What Is The Lowest Degree For Physical Therapy?
By Emily

What Is The Lowest Degree For Physical Therapy?

As a physical therapist, one question I am frequently asked is ‘What is the lowest degree required to become a physical therapist?’ The field of physical therapy has grown over the years and with it, so have the requirements for education. While there are several paths to becoming a licensed physical therapist, each requiring varying levels of education, all share certain prerequisites.

To start, let’s clarify what we mean by ‘lowest degree.’

In order to become a licensed physical therapist in the United States, an individual must earn either a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) or Master of Physical Therapy (MPT).

Previously, individuals could enter the field with only a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy; however this option has been phased out since 2002 due to changes in accreditation standards.

Therefore, currently the minimum educational requirement for licensure as a physical therapist at entry-level is either an MPT or DPT from an accredited program.

Understanding The Education Requirements For Physical Therapists

To become a physical therapist, you must first meet certain prerequisites before applying to an accredited Physical Therapy (PT) program. These requirements vary depending on the institution, but most PT programs require a Bachelor’s degree in any major along with specific prerequisite courses such as anatomy, physiology, biology, physics, and psychology. Additionally, completing volunteer or work experience in healthcare settings is highly recommended.

Once accepted into a PT program, students will undergo rigorous coursework and clinical rotations to prepare them for the profession. Upon graduation from an accredited program, individuals earn either a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) or Master of Physical Therapy (MPT).

However, it is important to note that some states only accept DPT degrees for licensure purposes. Specialization options are also available post-graduation through residency training or fellowship programs.

The Phasing Out Of The Bachelor’s Degree Option

As the field of physical therapy continues to evolve, so do the requirements for becoming a licensed practitioner. One significant change that has occurred in recent years is the phasing out of the Bachelor’s degree option as the minimum educational requirement for entering this profession.

While there are still some programs that offer Bachelor’s degrees in physical therapy, most states now require at least a Doctorate or Master’s degree to obtain licensure. This shift reflects an increased emphasis on evidence-based practice and advanced clinical skills necessary to meet the needs of patients with complex medical conditions.

What Is The Lowest Degree For Physical Therapy
What Is The Lowest Degree For Physical Therapy

Despite this change, job prospects for qualified individuals remain strong, with demand expected to grow faster than average over the next decade. For those considering potential alternatives to pursuing a higher-level degree, options may include careers in related fields such as athletic training or rehabilitation counseling.

Pursuing continuing education opportunities can help physical therapists stay current with new research and techniques. The ability to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals is essential for success in this field. Physical therapists must be able to adapt their treatment plans based on individual patient needs and goals. Strong communication skills are critical when working with patients from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

In summary, while obtaining a Bachelor’s degree was once sufficient for starting a career in physical therapy, changes in educational standards reflect growing demands placed on practitioners today. Although these shifts may make it more challenging for some individuals to enter the field initially, continued growth and expansion provide ample opportunity for those willing to pursue further education and training.

Ultimately, by staying informed about industry developments and prioritizing ongoing professional development efforts throughout one’s career, aspiring physical therapists can build rewarding careers helping others achieve optimal health outcomes.

The Importance Of Accreditation

While the bachelor’s degree option has been phased out, aspiring physical therapists can still pursue the lowest degree required for practice. This is none other than a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program. The DPT program generally takes 3 years to complete and includes both didactic and clinical coursework.

However, it is important to note that obtaining a DPT degree alone does not automatically guarantee licensure or accreditation. Accreditation standards vary by state, so it is crucial for students to research their state’s requirements prior to pursuing their education in physical therapy.

In addition, licensing requirements also vary by state and may include passing an exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. By meeting these requirements, individuals will be able to provide safe and effective care to patients as licensed physical therapists.

Entry-Level Licensure Requirements: Mpt Or Dpt

Aspiring physical therapists must obtain a graduate degree in order to practice. The minimum educational requirement for entry-level licensure is either a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).

While both degrees lead to the same goal, there are pros and cons to each program that prospective students should consider.

One advantage of obtaining an MPT is the shorter duration of the program compared to a DPT. This means less time spent on education and more opportunities to start working as a licensed therapist earlier. However, job opportunities may be limited with only an MPT degree as many employers prefer hiring candidates with a DPT degree due to its higher level of training and knowledge.

On the other hand, pursuing a DPT can provide greater career options with advanced clinical skills and research experience. Although it takes longer to complete than an MPT, having a DPT degree can open doors to leadership roles in healthcare organizations and academia.


As a physical therapist, I know firsthand the importance of education in our field. With the phasing out of the bachelor’s degree option, it is now necessary for aspiring PTs to obtain either a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT).

Accreditation from organizations such as CAPTE ensures that programs meet high standards and provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.

Obtaining an entry-level license requires completing one of these accredited programs and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam. It may seem daunting, but think of it like climbing a mountain – each step brings you closer to your goal.

The lowest degree for physical therapy may be higher than it once was, but this simply means that we are constantly striving for excellence in our profession. So take that first step and begin your journey towards becoming a skilled and compassionate physical therapist!

  • No Comments
  • May 11, 2023