Are Physical Therapists Doctors? 

Are Physical Therapist Doctors? Physical therapists help patients restore their mobility and quality of life by prescribing exercise, providing hands-on treatment, and educating patients. Because of a prevalent misconception about the distinction between a physician and a medical practitioner with a Ph.D., you’ll frequently hear the question, “Are Physical Therapists Doctors?”

If you’re thinking about becoming a Physical Therapist and want to know if a therapist can be called a doctor, you should read this article.


This post discusses what it takes to become a physical therapist, as well as the numerous career pathways and requirements to become a physical therapist.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Physical therapists are professionals who use prescribed exercise, and hands-on care, and to improve the quality of patients’ lives. Similarly, physical therapists analyze each individual before developing a treatment plan to increase their capacity to move, minimize or manage discomfort, restore function, and avoid impairment. They assist people in achieving fitness goals, regaining or maintaining independence, and leading active lives. 

Before we answer the question of if physical therapists are doctors, let’s quickly look at some benefits of pursuing a career as a physical therapist.

What Are The Benefits of Becoming a Physical Therapist?

Well, the answer to this question is based on your professional objectives. While others decide to become physical therapists because the education requirement is simply a two-year associate degree. Still, some people choose to go for their Doctor of Physical Therapy. Read on to learn about some of the factors that make a Doctor in Physical Therapy a positive career path.

#1. Opportunity to Make a Difference 

Gaining a physical therapy degree will provide you with the opportunity to improve people’s lives.

As a physical therapist, you will assist people of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds in regaining their ability to walk and manage their chronic pain. Thus, the work of a physical therapist is undeniably valuable and extraordinarily rewarding, too.

#2. Positive Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of physical therapists will expand by 17 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is substantially faster than the national average for all occupations. Not only that, but the average annual salary for physical therapists in May 2021 was $95,620. So, as a physical therapist, you will be helping to improve the lives of patients while earning a living.

#3. It’s an Exciting and Evolving Profession

Physical therapy is a field where strategies and technologies are constantly evolving. While your goal of assisting others will be the same every day, how you assist patients will vary. You could be applying electrical stimulation to a runner’s knee one day and then assisting a stroke patient in regaining control of their facial muscles the next. Every day at work brings a new challenge and an opportunity to learn. And seeing your patients get better is rewarding!

Where Can a Physical Therapist Work?

The physical therapy profession will require you to work in a variety of locations with patients of various ages, so you will have a variety of alternatives and chances while starting your physical therapy career. As a physical therapist, you can work in the following settings:

  • Hospitals 
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient clinics 
  • Pediatrician offices 
  • Women’s health clinics
  • Sports facilities and fitness centers
  • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Nursing and extended care facilities
  • Schools and education centers

Are Physical Therapists Doctors

A physical therapist receives a Physical therapist degree rather than a Medical Doctor degree. However, this does not imply that they are not doctors or that they lack the necessary training and credentials to perform their medical specialty safely and successfully. 

Additionally, not all Physical Therapists hold a Doctorate. Some PTs just have a Bachelor’s degree, while others have a Master’s of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT).  

In essence, a Physical Therapist is not always a doctor because not all PTs hold a doctoral degree (DPT). They are specifically trained in the science of physical therapy, healing, and preventative measures to protect the physical body.

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About the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

To practice as a physical therapist in the United States, you must first obtain a doctor of physical therapy degree from a recognized physical therapist education program and then pass a state licensure exam.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is a complete, hands-on doctoral program that is required of all practicing physical therapists. It consists of three years of clinical practice and intense training.

In addition to the curriculum, the DPT program includes extensive clinical training. In addition, students not only study extensively in the classroom, but they also complete substantial observation and practice hours. They can research musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic systems, as well as a variety of other health-related areas. After graduation, DPT programs prepare students to take and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam.

What Degree do You Need to Become a Physical Therapist?

There are various bachelor’s degrees that will prepare you for a career as a Physical Therapist. These degrees often assist you in completing prerequisite coursework for your PT. The following are the most prevalent bachelor’s degrees for those pursuing a Physical Therapist:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology 
  • Statistics
  • Chemistry 
  • Pharmacology
  • Health Sciences 
  • Exercise science

What Are the Career Options for a Doctor of Physical Therapy?

There are numerous subspecialties within physical therapy. Graduates can opt to care for particular populations, such as children or the elderly, or they can choose to specialize in particular medical fields, such as oncology or neurology. The most popular career options for physical therapists include the following:

#1. Neurological Physical Therapist

A neurological physical therapist is responsible for treating patients who have suffered damage to their nervous system, such as from multiple sclerosis, a spinal cord injury, or a stroke. Also, exercises are based on the physician’s knowledge of the neurological system and the particular pathways for recovery.

#2. Travel Physical Therapist

When traveling for a conference, a medical leave, or a competition, people and businesses may require the services of a physical therapist. As a result, travel physical therapists treat a particular patient population or group away from home for several weeks or months at a time.

#3. Acute Care Physical Therapist

Patients in the hospital require a specialist’s assistance to restore basic mobility following a serious accident or surgery. Acute physical therapists assist patients with serious illnesses in moving around in their beds, transferring, and getting ready to leave the hospital.

#4. Vestibular Rehabilitation Physical Therapist

The capacity of a person to safely and comfortably navigate the world is substantially impacted by balance disorders, such as vertigo, gait problems, or inner-ear diseases. A vestibular rehabilitation physical therapist thus acquires specialized medical training in these balance-related problems to aid a patient in regaining the capacity to move around their surroundings without suffering harm.

#5. Cardio and Pulmonary Physical Therapist

Cardiopulmonary physical therapists assist patients who have suffered heart and lung injuries in regaining pain-free movement and mobility. Asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are common conditions in this category.

#6. Women’s Health Physical Therapist

These physical therapist doctors focus on specific ailments or injuries that affect women’s bodies more frequently, such as musculoskeletal and reproductive health issues. Following childbirth, cancer treatment, or the discovery of a bone density disorder, care may be provided.

#7. Occupational Physical Therapist

Physical Therapists promote mobility and pain-relieving activities. Occupational therapists doctors help their patients regain the skills necessary for daily living activities including eating, taking care of themselves, and dressing.

#8. Pediatric Physical Therapist

Pediatric physical therapy not only helps young patients with a variety of ailments and injuries, but it also significantly helps kids with developmental difficulties. Thus, Pediatric Physical Therapists can address communication issues, help kids gain mobility around the house and school, and develop critical motor skills.

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#9. Geriatric Physical Therapist

Injury can result when older persons lose their strength, balance, and mobility. According to The Washington Post, the COVID-19 pandemic caused older people to lose a considerable amount of their range of motion. Hence, the need for older individuals to regain their physical health and resume their regular routines is increasing. A geriatric physical therapist is a professional who works with elderly patients to improve their physical health.

#10. Sports Physical Therapist 

Sports physical therapists are professionals that aid athletes in regaining motion after an injury and put up fitness facilities for outpatient rehab programs. Additionally, PTs may suggest particular exercises to treat pain or avoid the impact of the pain. 

#11. Oncology Physical Therapist

These physical therapists and doctors support patients who are recuperating from cancer and its side effects. While in the hospital or for rehabilitation, specialists can also suggest patients activities to keep them active, relaxed, and pain-free.

#12. Orthopedic Physical Therapist

An orthopedist is knowledgeable about movement restrictions of the bones, tendons, connective tissues, muscles, and joints. These experts are qualified to treat conditions ranging from Lyme disease to plantar fasciitis.

How to Become a Physical Therapist? 

Physical therapists are in charge of assisting injured and ill patients in managing their pain, improving their mobility, and functioning to their full ability. Joining this profession necessitates years of education, mastery of a wide range of skills, and obtaining licensure. The following steps should help you get started on your route to becoming a certified physical therapist.

A bachelor’s degree in an area relevant to health science and sports is typically required to become a physical therapist. Additionally, some graduate physical therapy programs may require you to take prerequisite courses in physics, kinesiology, biology, chemistry, physiology, and human anatomy. In any case, ensure to examine the requirements of the doctoral degree programs you’re interested in and take the required classes.

Step 2: Complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step in becoming a PT is to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree. Hence, you must enroll in and complete an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy Program (DPT). As a result, you’ll have to complete your white coat ceremony and enter the clinic for hands-on rotations overseen by a clinical teacher during your second year of the program.

Step 3: Pass the NPTE

To become a licensed physical therapist, you must first pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This computer-based exam has 250 multiple-choice questions divided into five sections. Also, the NPTE is given four times a year: in January, April, July, and October.

Step 4: Obtain a License to Practice

While most states require practitioners to complete the NPTE as well as other criteria such as compliance training, background checks, and so on. In most areas, physical therapists must satisfy continuing education requirements every two years to keep their licenses. Because continuing education classes will keep you up to date on health professional norms and developments.

Step 5: Complete a Residency Program 

A residency, while optional, is a fantastic opportunity to start specializing in your area of interest. After becoming a certified physical therapist, you may want to consider advancing your career with a residency or fellowship program. Therefore, a clinical residency is a postgraduate program that consists of further training, coursework, and clinical experiences.

Step 6: Earn Board Certification 

After getting licensed and obtaining professional experience in the discipline, you can become a board-certified clinical specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). To become board-certified, you must pass the National Physical Therapy test and complete an American Physical Therapy Association-accredited residency program.

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What to Look For in a Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program

The finest doctor of physical therapy programs should provide the following in addition to achieving the stringent certification standards established by The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE):

  • A low student-to-teacher ratio
  • Access to professionals in the field of physical therapy
  • The flexibility of hybrid and in-person programs
  • Paths with a focus and electives
  • The high post-graduation employment rate 
  • Outstanding clinical training facilities
  • Connections to leading companies

FAQs About Are Physical Therapists Doctors

The best majors for Physical Therapy are as follows:



Exercise Science

The physical therapist’s salary varies based on geographical region, the field of practice, years of experience, and degree of education. The average annual salary for physical therapists in May 2021 was $95,620. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of physical therapists will expand by 17 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is substantially faster than the national average for all occupations. So, this indicates that the demand and salary for physical therapists will continue to increase.

Well, the worth of any career is determined by your personal goals. Whether your goal is to assist people to recover quickly from injuries while earning a good living, becoming a physical therapist will help you achieve these objectives. Furthermore, the average PT income is $95,620, with a 17 percent increase expected between 2021 and 2031. As a result, being a PT is worthwhile.

The Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy is a four-year program that produces professionals who promote optimal health and function by providing services that develop, maintain, and restore maximum movement and functional ability for people at any stage of life.

Physical therapist skills include both soft and hard skills. This means that physical therapists gain some physical therapy skills on the job or through training, while others are inherent. The following are both soft and hard skills that you will need as a physical therapist:

Communication skills

Physical stamina

Interpersonal skills

Detail orientation


Time management skills

Treatment planning

Multitasking skills

Leadership skills

Observation skills

The finest places to practice Physical therapy include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and areas of Western Europe. Furthermore, because of the high quality of healthcare in these countries, physiotherapy is taught to a high grade using cutting-edge research methodologies.


Physical therapists are experts who work to improve the quality of life for people who have injuries, impairments, or other health issues. They also help those who just wish to get healthier and avoid future difficulties.

Furthermore, a physical therapist obtains a Doctor of Physical therapy (DPT) rather than a Master’s Degree. However, not all Physical Therapists hold a Doctorate degree. Some have simply a bachelor’s degree, while others have a master’s degree in physical therapy.

However, hundreds of older physical therapists with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are still practicing in clinics around the country. A Physical Therapist is not always a doctor because not all PTs have a doctoral degree. So, if you’re thinking about becoming a physical therapist but aren’t sure if physical therapists are doctors, we hope this post has brought clarity to you.

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