Is It Possible to Get A Physical Therapy Degree Online?

Online education can be a great way for people who are short on time, have an odd schedule, or simply do better in an alternative learning format to get their degree. However, those looking for a physical therapy degree online may end up disappointed.

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While becoming a physical therapist is a great profession to consider, and is reported to be one of the happiest jobs to work in, there are no online or distance educational programs that provide the necessary training for this field, and most other medical professions.

Physical Therapy is Very Hands-On

As any physical therapist, or PT student surely knows, the job of a physical therapist is very hands-on, involving extensive interaction with patients in a much more physical manner than even regular medical doctors.

PTs are involved in many different kinds of rehabilitative therapy, all things that require them to work with their patients to come up with therapy plans, and then show them how to carry them out. They have an extensive knowledge of sports medicine, the physical body and how it grows and heals, with much training coming from example and clinical experience.

All of this is critical for those seeking education to become a physical therapist, and it is training that cannot be obtained in any kind of distance learning or online format.

Since feel is a very large part of these therapies, PT students usually attend lab classes where they practice their learned techniques on each other, under the watchful eye of physical therapy instructors to ensure they are learning the right techniques. It is simply impossible to reproduce these sessions online, which is why it is not possible to earn a physical therapy degree online.

In order to gain the best education possible, students really do need to know from a hands-on point of view how to apply the techniques they are being taught, and that requires regular, classroom, laboratory or clinical education.

A Few Options for Online Learning

Besides the very physical and hands-on technical phase of their education, physical therapy students – before they are even accepted to a PT program – normally have to finish a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

During this time, students typically take prerequisite classes like English, sciences, social sciences, psychology, maths and others, which ensure they prepared for their more detailed post-graduate PT program.

Since there are no actual technical or medical classes taken during this time – with most undergraduate schooling able to be taken at any college or university – those looking to study online can many times take their general classes in this way.

While it may not be as convenient as being able to take an entire physical therapy degree online, it is at least a viable option for some, affording them an initial 4 years of study at their own pace and convenience.

Once applied and accepted to a physical therapy program however, students will be required to attend regular classes, lab sessions and complete numerous full-time clinical experience sessions that last anywhere from a few days to 6 to 8 weeks.

Prospective students need to look at this time as the most important part of their PT education, and understand that some training just cannot be correctly learned in any other way than by doing it themselves, with hands-on instruction.

Continuing Education Online

Once a student has graduated and received their degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), there are many times the opportunity to take continuing education credits online, but this is not until all basic and formal education is complete.

Continuing education is required for physical therapists – as with most other professionals in all aspects of the medical industry – in order to ensure PTs are kept up to date with current therapies, medical community laws and other areas of patient care and the business of physical therapy. Some will require actual onsite attendance, but many offer online formats, for busy PTs needing to keep up with their CE.

An important point to be considered by PT students in search of a physical therapy degree online is that in order to become licensed and legally employable, PTs must graduate an educational program that is accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

According to these organizations, there are no physical therapy degree online programs that are accredited, due to the nature of the coursework involved, and the intensity of PTA programs in general.

With this in mind, we recommend that students looking at applying to a physical therapy school prepare in advance for their 2 to 3 years of on-location learning so they can gain the best education and training possible in becoming a physical therapist.