Question – How to become a physical therapist in USA? What are the college course and degree requirements? Is there additional licensing exam requirements?

  1. How to become a physical therapist in USA (this post)
  2. Average GRE Scores Required for Physical Therapy Schools

How to Become a Physical Therapist

Here is a quick overview of steps on how to become a physical therapist in USA

  1. Complete Bachelors degree (with required courses)
  2. Complete Masters or PhD in Physical Therapy
  3. Complete PT Residency
  4. Pass National Physical Therapy License Exam
  5. Complete State Level license requirements
  6. Find a job as physical therapist

Now, lets look in detail about 6 steps to become a physical therapist.

Bachelors Degree Requirements

Most physical therapist degree programs require students to complete bachelors degree with certain course retirements.

Some of the pre-required courses include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Human Anatomy, Physiology, College Math, Statistics, etc.

In addition to courses, some hours of volunteer work is also required by few universities.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Students after completing bachelors degree can apply for Masters or Doctor of Physical Therapy

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Degree
  • Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) Degree

Doctor of Physical theraphy

The length of professional DPT  – About 3 years.

Course curriculum  – Biology/anatomy, physiology, exercise physiology,  communication,
biomechanics, kinesiology,, pharmacology, pathology, behavioral sciences, finance, sociology, clinical reasoning,  cardiovascular and pulmonary, management sciences,  neuroscience, endocrine and metabolic, and musculoskeletal.

  • 80%  of the DPT curriculum comprises classroom (didactic) and lab study
  • 20% of DPR  – clinical education and experience.

Master of Physical Therapy

  • Takes about 2 to 2.5 years to complete.

I’m not sure why someone who do Masters in Physical Therapy when they can complete PhD in 3 years.

Both DPT and MPT prepares students to take the NPTE License exam.

You can learn more about PT here.


The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy develops and administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for both physical therapists and physical therapist assistants

These high-stakes exams assess the basic entry-level competence for first time licensee or registration as a Physical therapist or Physical therapy assistants.

After completing NPTE, next step is to get state license.

Foreign-trained applicants must have acceptable scores on TOEFL (220); TSE (50); and TWE (4.5) in addition to NPTE exam to get State physical therapy license.

Hope above steps gave a short overview of how to become a physical therapist in USA.


  1. hiral on February 23, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    dear sir,
    i want to know about available master program for international students in physical therapy? what are difference in master of science , master of art, master of education in kinesiology program?

  2. PT on November 29, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Becoming a physical therapist is one of the most challenging career paths one can get into. But with the proper preparation and training, physical therapy can turn into a rewarding career

  3. Parul wason on November 29, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    I have completed my BPT from New Delhi. Am I applicable to give a state license exam in USA my internship clinical hours are 1260 along with 4 years of theoretical study. What are the requirements for the same.

  4. asifa khanum on July 25, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    i need to know if this are all the requirments to work as physical therapist in USA means,i am confused i got one job offer letter from one of the hospital in USA just let me know how to move further.

    Asifa khanum

  5. ammy on July 24, 2011 at 6:19 AM

    Hi HSB , thank you for this nice post

    Please elaborate more on how to get into a PhD program in physical therapy ?

    and why to chose PhD over DPT except for duration ?

    Is it easier to get funds for PhD than DPT


  6. Easwaran-India on July 23, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    great , thank you for wonderful guidance on DPT, yes you are quite correct to point out when some one can do PHD in 3 yrs time , why should they go for postgraduate in Physio therapy, i thank you from bottom of my heart for giving a wonderful information and guidance , thank you Sir
    with reverence

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