How Long Does It Take To Become A Physical Therapist?

The article focuses on the breaking down the overall time you invest in becoming a qualified physical therapist.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 14th September 2020

In the competitive healthcare industry, becoming a physical therapist is at a peak in the last few years due to the increased demand for these professionals. Being one of the fastest-growing professions, physical therapists have increased opportunities and wide roles and responsibilities to handle. 

If you are planning to become a physical therapist, there are various steps and requirements you must meet to reach the standards. Including the requirements, planning your career prior will also give an authority to go in the right direction to attain success. While planning, one common question that arises is how long it takes to become a physical therapist. This article solely aims to give you a clear cut idea about the time you spend on this career path. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Physical Therapist?

Becoming a physical therapist is simple if you are passionate and follow the steps systematically. It usually takes approximately 12 years to land in this profession where you dedicate 7 years to gaining a college education and 4 years of experience at a residency program. 

If you're dedicated enough to complete the full cycle of educational requirements needed for a physical therapist, then pursue your undergraduate degree, choosing a DPT program that lasts for 30 to 36 months and complete residency for 4 years which collectively takes 11 to 12 years. If you're perplexed at this point, note that the time you spend on becoming a physical therapist is worth the time and investment. 

To understand better, here is how the time is distributed,

  • Undergraduate degree: 2-4 years: To pursue the main program of physical therapy, an undergraduate degree is required to acquire the prerequisites. Usually, students can choose an associate’s degree which takes about 2 years or a bachelor’s degree which takes about 4 years. You can pursue these degrees with a healthcare-related major and also transfer credits easily to accelerate the completion of the degree. Also students are usually given training and practical experience for 500 hours along with formal classroom education for 4 years. The coursework includes both general and core such as biology, chemistry, physics, social science, and statistics.

  • Doctoral degree in physical therapy: 3 years: a DPT program takes about 3 years which is a specialized advanced degree level designed for physical therapists. Choose a program accredited by the CAPTE- Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education to meet the education standards. A bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree usually take about 7 years but some universities also offer combined programs to sleep up the completion and start your training. The coursework also includes physiology, patient care, anatomy, exercise physiology, behavioral science, kinesiology, motor control, musculoskeletal system, pharmacology and geriatrics.

  • Residency: 4 years: After completing the education requirements, you must gain experience and practice medicine. Under this program, students get to work in a clinical setting and treat patients under the guidance of an experienced physical therapist. The training program includes specialized training in various hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and clinics. 

  • Online degrees: The profession of a physical therapist is more of gaining experience and interacting with people to understand the treatment techniques better. Hence gaining an online degree is not completely possible. The overall time in becoming a physical therapist can be cut down by choosing an accredited online degree. Also, prospective students can pursue an online degree online and also gain experience simultaneously due to the flexibility in schedule offered by the online degrees. 


To summarize the whole, a physical therapy program takes about 3 years in addition to an undergraduate program. Getting trained is a key in this profession and requires commitment but the time and money you invest in getting qualified is worth the future rewarding career.