skills that aim to prepare them to practice PT. Upon completing the doctor of physical therapy program, students have the opportunity to take a national physical therapy licensure examination.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). This doctoral program prepares aspiring physical therapists for a career in research, teaching and scholarship that focuses on Rehabilitation Science. All those enrolled in this program must also conduct research while being guided by a mentor.
  • Combined DPT/PhD. Through this program, students earn their Doctor of Physical Therapy and their Doctor of Philosophy degrees. By completing this program, individuals will receive the knowledge and experience that’s needed to obtain a career in clinical and translation rehabilitation research.
  • Master of Arts (MA). The MA program provides students with the foundational knowledge that’s needed to establish a career in research and scholarship in Rehabilitation Science.

While the requirements for these programs vary, students must successfully obtain a bachelor's degree prior to admission.

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Top 100 physical therapy schools in the United States

While the above-mentioned schools are considered the best physical therapy schools in the U.S., they aren’t the only options available to aspiring physical therapists.

The schools listed below offer various degree programs that are founded in the science of physical therapy. Whether you choose one of the top five school or one of the following schools, you can be sure that you will receive the knowledge and experience that’s needed to prepare you for a successful career as a physical therapist.

Top physical therapy schools in the U.S.

  1. Arcadia University
  2. Armstrong Atlantic State University
  3. Belmont University
  4. Boston University
  5. California State University-Northridge
  6. Chapman University
  7. Clarkson University
  8. College of St. Scholastica
  9. Columbia University
  10. Creighton University
  11. Des Moines University
  12. Drexel University
  13. Duke University
  14. East Carolina University
  15. Eastern Washington University
  16. Elon University
  17. Emory University
  18. Grand Valley State University
  19. Indiana University-Indianapolis
  20. Ithaca College
  21. Marquette University
  22. Marymount University
  23. Mayo School of Health Related Sciences
  24. Medical College of Georgia
  25. Medical University of South Carolina
  26. MGH Institute of Health Professions
  27. New York University
  28. Northeastern University
  29. Northern Arizona University
  30. Northwestern University
  31. Ohio State University
  32. Ohio University
  33. Old Dominion University
  34. Pacific University
  35. Regis University
  36. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
  37. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey-Camden/UMDNJ
  38. Sacred Heart University
  39. Samuel Merritt University
  40. Simmons College
  41. Springfield College
  42. St. Ambrose University
  43. St. Catharine University
  44. St. Louis University
  45. Stony Brook University-SUNY
  46. SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  47. SUNY Upstate Medical Center
  48. Temple University
  49. Texas State University-San Marcos
  50. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
  51. Texas Woman’s University
  52. The Sage Colleges
  53. Thomas Jefferson University
  54. U.S. Army-Baylor University
  55. University of Alabama-Birmingham
  56. University of Buffalo-SUNY
  57. University of California-San Francisco
  58. University of Central Arkansas
  59. University of Colorado-Denver
  60. University of Connecticut
  61. University of Evansville
  62. University of Florida
  63. University of Georgia-Atlanta
  64. University of Illinois-Chicago
  65. University of Indianapolis
  66. University of Kansas Medical Center
  67. University of Maryland-Baltimore
  68. University of Massachusetts-Lowell
  69. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Newark
  70. University of Miami
  71. University of Michigan-Flint
  72. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  73. University of Missouri
  74. University of Montana-Missoula
  75. University of Nebraska Medical Center
  76. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  77. University of North Dakota
  78. University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  79. University of Pennsylvania-Slippery Rock
  80. University of Puget Sound
  81. University of Rhode Island
  82. University of South Carolina
  83. University of South Florida
  84. University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  85. University of Tennessee-Chattanooga
  86. University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio
  87. University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston
  88. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Dallas
  89. University of Utah
  90. University of Vermont
  91. University of Washington
  92. University of Wisconsin-La Crosses
  93. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  94. Virginia Commonwealth University
  95. West Virginia University

Prerequisite requirements 

The prerequisite requirements to gain entry into any of the aforementioned physical therapy schools vary from institution to institution as well as from program to program. 

To find out what the prerequisite requirements for your program of interest, visit their website or contact the school’s admissions office directly. 

How to study physical therapy in the U.S. 

If you’re a foreign national interested in attending any physical therapy school in the United States, in addition to meeting the necessary prerequisite requirements, you must also successfully obtain the necessary visa. 

The United States government offers three types of visas for foreign students: 

  • F-1 Academic Student Visa
  • M-1 Vocational Student Visa
  • J-1 Student and Exchange Visitor Visa

To study physical therapy in the United States, international students need to obtain an F-1 Academic student visa. This visa allows foreign nationals to enter the country as a full-time student, take classes, and complete a program of study at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school or other academic institution. 

To obtain an F-1 visa, physical therapists must be enrolled in a course of study or program that will result in a degree. Additionally, the school you are seeking to attend must be authorized to accept foreign students by the U.S. government. You must meet all other necessary requirements and file the F-1 visa application and all necessary supporting documentation with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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