Physical Therapy Fast-Track Degrees for a New Career

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, USC and North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty offer an accel­er­at­ed phys­i­cal ther­a­py program.
  • Accel­er­at­ed pro­grams take about 2–2.5 years, allow­ing faster entry into the work­force.
  • These pro­grams build on pri­or knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence, con­cen­trat­ing on essen­tial courses.
  • Stu­dents can con­nect with pro­fes­sion­als through intern­ships, clin­i­cal rota­tions, and guest lec­tures.
  • While year­ly costs may be high­er, the over­all expens­es are low­er than tra­di­tion­al pro­grams due to the short­er duration.

As a career chang­er, you have prob­a­bly found your­self at a point where you felt like your career is no longer as reward­ing. Per­haps you have been work­ing as a masseuse, gym train­er, or even a reg­is­tered nurse, and you have found that the world of phys­i­cal ther­a­py is wink­ing at you. The good news is that the phys­i­cal ther­a­py job mar­ket is expect­ed to grow by around 15 per­cent in the next decade, so you are look­ing at a good change.

The prob­lem is that your chances of get­ting hired are rel­a­tive­ly slim unless you have a degree. This is where short-dura­tion PT degrees can come in handy, as they offer you access to a degree in half the time of a con­ven­tion­al pro­gram. This arti­cle will pro­vide help­ful insight if you want to change your career and don’t know what to expect from this degree.


Understanding Physical Therapy Fast-Track Programs

As the name sug­gests, fast-track phys­i­cal ther­a­py degrees allow you to get your high­er edu­ca­tion cer­ti­fi­ca­tion faster than usu­al. The pro­gram ends with a Doc­tor of Phys­i­cal Ther­a­py (DPT) degree, prov­ing you are a licensed ther­a­pist. It is per­fect for those want­i­ng a stream­lined process with­out skimp­ing the quality.

Unlike tra­di­tion­al phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion, which lasts for about 4 years (depend­ing on the insti­tu­tion you go for), an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram lasts about 2 to 2.5 years. The cur­ricu­lum is sim­i­lar, but the pace is much faster, with many even hav­ing sum­mer class­es. You can expect cours­es relat­ed to exer­cise sci­ence, kine­si­ol­o­gy, anato­my, nutri­tion, and more.

Most tra­di­tion­al pro­grams take place in a class­room envi­ron­ment, but accel­er­at­ed cours­es could also take the form of online PT degrees. This option is gen­er­al­ly rec­om­mend­ed for those who already have a day job and can­not afford to leave it in favor of pur­su­ing their education.

Benefits of Accelerated PT Programs

Going for a career change to phys­i­cal ther­a­py using an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram can have a series of ben­e­fits, includ­ing the following:

· Time Efficiency

One of the great­est PT fast-track pro­gram ben­e­fits is per­haps the accel­er­at­ed time­line. Since you usu­al­ly fin­ish the pro­gram in about 2 years, you should be able to enter the work­force much faster than you would with a tra­di­tion­al one. If you are eager to start earn­ing mon­ey as soon as pos­si­ble with your new career, this could sig­nif­i­cant­ly ben­e­fit you.

· Focused Curriculum

Tra­di­tion­al pro­grams often teach every­thing from scratch, which is why many stu­dents fresh out of high school go on this path. The cur­ricu­lum is less inten­sive, and stu­dents usu­al­ly take tran­si­tion class­es focus­ing more on help­ful the­o­ry. On the oth­er hand, accel­er­at­ed pro­grams build on your expe­ri­ence and exist­ing knowl­edge. For instance, some insti­tu­tions even allow you to trans­fer cred­its if the case applies, allow­ing you to focus on the cours­es that matter.

· Networking Opportunities

Some might think you don’t have many net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties if your career tran­si­tion to PT is through an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram. The truth is the oppo­site. When you are in an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram, you are study­ing along­side like-mind­ed career-ori­ent­ed pro­fes­sion­als. The poten­tial intern­ships, clin­i­cal rota­tions, and guest lec­tures also offer plen­ty of net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. This can be sig­nif­i­cant­ly help­ful when you are tran­si­tion­ing to a new career.

Top Fast-Track Physical Therapy Programs

If you don’t know what to choose and you are look­ing for the best phys­i­cal ther­a­py pro­grams, we have got you cov­ered. Here are some of the most pop­u­lar options:

1. Columbia University

Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty has an excel­lent phys­i­cal ther­a­py pro­gram accred­it­ed by the Com­mis­sion on Accred­i­ta­tion in Phys­i­cal Ther­a­py Edu­ca­tion (CAPTE). In about 2 and a half years, you should be able to get your degree. Dur­ing that time, you will cov­er var­i­ous cours­es such as ortho­pe­dics, geri­atrics, and sports phys­i­cal therapy.

2. University of Southern California (USC)

Also accred­it­ed by CAPTE, USC offers the Divi­sion of Bioki­ne­si­ol­o­gy and Phys­i­cal Ther­a­py pro­gram. You can get your degree and start per­form­ing as a licensed ther­a­pist in two and a half years.

3. Northwestern University

Accred­it­ed by CAPTE, the accel­er­at­ed 2.5‑year pro­gram focus­es more on inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion and offers clin­i­cal expe­ri­ence oppor­tu­ni­ties. You may need to com­plete some course­work in anato­my and biol­o­gy before applying.

Admission Requirements and How to Apply

Each fast-track edu­ca­tion pro­gram for phys­i­cal ther­a­py might have its own pre­req­ui­sites and require­ments. Get­ting a sheet from your insti­tu­tion of choice is rec­om­mend­ed so that you know what you are sup­posed to bring to the table.

1. Common PT Program Prerequisites

Pre­req­ui­sites may vary from one accel­er­at­ed pro­gram to anoth­er, but for the most part, cer­tain things are pret­ty stan­dard. For instance, most of these pro­grams require you to have a bachelor’s degree of some sort from an accred­it­ed insti­tu­tion. If it’s from a dif­fer­ent field, there is a good chance that pre­req­ui­site course­work may be required as well.

Expe­ri­ence is often part of the phys­i­cal ther­a­pist edu­ca­tion require­ments, as these class­es build upon pre­vi­ous exper­tise. Some accel­er­at­ed pro­grams might require sub­mit­ting your GRE score, min­i­mum GPA, or SATs. High scores will show you have enough knowl­edge to keep up with the fast-track pace.

2. Application Process and Timeline

Apply­ing for and get­ting accept­ed into a phys­i­cal ther­a­py pro­gram could take one to three months, depend­ing on how much doc­u­men­ta­tion you have gath­ered. You might want to take 1–2 weeks to research the pro­grams to choose the one that works best for your needs. The time­line could also be length­ened if you take pre­req­ui­site cours­es, which can take sev­er­al months to complete.

Next, you will have to gath­er the appli­ca­tion mate­ri­als and sub­mit your forms, which takes about two weeks on aver­age (even less if you already have them pre­pared). Once every­thing is gath­ered, you will have to sub­mit the file to their por­tal and wait until you get con­fir­ma­tion that you have been accepted.

3. Tips for Strengthening Your Application

The stronger your appli­ca­tion, the high­er your chances of get­ting accept­ed into the pro­gram. Below are a few PT pro­gram appli­ca­tion tips that could help you:

· Gain Relevant Experience in the Field

The more you have to offer them, the like­li­er you will be to make it up their lift. You should gain rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence through intern­ships, vol­un­teer­ing, or even employ­ment to prove your­self as an asset. For exam­ple, if you work or have worked in a health­care or sports facil­i­ty, you should be able to make the bill.

· Get Some Letters of Recommendation

Let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion are not manda­to­ry, but they look great on your appli­ca­tion. Find peo­ple who know your skills well and can speak about your ethics and poten­tial for suc­cess – for instance, your pre­vi­ous pro­fes­sors. The more let­ters you have from author­i­ty indi­vid­u­als, the bet­ter it will be.

· Create a Compelling Personal Statement

Insti­tu­tions want to see that you have a pas­sion for this career and are not like­ly to quit upon grad­u­at­ing (or even before). A per­son­al state­ment should help you con­vey that. Be hon­est and include things such as why you want to fol­low this pro­fes­sion, your per­son­al and edu­ca­tion­al back­ground, and why you believe their pro­gram best fits your needs.

Financial Considerations of Accelerated PT Degrees

Like every oth­er edu­ca­tion pro­gram, you might have to con­sid­er the costs asso­ci­at­ed with it. Depend­ing on your cir­cum­stances, you could pay your­self or find an alter­na­tive to cov­er your tuition.

· Overview of Accelerated PT Program Costs

For the most part, an accel­er­at­ed degree can cost between $60,000 and $100,000 for the entire pro­gram, depend­ing on where you choose to get your edu­ca­tion. On a year­ly basis, this can be high­er than a tra­di­tion­al pro­gram, which costs around $20,000-$40,000 per year. How­ev­er, when you con­sid­er the cumu­lat­ed costs in the long run, accel­er­at­ed pro­grams are often more affordable.

· Funding Options for Your Degree

Sim­i­lar to tra­di­tion­al pro­grams, you don’t need a small per­son­al inher­i­tance to get your edu­ca­tion. As a stu­dent, you can apply for fed­er­al aid, such as grants and loans, by com­plet­ing the Free Appli­ca­tion for Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid (FAFSA). Pri­vate loans could also work if you are not eli­gi­ble for phys­i­cal ther­a­py schol­ar­ships, and some pro­grams offer their own ver­sions of finan­cial aid.

Careers Outcomes and Opportunities

The phys­i­cal ther­a­py career out­look for this domain is rel­a­tive­ly rich once you get your degree. You can work as a licensed phys­i­cal ther­a­pist (PT), earn­ing an entry-lev­el salary of around $69,903, accord­ing to You can also work in research or as a clin­i­cal edu­ca­tor, where the medi­an salary is around $65,000, accord­ing to

Con­tin­ued edu­ca­tion can offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for even high­er salaries. For instance, if you get a master’s or doc­tor­ate, the chances are high that you will be pro­mot­ed to a high­er-pay­ing position.

The Bottom Line

Join­ing an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram for phys­i­cal ther­a­py can set you on the path to a new career with a rea­son­able salary range. Now, all that is left is to find the pro­gram that works best for your goals. Make sure you have a sol­id appli­ca­tion to increase your admis­sion chances.