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Top Universities for Becoming a Physical Therapist (PT)

by Doug Bennett, Contributor

Best Universities for Physical Therapy EducationWhether you prefer the abundant rivers and streams around Walla Walla, Washington, the glacier-carved mountains near Kalispell, Montana, or the dynamic urban vibe of San Francisco, there has never been a better time for travel physical therapy jobs.

Boom time for physical therapy jobs

Physical therapy jobs are projected to remain in high demand for the foreseeable future. A wave of aging baby boomers and a trend toward increased health insurance coverage nationwide are two major drivers contributing to sustained job growth for physical therapists (PT’s) and physical therapy assistants (PTA’s).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy jobs are expected to grow by 36 percent from 2014 to 2024—significantly faster than the 7 percent average growth rate for all occupations.

Evaluating physical therapy training programs

If you're contemplating a career in physical therapy, you should consider a variety of factors when researching potential Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs, including curriculum, types of clinical training opportunities available to students, faculty expertise, student/teacher ratio, incoming student GPA, quality of classroom and lab facilities, campus location (geographic) and setting (urban, suburban, rural), size of the university or college, class size, licensure pass rates, employment rates, length of program, cost and financial aid options.

There are currently 236 CAPTE-accredited physical therapist degree programs nationwide. CAPTE provides a database of accredited programs, searchable by state, on their web site.

Although the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) does not create or provide rankings of these programs, U.S. News & World Report does furnish an annual ranked list of physical therapy training programs. The rankings are based on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to faculty, deans and other administrators at accredited degree programs or schools.

The top schools for becoming a physical therapist

217 physical therapy programs accredited by CAPTE were surveyed and ranked by U.S. News & World Report in 2015-2016. Each school’s score reflects its average rating on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). Four schools tied for the top spot with scores of 4.3 out of 5:

  • --University of Delaware (Newark, DE)
  • --University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • --University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
  • --Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)

Rounding out the top ten programs were Emory University, Northwestern University and the University of Iowa (tied for #6), MGH Institute of Health Professions and U.S. Army-Baylor University (tied for #8), and Duke University.

A streamlined path to PT program admission

Another useful resource when evaluating or applying for PT or PTA training programs is the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS), which features important program-specific admission requirements and descriptions.

PTCAS is a service of the APTA, created in 2008 to simplify the application process for prospective PT students and to facilitate the admissions process for professional PT educational programs. PTCAS enables applicants to use a single online application and one set of materials to apply to multiple PT programs.

The future looks bright

Growth in traditional physical therapy jobs and travel physical therapy jobs is expected to remain strong as the U.S. population ages and the demand for PT services increases. Once you have your DPT and some additional post-doc clinical experience under your belt, you can write your own ticket, including working as a travel physical therapist.

States such as California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois can be especially lucrative because they generally have the greatest number of available physical therapy jobs. Other states might have fewer total jobs available, but higher concentrations of PT positions among them, i.e., the number of PT jobs per thousand job openings.

Med Travelers offers exciting physical therapy jobs across the United States. Exploring travel physical therapy jobs offered through Med Travelers is the best way to experience different geographic locations and types of work environments. Contact our professional recruiters to identify the best physical therapy job opportunities to suit your individual needs and lifestyle preferences.

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