10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (2024)

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (1)

Physical therapy is a fast-growing, worthwhile career in health services, promising job security and workplace satisfaction. However, a quick look at the statistics shows that PT schools are expensive – often unreasonably so.

In your search to find the best Physical Therapy school, ignore the rankings and consider the one factor that most people often ignore: cost.

An Affordable DPT Minimizes Debt

Once upon a time it was possible to practice physical therapy with only a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, but nowadays a Doctorate of Physical Therapy is required. Higher education means higher tuition costs, and as a result, 85% of PT grads finish school with $116k of student debt – nearly four times the average student debt of $30k. Not only is tuition exponentially higher for PT students specifically, DPT program costs have risen 30% over the last decade.

While the advanced degree is mandatory, the debt is not. Avoid going to an expensive school in the first place!

Look for tuition rates that will help you achieve a debt-to-income ratio less than 1:1.

What do I mean by that? In your first year on the job as a PT, you’ll make between $75-100k. Avoid going to a school that leaves you with more than $75,000 in debt, including living expenses and undergraduate loans.

For PT Schools, How Much Is Cheap?

As a general rule, if you want below-average debt, you need to find a school with below-average tuition costs. In 2019, the average total tuition for an in-state public university was $66k, while tuition for out-of-state students and private students averaged $112k. I define cheap PT tuition as falling below these benchmarks, reducing your overall debt.

Ten Best Physical Therapy Schools Ranked by Price

If you’re looking for an inexpensive physical therapy school, I suggest starting with your home state. Broadly speaking, state schools offer some of the lowest tuition rates to resident students.

Not all states have inexpensive PT programs, though, so I made this list to showcase schools with below-average tuition rates for both in- and out-of-state students.

Remember, these rates reflect the minimum tuition cost and are subject to change. Plus, many universities charge additional fees anywhere from $1,000-20,000 on top of the total tuition. When selecting a program, make sure you account for PT-specific departmental fees.

10. Northern Arizona University

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (2)

The first school on the list is Northern Arizona University, which comprises two campuses – Flagstaff and Phoenix. The application process is streamlined for both campuses, so you don’t need to worry about applying to both if you have no residential preference. Wherever you study, you’ll benefit from NAU’s award-winning physical therapy faculty – and their graduates’ 100% employment rate.

For 98 credit hours over 7 semesters, here’s what you’d pay:

ResidencyTuition/SemesterTotal Program Tuition
Arizona state$5,084$35,594
Out-of-state$10,342$72,399

9. University of Iowa

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (3)

The University of Iowa’s physical therapy program has been ranked 4th in US News & World Reports’ Best Grad Schools, tied with Northwestern and USC. (Though, if you want to hear what I honestly think about school rankings, read this article!) Those other two schools, while on-par with its program, can’t compete with UI’s affordability. Whether or not you hail from Iowa, you’ll get a bargain on top-notch DPT training in one of the largest university-owned teaching hospitals in the country.

For 124 credits over 8 semesters, here’s what you’d pay, including fees:

ResidencyTuition/YearTotal Program Tuition
Iowa State$17,304$43,260
Out-of-state$34,604$89,010

8. University of Rhode Island

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (4)

What began as an agricultural school on farm-owned property in 1892 is now a major, multi-site research university and one of the most beautiful coastal colleges nationwide. URI’s DPT program includes three years of standard training as well as a unique opportunity to practice therapy in an underserved country. To top it off, URI offers three affordable tuition rates, including a regional discount for New England residents.

Here’s how much 3 years of 112 credit hours will cost:

ResidencyTuition/YearTotal Program Tuition
Rhode Island state$14,096$42,288
New England$21,144$63,432
Out-of-state/region$27,214$81,642

7. Wichita State University

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (5)

URI isn’t the only school with regional tuition rates. Several states qualify for discounted tuition to Kansas’s Wichita State University, making its DPT program affordable to students across the Midwest. The astounding value you get from this Shocker school goes beyond its price point, however. 100% of DPT grads are employed within six months – likely due to the holistic, patient-centered approach they learned from WSU’s interprofessional education.

Here’s what their 3-year, 124-credit program costs:

ResidencyTuition/Credit Hour Total Program Tuition
Kansas state$308$38,189
Plains or Midwest $462$57,288
Out-of-state/region$756$93,791

6. Arkansas State University

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (6)

Another school in the midwest worth your money is Arkansas State in Jonesboro. Although ASU boasts over 14,000 students across 11 academic colleges, you’d be one of just 30 students in the DPT program, working closely with internationally-recognized faculty and staff. Furthermore, ASU offers an international rate that is as affordable as out-of-state tuition; so whether you’re a continental neighbor or hail from farther abroad, you’ll feel at home at Arkansas State.

For 106 credits over 3 years, here’s what you’d pay:

ResidencyTuition/Credit HourTotal Program Tuition
Arkansas state$333$35,298
Out-of-state / international$666$70,596

5. University of Tennessee Chattanooga

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (7)

If you live in Tennessee, you can’t go wrong with UTC’s physical therapy program. Graduates demonstrate a 100% first-time pass rate on the National Physical Therapy exam and a resulting 100% employment rate within one year of graduation. (Honestly, these are the stats that matter – not school rankings.) Before graduating, you can opt to complete your clinical studies in one of hundreds of UTC-contracted facilities across the US – but considering the culture and beauty of Chattanooga, you just might choose to stay. This low-cost, high-value DPT experience is a steal no matter where you reside; the out-of-state tuition is among the lowest on this list, and neighboring residents of select Alabama and Georgia regions qualify for an additional discount.

Here’s the price breakdown for 120 credit hours over 8 semesters:

ResidencyTuition/SemesterTotal Program Tuition
Tennessee state$5,135$41,080
AL/GA regions$7,151$57,208
Out-of-state/region$9,167$73,336

4. East Carolina University

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (8)

Nearby North Carolinians should consider the DPT program at East Carolina University, where in-state tuition is just over 20k total – that’s crazy cheap! However, saving so much money on tuition won’t cheat you on career-preparedness: 100% of ECU grads pass the National Physical Therapy Exam and find employment within just six months of graduating. In addition to the DPT program, you just may fall in love with the setting: the coastal plain and tidewaters of the Carolinas. All in all, the DPT program at ECU is a prime contender for a quality education at – if you live in NC – an unbeatable price.

For 106 credits over 9 semesters, here’s how much you’d pay:

ResidencyTuition/SemesterTotal Program Tuition
North Carolina$2,374$21,366
Out-of-state$8,949$80,541

3. University of Texas El Paso

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (9)

Moving further south, you’ll find the temperature rising – but not the cost of a PT education. The following three Texas schools provide some of the lowest tuition rates in the country to residents down in the Lone Star State. Right on the border with Mexico, University of Texas El Paso offers a unique setting for your DPT among students and patients of diverse backgrounds. Other perks include access to an extensive simulation center, a broad emphasis on interprofessional education, and the opportunity to work in multi-lingual clinics. Taken together, the offerings at UTEP have equipped 100% of their DPT candidates to pass the National Physical Therapy exam and find employment within a year.

Here’s how much 3 years and 99 credits cost:

ResidencyTuition/YearTotal Program Tuition
Texas$10,697$32,091
Out-of-state$28,206$84,619

2. Texas Women’s University

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (10)

For more Texan tuition savings, take a look at the DPT program at TWU. Located in Denton, the now coeducational Texas Women’s University is an excellent choice for prospective DPTs of various demographics and strengths. Students interested in neurologic therapy can complete their clinical residency at TWU’s Institute of Health Sciences in nearby Dallas or further south in Houston, home of the nation’s largest medical center. With TWU, you’ll be getting a Texas-sized value at a bargain price, in-state or out-of-state.

Here’s how little you’d pay for 98 credits over 8 semesters:

ResidencyTuition/Credit HourTotal Program Tuition
Texas state$280$27,508
Out-of-state$689$67,590

And Now – The Cheapest PT School

1. U.S. Army-Baylor Program at Baylor University

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (11)

The #1 cheapest Physical Therapy program is the Army-Baylor DPT at San Antonio’s Baylor University – and it’s actually free. How so? By enlisting in the army, you can earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy without incurring a single dollar of tuition debt. (Note that Baylor has a separate DPT degree which would cost you over 100 grand.)

Baylor instituted the Army-Baylor program in 1971, after nearly 50 years of training physical therapists to aid injured US soldiers. Now a fully-accredited DPT, the Army-Baylor program offers you both the training and the 100% employment rate you’d get from other schools on this list without costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you can acquiesce to basic training and a few years of army enlistment, the Army-Baylor DPT is absolutely worth a look.

This 6-semester, 124-credit program costs you the following:

Total Program TuitionADSO requirement
Free – with Army enlistment54 months Active Duty after graduation

Affordable PT Schools: Runners-up

With over 250 accredited DPT programs across the country, this list of ten is not exhaustive, nor meant to be. In fact, you might choose your favorite among this list of runners-up:

  • Florida Gulf Coast: While the tuition at FGCU is very affordable for Florida residents ($43k), it’s astronomically high for out-of-state students ($150k).
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore: UMES has low credit-hour rates ($340-630) and affordable total tuition for state residents ($44k), Delaware and Eastern Virginia residents ($61k), and out-of-state residents ($82k).
  • Des Moines University: Lastly, DMU in Illinois offers a private school education at a state school tuition rate ($87k).

Which Affordable PT School is Right For You?

Here’s the bottom line: the best physical therapy school is the one you can afford. What matters is that you earn a DPT without racking up excessive debt. Be smart; apply to affordable schools like these, and don’t let the allure of a big name or a made-up ranking cost you money in the long run.

Finally, if you need help financing your DPT education or managing your PT school debt, be sure to check out these resources!

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition (2024)

FAQs

10 Best Physical Therapy Schools in the United States Ranked by Tuition? ›

The trophy for the best physical therapy school goes to the University of Southern California. The second best school for you to consider is the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. We give an overview of both schools below and wrap up the article with the top 100 list you have been waiting for.

What is the #1 physical therapy school in the US? ›

The trophy for the best physical therapy school goes to the University of Southern California. The second best school for you to consider is the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. We give an overview of both schools below and wrap up the article with the top 100 list you have been waiting for.

What is the hardest PT school to get into? ›

Tightest Schools (Lowest Acceptance Rates)
  • Northwestern University 6.97%
  • Emory University 13.05%
  • University of Southern California 12.51%
  • Washington University in St Louis 13.00%
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 20.40%

What is the best GPA for PT school? ›

Most students accepted to DPT programs have a GPA of 3.5 or better. What doesn't matter so much is your undergraduate major. There is no single, specific major that leads into PT school. As long as your degree program allows you to take the classes listed above, it will be fine.

What is the easiest DPT program to get into? ›

10 Best Easiest physical therapy schools to get into | PT schools Acceptance rates 2022
  • University of Pittsburgh – Acceptance Rate: 59%
  • Washington University in St. ...
  • University of Iowa – Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • U.S. Army-Baylor University – Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Duke University – Acceptance Rate: 10%

What state is the best for physical therapists? ›

The 5 States With the Highest Employment Levels for Physical Therapists (May 2021)
RankStateEmployment per thousand jobs
1California1.44
2New York1.86
3Texas1.15
4Florida1.54
1 more row
Apr 20, 2023

Is PT harder than nursing? ›

Physical therapy is typically regarded as the more challenging option for the education level required to begin a career in these two fields.

Which branch has the hardest PT test? ›

Marines have it the hardest, running three miles, doing pull-ups and crunches within the span of a two-hour evaluation period. The Army has its troops run two miles, plus two minutes of pushups and situps. There are similar requirements for the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard.

What's the hardest part of physical therapist? ›

Significant Physical Demands

As a PT, you can be required to lift patients out of their beds and help support them as they walk or perform floor exercises during their treatment. Therapists are on their feet throughout the treatment phase, guiding the patient to achieve their physical health objectives.

Do PT school grades matter? ›

It is also crucial to keep your grades in the passing range during PT school. In my program, as in many others, the cutoff was 70, and several people failed out for falling beneath this floor in even one class. So, while it doesn't matter if you get all A's, you can't scrape by with C's either.

How do I look good in PT school? ›

Now that you know my story, I give you my pre-PT school hacks to gain an edge in the PT school application process.
  1. Boost Your GPA. Let's get the most obvious point out of the way. ...
  2. Land a PT Aide/ Tech Job. ...
  3. Higher GRE Scores. ...
  4. Attend Open House Events. ...
  5. PT Volunteer Experience. ...
  6. Non-PT Volunteer Experience.

Is PT school more competitive than med school? ›

Medical school is way harder to get into, from a testing perspective as well as background. For Medical School (need to take the MCAT, a more comprehensive exam) vs DPT you just take the GRE ( generalized graduate school exam). Med school overall is a harder and more selective process that DPT school.

How long are most DPT programs? ›

The traditional DPT program is three years, but some programs compress academic requirements into a shorter time span, which could help you manage the total cost of your education experience and enter the field faster. Demographics and setting. You will be investing a lot into your physical therapy education.

What is the lowest degree for physical therapy? ›

Currently, a prospective physical therapist must earn a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). DPT programs require a bachelor's degree prior to admission to their physical therapy school, which is usually a two- to three-year course.

What are the hardest courses for students in PT school? ›

Current PT students as well as individuals who have successfully graduated from their respective PT programs tend to agree that the two most challenging courses in PT school are gross anatomy and neuroscience (also often referred to as neuroanatomy or simply neuro).

What state pays physical therapists the lowest? ›

California has the highest physical therapist salary of $106,493. Arkansas has the lowest physical therapist salary of $64,149. The national average salary for physical therapists is $73,070. The national hourly pay for physical therapists is $35.13.

Is there a shortage of physical therapists in the US? ›

The labor shortage in the United States has affected not only the physical therapy industry but also the healthcare industry as a whole. In 2021, about 22,032 physical therapists have left the workforce.

What is the salary of the top 10 percent physical therapist? ›

National estimates for Physical Therapists:
Percentile10%25%
Hourly Wage$ 32.65$ 38.80
Annual Wage (2)$ 67,910$ 80,700

What do most physical therapists major in? ›

Some common undergraduate majors for DPT programs are:
  1. Kinesiology. Kinesiology is the study of bodily movement and behavior, making it highly relevant to the physical therapy field. ...
  2. Exercise science. ...
  3. Biology. ...
  4. Psychology. ...
  5. Health science. ...
  6. Athletic training.
Mar 10, 2023

Who do physical therapists work with the most? ›

Physical therapists work with people who have experienced an injury or disease that has affected their movement and range of motion. A physical therapist will examine a patient then create a recovery plan. They often focus on treatments that reduce the need for surgery and prescriptive drugs.

Is becoming a PT difficult? ›

It is fairly hard to become a physical therapist.

It requires getting accepted to a highly competitive physical therapy program and years of advanced schooling. To work as a physical therapist, for instance, means completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.

What is the hardest nursing unit? ›

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses

ICU is an extremely high-pressure environment and these nurses work with patients who have significant injuries and disease with added morbidity risks.

What is the hardest nursing exam? ›

Preparing to take the NCLEX is enough to make just about anyone nervous. It's a difficult exam, and a major stepping stone in your career as a registered nurse. Remember that most people pass the NCLEX on the first try. However, preparation and confidence are key to passing.

Is PT harder than bootcamp? ›

Literally, every single school I attended in the USMC was objectively 'harder', mentally and physically than boot camp. The PT was further, faster and more intense. The learning was faster paced, and the margin for error was smaller. Looking back, boot camp is the easiest ordeal you go through.

What is passing score for PT test? ›

To pass the test, it is required to get at least 60 points (60%) in each category. This means that the minimum total score is 180 points.

How many PT tests can you fail? ›

The worst case scenario is if you keep failing the PT test. If you have 4 failures within a 24 month period then you have basically tied your commander's hand behind his back, because steps now have to be taken to recommend/not recommend you for separation.

Is physical therapy a lot of math? ›

Physical therapy is a field that involves a lot of math. For example, physical therapists use math to calculate the range of motion in a patient's joints and determine the optimal angle for movement. This helps them create treatment plans that are tailored to the specific needs of each patient.

What is the burnout rate for physical therapists? ›

Climbing caseloads, tedious documentation, unpaid overtime—it's no wonder physical therapists feel burned out. You might not know it based on turnover rates alone—10.7% for hospital-based physical therapists and 13.88% for PTs in home health.

Is PT school worth the debt? ›

Physical Therapist Student Loans Are Not the Best Financial Investment. If you are interested in money, it's clear that it doesn't pay to take out six figures of student debt and delay your earnings three years after undergrad for a salary that is under six figures typically.

How important is GPA for DPT? ›

The majority of schools require a minimum of 3.0 GPA, but the acceptance rate of many schools can have GPA scores as high as 3.75 average. Good grades matter!

Should I take a year off before PT school? ›

If you're considering PT school, sometimes taking a year to visit home, reconnect with friends, and get some quality family time in is key before you sign up for 3 grueling years of work.

How do I ace my PT school interview? ›

Here are some tips to help you prepare for physical therapy school interviews:
  1. Research the program. Before the interview, research the program to help you tailor your answers to the specific school to which you're applying. ...
  2. Practice your answers. ...
  3. Arrive early. ...
  4. Speak confidently. ...
  5. Prepare your own questions.
Mar 10, 2023

Is PA school or PT school harder? ›

According to some, PA school is a lot harder. I rather go to PT school and graduate then go to PA school and flunk out. I love both professions but i prefer PA slightly over PT. So entering ANY program will satisfy my career.

How many PT schools are there in the US? ›

Over the next 100 years, physical therapy education evolved and today there are nearly 230 accredited physical therapy schools in the United States, producing thousands of PT's helping patients with various injuries and conditions. Here's what you need to know to choose the best physical therapy school for you.

Is PT considered pre med? ›

It is, technically, but not for medical school. The goal of the clinical experience is to get around patients. But they're physical therapy and occupational therapy patients. Those are the kinds of patients you want to be around if you want to be a physical therapist or occupational therapist.

Which state has the most physical therapy schools? ›

The top 5 states within the US with the most PT schools
  • New York (22 institutions total, 18 using PTCAS and 4 non-PTCAS)
  • Pennsylvania (20 institutions total, 17 using PTCAS and 3 non-PTCAS)
  • California (17 institutions total, 15 PTCAS and 2 non-PTCAS)
  • Texas (15 institutions total, all using PTCAS)

Is PA school harder to get into than med school? ›

Medical schools do not have such stringent clinical experience requirements, making them less competitive in this respect. PA school admission may be less competitive from a standardized exam standpoint, as PA schools don't require the MCAT.

Can you become an MD after DPT? ›

To become an MD they would need to pass the requirements to get into Med school and then if they got in they would have to complete the program, which is usually 4 years . Most DPTs have a college background with science courses and a high GPI, which is needed to get into Med school.

What is the 10 year outlook for physical therapists? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 17 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 15,400 openings for physical therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

How long is PhD after DPT? ›

Depends on your program. Most PhD programs will still require 60 credit hours, so 2–5 years.

Is 30 too old to become a physical therapist? ›

Starting Physical Therapy School In Your 30's And 40's

While the average age of physical therapy student is about 25, there are plenty who are in their mid-thirties and on up into their forties. It isn't too late to start school past your twenties. The time frame for becoming a physical therapist is only seven years.

What is the difference between a physical therapist 1 and 2? ›

The Physical Therapist II is an experienced therapist who is fully competent with all essential functional and job duties of a Physical Therapist I, but also has expertise and experience in evaluating and developing treatment plans for more complex patients and for a wide variety of ages and diagnoses, utilizing ...

Does UCLA have a physical therapy program? ›

Specialty programs and protocols include pediatrics and hand therapy. The Westwood Outpatient Rehab consists of Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Prosthetics/Orthotics programs.

What are my odds of getting into PT school? ›

The minimum number of hours vary by program and range from 1 to 200. Remember only 10% of applicants get accepted, so if you do the minimum number of hours it doesn't say much about your commitment to a future as a physical therapist.

How many PT schools are in USA? ›

Over the next 100 years, physical therapy education evolved and today there are nearly 230 accredited physical therapy schools in the United States, producing thousands of PT's helping patients with various injuries and conditions. Here's what you need to know to choose the best physical therapy school for you.

How long is PT school in Michigan? ›

Earn your DPT degree and become a competent physical therapist in just three years at the University of Michigan Flint. Through rigorous training, you are empowered to enhance people's long-term well-being and promote health to the public.

How long is PT school in Texas? ›

The D.P.T. is a 9-semester, 3-year, full-time graduate program. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education. Graduates are eligible to take the licensure examination upon completion of the degree.

Is PT school easier than med school? ›

Medical school is way harder to get into, from a testing perspective as well as background. For Medical School (need to take the MCAT, a more comprehensive exam) vs DPT you just take the GRE ( generalized graduate school exam). Med school overall is a harder and more selective process that DPT school.

How long are most PT programs? ›

The traditional DPT program is three years, but some programs compress academic requirements into a shorter time span, which could help you manage the total cost of your education experience and enter the field faster. Demographics and setting. You will be investing a lot into your physical therapy education.

How much do pts make in Michigan? ›

The average salary for a physical therapist in Michigan is $68,000 per year.

How much does a PT Tech make in Michigan? ›

As of Jun 4, 2023, the average annual pay for a Physical Therapy Technician in Michigan is $21,461 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $10.32 an hour. This is the equivalent of $412/week or $1,788/month.

Is PT school difficult? ›

PT school will throw a lot of material at you at very fast rates, and you'll be busy with one assignment after another, one quiz after another and one written or practical exam after another. PT school can move fast and staying caught up can be challenging even if you're good with the learning material itself.

What is the highest PT salary in Texas? ›

Physical Therapist Salary in Texas. $75,200 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $99,500 is the 75th percentile.

What is the average PT salary in Texas? ›

Physical Therapists with this certification earn +5.57% more than the average base salary, which is $51.35 per hour.

What is the pass rate for Texas Tech DPT? ›

For the past two years of complete data (2021 and 2022), TTUHSC students in the DPT program had an average graduation rate of 94%. For the past two years of complete data (2021 and 2022), students in the DPT program have had a 99% pass rate on the licensure exam.

Is there a lot of math in PT school? ›

No science-based career would be complete without a solid foundation in mathematics. Most physical therapy programs require completion of geometry, algebra and pre-calculus.

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