Physical therapy (PT) school is a big investment for several reasons. Not only because of the time it takes to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree—which averages about three years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—but also because of the cost.
For the 2017-2018 academic year, the mean cost of tuition and fees at a public institution offering a PT degree is $20,082 according to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), or $60,627 in total for a DPT degree. Earn your degree at a private institution and that number almost doubles, costing on average of approximately $37,485 per year or $109,099 for completion of the entire 3-year professional program.
CAPTE reports that there are 242 accredited physical therapy programs to choose from which can leave you wondering HOW to know which school or program will provide the highest level of education for your academic dollar. The answer depends largely on which factors are most important to you.
High Student Reviews
The student review website Graduate Program shares that the top five schools highly recommended by recent graduate PT students as of 2018 are:
- Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Lubbock, Texas). With 4.8 out of 5 stars, Graduate Program indicates that Texas Tech has a total student population of 5,232 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. Additionally, it has 5-star ratings (or close to it) in regard to quality of instruction, student satisfaction with degree, and students feeling prepared for their careers. The only category that didn’t receive a 5-star review was student financial services at 4.56 stars, with an annual in-state tuition of $8,449 per year and out-of-state is $18,559.
- Texas Woman’s University (Denton, Texas). Though slightly lower than Texas Tech, Texas Woman’s University still earned 4.77 stars from students, receiving close to 5 stars in all of the same areas as Texas Tech, again scoring lower in student financial services (4.44 stars). Its student population is 15,655 with a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio and annual tuition costs are roughly $7,072 for in-state students and $14,542 for those who reside out of state.
- University of Central Arkansas (Conway, Arizona). In third place with 4.7 stars is University of Central Arkansas and, yet again, the only area where students rated it closer to 4 stars than 5 is financial services, giving it a 4.3. There are 11,487 students who attend classes at University of Central Arkansas, a school with a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Additionally, tuition is $6,094 for in-state students and out-of-state students pay $10,901 per year.
- The University of Montana (Missoula, Montana). The University of Montana has a 4.69-star rating from past students according to Graduate Programs, scoring highest in satisfaction with degree and quality of instruction, followed by student financial services, and feeling prepared for their career was rated the lowest. Here you can expect to share campus with 12,419 other students, having a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. And if you’re in-state, you’ll pay around $6,264 in tuition per year. Out-of-state students can expect to pay triple that amount, or $10,933 annually.
- Mayo School of Health Sciences (offers PT-based programs, residencies, and internships in Florida, Minnesota, and Arizona). The fifth highest-rated physical therapy school based on student reviews is the Mayo Clinic’s Mayo School of Health Sciences. What students seem to appreciate most about Mayo is quality of instruction, networking opportunities, and satisfaction with degree. Campus safety and career advising came in next, followed by student financial services. Where Mayo scored the worst was student diversity, earning just 3.59 out of 5 stars. However, it’s also important to understand that, whereas the other schools on this list have current ratings (those submitted in 2018), Mayo does not so these reviews may be a bit outdated. This school is smaller than the others too, with a student count of only 469 students at any given time, most of which are graduate-level students.
Overall Physical Therapy Program
Niche.com compares physical therapy schools based on factors such as student experience, acceptance rate, student-to-faculty ratio, and more. These PT schools made Niche’s top 5 for 2019:
- Rice University (Houston, Texas). After 991 reviews, Rice University holds the top slot for PT with approximately 4 out of 5 stars. The program cost is roughly $22,061 per year with a 15 percent acceptance rate. Additionally, the average SAT range is 1410 to 1570.
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan). This physical therapy program earned second place after earning 4 stars from 3,948 reviews. The net cost of attending is $16,107 per year and, although the acceptance rate is almost double that of Rice at 29 percent, the SAT range is slightly lower at 1310 to 1500.
- Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, North Carolina). Wake Forest came in third on Niche’s list of top PT schools, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars after 758 reviews. Like University of Michigan, the acceptance rate for the physical therapy program is 30 percent with a net annual cost of $23,826. The SAT range is a bit lower at 1270 to 1410.
- University of Miami (Coral Gables, Florida). After 2,657 reviews, University of Miami came in fourth for PT, though it has a 4-star rating from students. What potentially dropped this program further down the list despite its positive reviews is that its net cost is $37,424 per year and the SAT range is the lowest in this list at 1210 to 1390. Although, it does have an acceptance rate of 38 percent.
- Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts). Like Wake Forest, Boston University has a 5-star rating with 3,157 reviews. Net cost to attend is $31,539 per year, the acceptance rate is 29 percent, and the SAT range is 1220 to 1420.
So, which of these physical therapy programs is the best? The answer is different for everyone but likely involves whichever one offers the features most important to you at a price you can afford.