Top 10 Online Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy Programs 2024

PTA graduate in the work environment

Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
Reading Level: Grade 9
Reading Time: 12 minutes, 47 seconds
Original Publication Date: August 2023
Updates: 1

Physical therapy is one of the most popular of the helping professions in the healthcare sector. Not only is this career path intrinsically rewarding, but it’s also full of lucrative opportunities. With a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, graduates are fully prepared for jobs as physical therapy assistants. They can also choose to further their education in a master’s or doctoral program in physical therapy. These graduate programs can put them on the path to take on senior roles in the field, including that of physical therapist. Distance learning has made this career path even more enticing, especially for working professionals. In this ranking, we highlight ten affordable bachelor’s degree programs in physical therapy that can be completed entirely online.

  • Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)
  • BS in Health Sciences
  • BS in Health Science (Pre-Physical Therapy)
  • BS in Health Sciences (Allied Health): Physical Therapy
  • BS in Health & Rehabilitation Psychology
  • BS in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy: Rehabilitation Therapy
  • Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Studies

Methodology

To develop this ranking of the top physical therapy bachelor’s degrees online, our editors searched the web for available programs, an effort that yielded 16 individual online physical therapy programs in the U.S. We then applied the tuition filter, eliminating any programs with tuition costs exceeding $25,000 per year. Finally, we applied the site-wide undergraduate program methodology. What follows is our ranking of the top 10 online bachelor’s degrees in physical therapy.

Featured Programs

#10—Pima Medical Institute

Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy Assistant

Website

Points: 3

Tuition: $24,475

Pima Medical Institute offers an online bachelor’s in physical therapy option designed to be completed within 16 months. Physical therapy students will complete four semesters of coursework, including classes such as:

  • Evidence-Based Practice for the PTA
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Patient Communication, Motivation, and Learning
  • Practice Specific Rehabilitation

A professional capstone is also required. Pima Medical Institute holds the institutional accreditation to award this degree by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Pros:

  • Accelerated format
  • ABHES-accredited program

Cons:

  • Larger class sizes
  • Less affordable

#9—Faulkner University

Online BS in Health & Rehabilitation Psychology

Website

Points: 3

Tuition: $23,920

The online bachelor’s in physical therapy option from Faulkner University is a unique Bachelor of Science in Health & Rehabilitation Psychology. The 120-credit curriculum for the program features foundational courses grounded in the university’s Christian philosophy. Additional requirements for the physical therapy students include:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Physiological Psychology
  • Health and Rehabilitation Psychology
  • Introduction to Counseling

A capstone project and internship are also required as culminating elements of the program.

Pros:

  • nationally ranked regional university
  • Smaller class sizes

Cons:

  • Less affordable
  • Lower graduation rate

#8—South College

BS in Health Science (Pre-Physical Therapy)

Website

Points: 3

Tuition: $17,335

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, South College offers an online bachelor’s in physical therapy program that can be completed entirely via distance education. The curriculum for the program is designed to prepare students for a doctoral degree program in physical therapy (i.e., Doctor of Physical Therapy). It features course titles such as:

  • Health Science Leadership
  • Health Economics
  • Healthcare Law and Ethics
  • Healthcare Administration

Eligible students may be eligible for scholarships and other forms of financial assistance.

Pros:

  • Fully online
  • Nationally ranked university
  • More diverse

Cons:

  • Less prestigious university

#7—Southern New Hampshire University

Online BS in Health Science

Website

Points: 4

Tuition: $15,380

The online bachelor’s in physical therapy program from Southern New Hampshire University is an online BS in Health Science designed for working professionals. Students with an associate’s degree can apply to the program to qualify for various types of physical therapy careers, including physical therapist assistant. Course requirements include:

  • Ethical and Legal Considerations of Healthcare
  • Healthcare Finance
  • Healthcare Delivery Systems
  • Healthcare Quality Management

A health sciences capstone is also required. The New England Commission of Higher Education has fully accredited SNHU to offer this and other online programs.

Pros:

  • Smaller class sizes
  • Affordability

Cons:

  • Less diverse

#6—Florida National University

Online BS in Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)

Website

Points: 4

Tuition: $14,888

The fully online bachelor’s in physical therapy program from Florida National University requires no visits to campus. The program is designed for students who already hold an associate’s degree in the field and want to enhance their career prospects. Prospective students can choose from two available tracks:

  • Education
  • Business/ Health Service Administration

In addition to concentration-specific classes, all bachelor’s-level students must complete a series of core courses. Florida National University is a military-friendly school and has been offering postsecondary programs since 1982.

Pros:

  • Top regional university
  • Customizable curriculum
  • More diverse

Cons:

  • Larger class sizes

#5—Clarkson College

Bachelor of Science in PTA

Website

Points: 5

Tuition: $14,880

The online bachelor’s in physical therapy program at Clarkson College is an accelerated program that can be completed in just 16 months of distance learning. The program’s curriculum features course titles such as:

  • Acute to Chronic Care in Physical Therapy
  • Ethics, Empathy, and Advocacy
  • Outcome Measures & Reporting for the PTA
  • Evidence-Based Practice and Ethics in Physical Therapy

Two on-campus experiences are required in addition to fully online coursework. Clarkson College is accredited to offer this undergraduate program in physical therapy by The Higher Learning Commission.

Pros:

  • Accelerated format
  • Higher graduation rate

Cons:

  • Less diverse
  • On-campus component

#4—Northern Arizona University

BS in Health Sciences (Allied Health): Physical Therapy

Website

Points: 5

Tuition: $12,274

The online bachelor’s in physical therapy program from NAU is technically a BS in Health Sciences (Allied Health) with a Physical Therapy emphasis. Students must have an associate’s degree for admission with a 2.5 minimum GPA. Courses required for the bachelor’s degree cover topics such as:

  • Disease Prevention
  • The Healthcare Environment
  • Stress Management
  • Personal and Societal Health

In addition to coursework, a capstone experience is also required for graduation. Northern Arizona holds its institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission.

Pros:

  • More diverse
  • 24/7 tech support
  • Affordability

Cons:

  • Lesser-known physical therapy program

#3—Ohio State University

Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences

Website

Points: 6

Tuition: $12,485

Ohio State University’s online bachelor’s in physical therapy offering is a BS in Health Sciences with an optional minor in Biology. Online courses required for the major include:

  • Introduction to Health Sciences Major and Career Opportunities
  • Individual Differences in Patient Populations
  • Ethical Decision-Making in Healthcare
  • U.S. Healthcare Policy and Delivery System

Students with an associate’s degree in the field can complete the online physical therapy program in just two years.

Pros:

  • Top national university
  • Higher graduation rate
  • 24/7 tech support

Cons:

  • Less diverse

#2—Florida International University

Online BS in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy: Rehabilitation Therapy

Website

Points: 7

Tuition: $6,565

The Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy program from FIU features a Rehabilitation Therapy track ideal for individuals aspiring toward a graduate degree in physical therapy such as a master’s degree or online doctor of physical therapy (DPT program). This fully online program features course titles such as:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Client Assessment & Documentation
  • Facilitative Communication and Helping Skills
  • Psychopathology

No internship is required. Some students may be eligible for financial aid.

Pros:

  • Low tuition
  • Higher graduation rate

Cons:

  • Larger class sizes

#1—University of North Texas

Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Studies

Website

Points: 8

Tuition: $11,140

For students looking for an online bachelor’s in physical therapy, the University of North Texas offers a BS option in Rehabilitation Studies. This 120-credit hour program is available entirely online and is offered through the school’s College of Health and Public Service. Major requirements for the online degree include:

  • Rehabilitation Service Delivery Systems
  • Physical & Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
  • Assessment in Rehabilitation
  • Case Management in Rehabilitation

A one-semester practicum experience is also required before graduation. Three distinct scholarships are earmarked specifically for rehabilitation studies students.

Pros:

  • Scholarships available
  • More diverse

Cons:

  • Larger class sizes
  • Limited tech support

About Online Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy Degree Programs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of physical therapy is growing. Jobs for physical therapist assistants and aides will expand by 15% in the coming decade. This growth will result in over 37,000 new jobs for those qualified to work in the field.

In recent years, there has also been an increase in the number of online training programs for students looking to enter this in-demand healthcare sector. Thanks to technological advancements in distance learning, it is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy entirely online. Access to fully online training programs enables single parents, working professionals, and other non-traditional students to get the necessary credentials. These students can then go on to work as in the role of a physical therapist assistant or earn the foundational knowledge necessary to apply for graduate programs in the field (i.e., master’s degree or doctor of physical therapy).

Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy Degree: Admissions Requirements

Admission requirements for bachelor’s programs in physical therapy will vary depending on the school and program. Still, these requirements are similar for on-campus and online physical therapy programs. Criteria may include:

  • An associate degree in health science or related field
  • A minimum GPA (e.g., 2.5 or higher)
  • High school transcripts
  • Completed application and fee
  • Standardized test scores (i.e., ACT or SAT)

Since admissions criteria can vary widely depending on the school you’re applying to, it’s best to speak to an admissions counselor or check the school’s website for details.

Physical Therapy Bachelor’s Degrees: Curriculum

Like all bachelor’s degree programs, the curriculum for a BS in Physical Therapy degree will include some general education requirements. If you already hold an associate’s degree, you may be able to transfer these credits and advance to major-specific classes. The core curriculum will consist largely of classes in the health sciences. Sample course titles may include:

  • Clinical Pathology and Pathophysiology
  • Evidence-Based Decision Making
  • Human Anatomy
  • Acute to Chronic Care in Physical Therapy
  • Outcome Measures and Reporting for the PTA
  • Introduction to Medical Terminology
  • The Human Side of Medicine
  • Statistics for Health Professionals
  • Ethics and Teamwork in Healthcare
  • Musculoskeletal Anatomy
  • Physiology of Exercise

In addition to coursework, a capstone element is usually required for online physical therapy programs. Depending on the school and program, this could be a hands-on experience such as a practicum or internship, for example. Alternatively, some schools allow students to complete research projects or scholarly papers. The latter is more common in distance learning programs.

Types of Online Bachelor’s Programs in Physical Therapy

If you’re considering studying physical therapy online, you should be aware of the different types of bachelor’s level programs that are available via distance learning. Even though most of these programs follow a similar curriculum, they can differ in terms of format and delivery. These differences can affect how you learn, so they are important to note.

Fully Online Versus Hybrid Majors in Physical Therapy

For the purposes of this ranking, our editors focused solely on programs that could be completed entirely online. These are, far and away, the most convenient and flexible options for distance learners. Some hybrid bachelor’s programs do exist in physical therapy, though. For example, Florida Atlantic University offers a BS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with a concentration in Pre-Physical Therapy that combines traditional on-campus courses with online learning. This could be a good option if you want some of the flexibility of distance education but still want or need the engagement and hands-on learning typically associated with in-person instruction.

Asynchronous Versus Synchronous Online Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy Programs

Another factor that could impact the flexibility of your online bachelor’s degree in physical therapy is whether your online courses are delivered synchronously or asynchronously. This may sound like a complicated distinction, but it simply refers to whether course content is live or not. If lessons are prerecorded and can be accessed at your convenience, this is referred to as an asynchronous format.

Asynchronous online physical therapy programs tend to be more flexible for online learners. Synchronous programs feature elements like live lectures and interactive online discussions via videoconferencing. While not as convenient, this structure does have its benefits. For example, many online learners report feeling more engaged with content and instructors in a synchronous online learning environment.

Part-Time Versus Full-Time Online Physical Therapy Bachelor’s Programs

Many online programs can be pursued on a part-time or full-time basis. This is true of online bachelor’s in physical therapy options as well. Like other format distinctions, there are pros and cons to both structures. To choose one over the other, decide if you want to spread courses out over a longer time period (i.e., part-time) or take more courses simultaneously to finish the program quicker (i.e., full-time).

What Does A Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

After graduating from a bachelor’s in physical therapy program, you’ll be well-qualified to work as a physical therapy assistant. Some of the programs in this ranking are specifically designed to prepare online learners for assisting physical therapists.

Physical therapy assistants, sometimes called PTAs for short, work for physical therapists. They help physical therapists (PTs) provide care for patients who have suffered an injury or who are recovering from an illness or medical procedure such as surgery. This may include teaching the patient certain exercises to improve mobility, using therapeutic interventions such as massage or balance training, for instance, and documenting their progress over the course of treatment. PTAs may also educate patients and their family members about their treatment plans.   

Graduate Programs in Physical Therapy

Completing a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy online will also qualify you for admission to a master’s degree or doctoral degree program such as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program for aspiring physical therapists. This credential is necessary to practice as a licensed physical therapist in the United States. To become a licensed physical therapist, you must attend a doctoral program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The average length of study for a DPT program is three years, but accelerated options may be available for prospective physical therapists.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy Degree Options

It’s normal to have questions when considering an educational program such as a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. Below, our editors address several common questions people have about these physical therapy programs. When in doubt, contact an admissions counselor at the school you’re interested in attending or check the school’s website for more information.

Q: Is an online bachelor’s in physical therapy the same as an online bachelor’s in kinesiology?

No, but they are similar. A kinesiology bachelor’s program will focus more on exercise techniques to improve a patient’s mobility and functioning. Physical therapy programs will address these but will also include courses related to additional therapies such as massage, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation, for example.

Q: How much does an online bachelor’s in physical therapy cost?

A: As with all programs, tuition costs will vary by school. Still, our researchers uncovered programs ranging from under $4,000 annually to more than $47,000 annually. Financial aid may be available to online students, including scholarship opportunities.

Q: How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s in physical therapy degree online?

A: It depends. Without an associate’s degree, it may take up to four years to complete a physical therapy bachelor’s credential. If you do have an associate’s degree, you may be able to transfer these credits and earn your bachelor’s degree in two years or less.

Career Questions for Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy Degrees

Whether pursuing jobs as physical therapist aides or eventually, physical therapists, students who pursue online physical therapy programs may have a variety of questions. Some of these include:

Q: What can I do with a bachelor’s in physical therapy degree?

A: Many people enroll in a bachelor’s in physical therapy program to qualify for jobs as physical therapy assistants. Other possible career paths include physical therapy aide, recreation therapist, occupational therapist, and exercise physiologist, for example.

Q: How much do physical therapist assistants make?

A: The BLS reports the median annual wage for physical therapy assistants to be $62,770.

Q: Are jobs in physical therapy in demand?

A: Yes. Jobs for physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapist aides are all growing faster than average, according to the BLS.

Q: Can I join professional organizations in physical therapy?

A: Yes. You don’t have to be a physical therapist or even a physical therapist assistant to become members of professional organizations in the physical therapy field. As a student or graduate of a physical therapy bachelor’s degree program, you can join professional associations such as:

  • American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
  • National Academy of Kinesiology
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)

Sources

  • American Physical Therapy Association
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
  • PayScale.com