Physical Therapy Programs in Washington - WA

Washington law specifies that individuals may become physical therapists after receiving either a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy or a bachelor’s degree in another field followed by a specialized degree in physical therapy.  However, the trend in physical therapy education is toward more demanding and time-intensive degrees and additional credentials.  In 1998, most practicing physical therapists had only a bachelor’s degree.  However, today the Commission on Accredited Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) does not approve bachelor’s programs for physical therapists, although they remain sufficient preparation for physical therapist assistants.  The two available graduate degrees in physical therapy are the Master’s of Physical Therapy (MPT) and the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).

The DPT is a new degree, instituted by CAPTE within the last decade.  The DPT differs from the MPT in that it takes three years to complete on a full-time basis, compared to the standard two years that it takes to complete the MPT.  In addition, while MPT programs may require as little as 15 weeks of clinical practice and education in order to earn the final degree, DPT programs typically require 30 or more.  More and more physical therapy schools are instituting DPT degrees or transitioning their existing MPT programs to DPT programs, and it is the intention of the CAPTE and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) that, by 2020, all practicing physical therapists hold the DPT degree.  Thus, candidates are encouraged to pursue the DPT rather than the MPT in order to ensure themselves maximum career opportunities going forward.  Indeed, most accredited physical therapy programs in Washington now offer only the DPT as a terminal degree. There are a variety of online options for Washington physical therapy schools.

In order to gain admission to a graduate program in physical therapy,  an individual must graduate from a four year college and complete certain prerequisites in the laboratory and behavioral sciences and related fields, including biology, anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry, statistics, and psychology.  Physical therapy programs also expect students to have significant paid or volunteer work experience in physical therapy prior to matriculation, and it is not uncommon for schools to require applicants to have completed 75 hours or more of such experience before applying for admission.  The admissions process for physical therapy schools is very competitive, and successful candidates generally must attain a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, as well as a 3.0 GPA in their prerequisite science courses. 

The curriculum in graduate degree programs in physical therapy is demanding.  Students take a number of advanced and specialized courses in medical and behavioral subjects including kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, neurology, orthopedics, orthotics and prosthetics, and human development.  Students also take hands-on courses in therapeutic and diagnostic techniques.  A significant portion of the graduate physical therapy curriculum consists of clinical experience in a variety of medical and health-care settings, including hospitals and rehabilitation centers.  The clinical portion of a physical therapist’s training can last for thirty or more weeks and is often divided into shorter rotation periods so that the student can experience physical therapy in a number of different contexts and patient populations. 

Through campus based and online programs, aspiring Physical Therapists in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Bellevue, Washington may be able to prepare themselves for the possibility of employment in some of the largest hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state including the University of Washington Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center, Sacred Heart Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center.

Physical Therapy Schools