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The top 100 physical therapy schools in the United States

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 U.S

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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.

Use your international credit history to apply for a loan to fund your studies in the U.S. with MPOWER Financing.

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).

More from Nova Credit:

The ultimate guide to the F-1 visa

Credit cards for international students

How international students can get financial aid

The best universities for international students

Everything you need to know about the F-2 visas for F-1 dependents 

How to obtain an F-1 visa extension

The difference between CPT and OPT

Everything you know about obtaining OPT EAD