The Final Word on America’s Top 10 Physical Therapy Schools

by Tera Tuten on March 1, 2011

physical therapy schools in America

Helping someone get (or get back) the ability to painlessly move in every aspect of life is one of the guiding principals of physical therapy. It’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of being a physical therapist.

Finding the right physical therapy school for you to learn at or be affiliated with is a major accomplishment in a career in this gratifying medical field.

Through analysis of admissions, job placement, research achievements, previous rankings and student reviews, we’ve compiled our picks for the top 10 physical therapy schools in America, starting with #1:

University of Southern California

1. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is consistently cited at or near the top of physiotherapy school rankings in the U.S., and for good reason. Founded in 1945, the well established USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy offers multiple programs with access to cutting-edge research. Among this well-respected school’s degree programs is a three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Biokinesiology, one of the nation’s first Ph.D. degrees in physical therapy education.

Washington University in St.Louis

2. Washington University in St. Louis

The physical therapy program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of the most respected physical therapy programs in America. Founded in 1942 as the Barnes Hospital School for Physical Therapy Technicians, the program in physical therapy began as a six-month program directed by an orthopedic surgeon to train therapists to treat soldiers in World War II. In 1948, the school began educating physical therapists at the baccalaureate level as part of the Washington University School of Medicine. The school also offers a Ph.D. in Movement Science as an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare students for a career in academic research.

3. University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

The close working relationship between SHRS and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – as well as research labs and clinics across campus – provides students with unique access to internship and research opportunities.

University of Delaware Physical Therapy Department

4. University of Delaware Physical Therapy Department

Rated 4th in the U.S. for graduate-level physical therapy programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2009 (and 14th for 100 best values in public colleges in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine), the Physical Therapy Department at University of Delaware features several innovative programs.  It has a highly successful interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Biomechanics and Movement Sciences and Clinical Fellowship Programs for practicing clinicians in sports, orthopedic and geriatric physical therapy. The academic component of the program is augmented by unprecedented practical experiences at five clinics connected to the campus.

St. Louis University Program in Physical Therapy

5. St. Louis University Program in Physical Therapy

With an average freshmen retention rate of 87%, a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:12, and an average high school GPA of 3.6 for incoming freshmen, St. Louis attracts an impressive student body for its physical therapy program. More than 50% of freshmen ACT test scores were 24-29, with more than 30% with SAT scores of 1000-1099.

US Army-Baylor University Texas

6. US Army-Baylor University Texas

The school’s well-respected Army-Baylor Doctoral Program in physical therapy is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The school’s program in physical therapy education was created to meet the needs of the U.S. military during World War I.

University of Iowa Physical Therapy Graduate Program

7. University of Iowa Physical Therapy Graduate Program

The graduate program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science offers a novel learning environment in a leading medical education center. The Department of Rehabilitation Therapies (Physical Therapy Clinic) is a separate department in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and offers a graduate program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science as well as Doctor of Physical Therapy and Ph.D. program.

University of Miami

8. University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida

The Department of Physical Therapy is located in the university’s prestigious Miller School of Medicine and offers two doctoral-level degrees.  The first is a three-year, entry-level clinical doctoral degree, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), and the second is an academic doctoral degree, a (Ph.D.) in Physical Therapy. Both the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS) accredits the physical therapy school.

University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida

9. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Though it never scores at the top, UNC’s physical therapy program is constantly in the middle or bottom of nationwide top 10 lists of physical therapy schools in the U.S.

Duke University

10. Duke University

The Duke University School of Physical Therapy frequently ranks high on lists of top physical therapy programs (including a previous ranking of #3 among such programs, according to U.S. News and World Report) for its Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lesley 03.09.11 at 4:00 pm

It seems physical therapist are increasingly in demand year after year, not only for rehab facilities but also for public school districts. It seems along with the increased demand for PT it is difficult to get into grad school. I heard at one point the requirements to practice physical therapy were going to be raised to a doctoral degree. Does anyone know if this is true?

Alexis Guyse 04.02.11 at 4:07 am

My name is Alexis Guyse. I live in a small town in Southern Arkansas, I would love some advice… I am wanting to become a PTA. I see job opportunities all over in fact I saw where Soliant Health was hiring for all sorts of PT and PTA positions in the HotSprings area, the only thing is, I cant seem to find the training i need to do this in my area. I have had no luck succeeding in starting my career. Any suggestions?? Ive seen many online programs but afraid to spend my money only to find out it was not legit. I would really love it if I could find a facility willing to train me. Please help me…

brett 05.31.11 at 1:32 pm

um guys all you have to do is go to to find out everything you want to know about the career

kayla watson 12.02.11 at 10:02 am

i like to go to duke

Mdaftab 02.27.12 at 3:02 am

I like this

Debbie 04.12.12 at 7:14 pm

Looking for a comprehensive list of 6 year doctorate of PT programs from Delaware to CT.

Dawn 04.28.12 at 6:55 pm

Ithaca College has a great 6-year DPT program. You spend your last two years at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Their grads score consistently 97%+ on the boards as first-time test takers.

Erika 10.11.13 at 9:24 am

What beautiful campuses! My best friend is in school now in NH to become a Physical Therapist. I enjoy hearing about her classes and what she does on a day-to-day basis. I am grateful for the PT’s that are continually making a huge impact in the lives of others. – Erika York


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