How Much Does Physical Therapist School Cost?

Costs main cover image
$ Certification Exam: $350 $ $ Master's Degree Program: $12,000-$32,000+ $ $ $ Doctoral Degree Program: $25,000-$75,000+

The work of the physical therapists includes helping patients recover from illness or injury by restoring lost function or relieving their pain.

The physical therapists need to have a master’s degree; however, according to the federal government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the industry standard is moving towards requiring a doctoral degree.

Typical Costs

A master of physical therapy takes two to three years to complete, while a doctorate takes three to four years to complete.

As a rule, most programs expect fulltime enrollment.

Some schools offer only doctoral degrees, while others like Arkansas State University provide a master’s degree as well.

The tuition fees for the 2.5-year masters of physical therapy equal to approx. $12,500 for state residents and $32,000 for out-of-state students.

The tuition at private schools can cost significantly more; for example, the fee at the University of Southern California is $75,000 for its 3-year doctorate program.

A great deal of the state universities provide doctorates in physical therapy as well, sometimes at half the price of private universities.

For instance, the doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago costs $35,000.

For out-of-state students, costs can be comparable to private universities.

For example, the University of Delaware charges a total of $28,871 for in-state residents enrolled in their 2.5-year doctor of a physical therapy program, while out-of-state students pay $75,156 for the same program.

The certification for physical therapists requires the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy exam for the price of $350.

What Is Included

  • The physical therapists can be general practitioners or can focus on one population like geriatric patients or type of rehabilitation like cardiopulmonary.
  • Physical therapists, in general, work with patients doing rehabilitative exercises or learning to use therapeutic equipment like crutches.
  • According to the federal government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the physical therapists work in a clinical or hospital setting, or in private practice.
  • The coursework focused on anatomy and physiology is a standard component of masters and doctoral programs.
  • Master’s and doctoral programs require clinical hours, including internships at hospitals or in other clinical settings, in addition to coursework.
  • All programs need to prepare students to take the required exams for certification in their home state.

Additional Costs

  • The living cost varies by location and is usually listed on individual departments’ websites together with tuition costs, such as this cost of a living breakdown by Columbia University.
  • Certain states also expect students to take a state exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy for fees ranging from $30-$50.


Students in master’s and doctoral programs are eligible for up to $20,500 in Stafford Loans per year, depending on their income level and other criteria set by the Federal Application for Student Financial Aid.

Graduate students are also eligible for PLUS loans to assist with tuition and other education-related expenses.

Part of the doctoral programs offers merit-based financial aid to students.

For instance, Columbia University offers annual merit scholarships for students with an undergraduate GPA above 3.5.

Further to scholarship assistance, some doctoral programs secure low-cost loans to doctoral students.

For example, Emory University provides doctoral candidates in physical therapy a loan with a low-interest rate of 4.22%.

Teaching assistantships, graduate research fellowships and residence assistantships are available to PT doctoral students at some universities, such as Boston University.

These come with full tuition remission and a stipend.

The American Association for Physical Therapists provides an updated list of private scholarships available to doctoral candidates in physical therapy.

Shopping For Physical Therapist School

  • The American Physical Therapy Association presents an updated list of accredited schools in the United States.
  • The APTA provides all factors to consider in choosing a school and requires that schools meet accreditation requirements, but does not rank them.
  • U.S. News and World Report rank doctoral programs in physical therapy.
  • Additional information about the certification exam is available at the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

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