Master’s of Physical Therapy (MPT) vs. Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Degree

Older male patient with two physical therapists (an MPT and a DPT) working on a stability and coordination modality.

Becoming a physical therapist previously required a master’s level education. However, due to the APTA’s constant push for raising standards in the profession, a more advanced degree – Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) – will soon be is now required for new students to become a PT.

The DPT is now considered entry-level and the only PT degree offered by schools in the United States.

The following explains what difference having the DPT designation makes and also includes a couple tips for those of you who will be applying to physical therapy school in the future.

MPT vs. DPT

If you already have a BPT or MPT you can still practice, however all new students moving forward will be getting a DPT. MPT is no longer an option – at least in the U.S. Keep in mind, the APTA’s goal is to eventually have all PT’s on the doctorate level by encouraging practicing BPTs and MPTs to get their DPT. You can plan on seeing a growing number of transitional or bridge programs to facilitate this; however, to reiterate, there has been no change that prevents the practice of physical therapy by BPTs or MPTs at this time.

New Entry-Level Degree

In the past, the APTA highly recommended future physical therapists to pursue a DPT (back when MPT was also an option). The reason being, it would unequivocally guide PTs in coming to be independent healthcare professionals by enabling them to bill statements for compensation in a similar manner to that of a physician, amongst other degrees of autonomy. The APTA has realized a significant part of this vision by successfully having all U.S. schools eliminate their MPT programs – essentially making the DPT the official entry-level degree for the profession.

Please note, if you go ahead and read APTA’s “old” Vision 2020 statement, where it says, “By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by…doctors of physical therapy”, remember this was just a hypothetical statement of their goal, which now appears to have been too ambitious and optimistic. This is probably why they left it out, at least explicitly, of their new vision statement. Whether or not state legislature will require all PTs to have the more advanced designation for employment in the future remains to be seen, but is not likely to happen any time soon.

The DPT Difference

Taking 3 years to complete, DPT students go through approximately 1 year of clinical experience, which is considerably more than the fifteen weeks that had been required of a Master’s of Physical Therapy student.

Delving further into areas of medicine the MPT had not, a typical DPT program encompasses physical (and to a limited extent, mental) health systems evaluation and analysis, pharmacology, imaging, healthcare management, preventive medicine, well-being, and pathology – with emphasis on evidence-based treatment.

Improve Your Chances of Getting into a DPT Program

Tip #1: Get Involved with the American College of Sports Medicine

Belonging to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) will give you a head start on your road to becoming a PT. The ACSM enables you to link up with other student members and exchange your trials and tribulations. Furthermore, it will help you connect with physical therapists for observation or shadowing opportunities to gain the formative experience that DPT admissions love to see.




Overall, being an ACSM student member shows you’ve went that “extra mile” in showing interest in this field and provides opportunities to network and gain experience that can’t be picked up in a classroom.

Tip #2: Make Sure Your Application is Well-Rounded

For those students going through with the DPT program application process, good grades are essential however they should not be the primary focal point of you application. It’s highly recommended and required by some schools to observe, volunteer, or seek employment in the physical therapy field to experience exactly what it’s like to be a physical therapist.

Furthermore, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is also another crucial component of your application. Enable adequate time to get ready for it however make sure to allow enough time in advance of the application target date so that you can take it once more if your aren’t too happy with your scores the first time around.




Our in-depth guide to becoming a physical therapist can be found here.


  • Brittney

    I’m a kinesiology undergrad and looking to go into PT right after graduation. Never knew the MPT would be basically be phased out with the doctorate in physical therapy becoming the standard. DPT here I come!

  • PT bound

    That’s a good breakdown of the DPT vs MPT question. I guess DPT is the only way to go now

  • eric

    I haven’t come across Exercise science guide in a while, but now I remember why I used to love this web site. Thank you, Iˇll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?

  • myscienceweb

    Thanks Eric! We’re very happy to have you as a loyal reader and promise weekly updates to the site. Make sure to bookmark us or sign up for e-mail updates : )

  • Tya

    The DPT is created to involve a larger breadth of health examination strategies as well as differential medical diagnosis which is useful to the practice of direct gain access to. When the PT level switched over from the BS to the MS, there had not been much variation in educational program for one against the additional in truth, I belonged to a lesson where we were the last bachelor’s program as well as the inbound lesson went the master’s qualification. Their syllabus was practically the exact same as ours, yet even more dispersed out. So in essence, the masters was in theory much easier. I am right now on faculty in the very same college where the MS is provided. Nonetheless, right now having actually experienced a change to the DPT, I will certainly point out that there is a basic distinction in between the DPT and also the MS. In reality, I did not need to get my MS just before transitioning to the DPT as the MS as well as BS had actually long been understood as being comparable. While they are all (BS, MS, DPT) understood as access degree qualifications, the APTA does understand the distinction with the DPT level. It could not imply that you should have a much higher income, however it truly is an even more comprehensive degree of learning.

  • The DPT is liked. Soon, there will be no master’s available for OT or PT. I would certainly recommend you acquire the DPT if feasible. Look at the new licensing demands and procedures. I think forseeable demands will certainly consist of the DPT although those with a Master’s who hold licensure will certainly be grandfathered in. (Enabled to preserve licensure without the Doctorate.)

  • Anne Lauer

    I believe all of the PT schools have now transitioned to DPT programs, and there are no longer any masters programs?

  • Hi Anne, sorry for the late reply! Actually there still are MPT programs being offered by various colleges and universities, however they will be completely phased out in the near future – by 2020 I believe.

  • Hello, I have just started into the core of the PTA program at Keiser Univ. I sure hope after all of my hard work getting into the program, that I will have a job with this associate degree as a PTA,I have the experiance of working in rehab.I just hope that this was not a waste of money and time? how do you feel about the PTA,program and the future for all PTA’s I love working with people and the PYA is just perfect .

  • craig

    I have been doing much research on the MPT programs, and just found out about this change. I will have all requirements met for a pt program. Could afford a MPT what schools would you recommend? I will move anywhere. I just need it complete my gibill runs out by 2015 its like last call for education for me. I am confused if school is not accredited pass right on licenses is high why accreditation matter? Thank you for your time and advice,

  • manish

    hello everyone
    can you please suggest some MPT offering universities? I am an Indian BPT graduate. After completing MPT in US, will I be eligible for the licensure?

  • Adam, if you enjoy working with people in a rewarding a field that will provide you with financial stability, you have made a wise decision to pursue a career as a PTA. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there is a high demand for physical therapist assistants in the workforce despite the economic downturn. In addition, take into consideration that as the U.S. population ages, so will the need for physical therapy professionals
    Follow the link below see data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and to learn about the future of physical therapy by reading APTA’s plan and vision for 2020.
    http://www.apta.org/PTACareers/Overview/

  • Hello Craig, you can enroll in a 2-year MPT program now and complete it by 2015 before your GI bill runs out. However, take into consideration that you will eventually have to enroll in a tDPT program to get your DPT as all physical therapists holding MPT’s will eventually be require a DPT to practice. Your other option is to enroll in a DPT program now so you can complete it by 2016 leaving you only with a few semesters that won’t be covered by the GI bill.

    Here are a couple of physical therapy schools that have rolling admissions so that you are able to apply anytime. Hope this information is helpful and good luck with this process!

    University of Minnesota
    http://www.morris.umn.edu/academics/prephysicaltherapy/application/

    Saint Louis University
    http://www.slu.edu/undergraduate-admission/how-to-apply/freshman-application-instructions

    Midwestern University
    http://www.midwestern.edu/programs-and-admission/il-physical-therapy/admissionapply.html

    Texas Tech University
    http://www.ttuhsc.edu/sah/scdpt/

  • Hello Manish, if you enroll in the MPT program you will be eligible for the licensure. However, please note that you will also have to enroll in a tDPT program to practice physical therapy in the U.S. as eventually all physical therapists holding MPT’s will be phased out. To avoid this problem, your best option is to enroll in the DPT program. Follow the link to view a list of colleges and universities offering the DPT program. Hope this information is helpful and best of luck with your studies.
    http://www.exercise-science-guide.com/doctor-of-physical-therapy-programs/

  • Diego

    Hello, I’m a sophomore undergrad, and I’m really looking into getting my dPT after I graduate. My school doesn’t have an undergrad degree in PT or any related fields, I’m planning on majoring in chemistry. What do you suggest for me to do?

  • Candace

    Will the DTP be the step after a BS, or will one need a Masters in something else before applying for the DTP. ?

  • Hello Diego, you can certainly get your bachelor’s degree in chemistry and take some additional courses to fulfill prerequisites for the DPT program. Please find below a link to the American Physical Therapy Association website to view the program’s admission requirements.
    http://www.apta.org/ProspectiveStudents/Admissions/

  • Hello Candance, a Masters is not required to be accepted into the DPT program. Applicants are only required to earn a bachelor’s degree in a science or exercise related discipline. To learn more on the program’s admission process and requirements, please follow the link below.
    http://www.apta.org/ProspectiveStudents/Admissions/

  • Liz Fletcher

    Hi there, just thought I would mention that there is a great course at the University of Southampton for Physiotherapy if you chose to go down the Masters route rather than the DPT. To discover more informational about this physiotherapy master’s degree course at the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Health Sciences, all you need to do is visit http://www.southampton.ac.uk/healthsciences

  • hello, I am taking classes to apply for the DPT program but i wanted to ask you that certain schools require you to have taken excerise physiology, but for me its difficult because its too expensive and its only offered at a university and I am not sure if i would be added into the class. Thats the only class I need to apply, so should I retake human physiology at a community college because I passed with a C and not worry about excerise physiology?

  • exsciguide

    Hi Adanna. That is correct some DPT programs are now requiring both a course in Human Physiology and Exercise Physiology as prerequisites for applying. If the DPT programs you will be applying to do require Ex Phys then you will have to take it.

    Re-taking Human Physio would be a good idea to see if you could pull off a B or better. Taking it a community college is perfectly fine as long as you get a higher grade. I understand that Ex Phys is usually offered only at universities and not CC’s which makes it quite expensive to take the course.

    I would call up the DPT programs which require EP and ask if they accept credits from online courses, which would be less expensive to take. Here are a couple Exercise Physiology online courses:

    University of New Mexico
    http://hsc.unm.edu/som/physther/Online%20Exer%20Phys.shtml

    UCLA
    https://www.uclaextension.edu/pages/Course.aspx?cn=X+450&dc=PHYSCI

    Let us know how you make out!

  • sam

    What about for countries other than the US? Are they going to require a DPT to practice in the near future as well? Also, so most physical therapists practicing now have DPTs? Thanks!

  • claudette

    good day, im an incoming freshman for the program BS PT.
    since it takes five years for me to complete this program, can i directly apply for DPT after completing my BS PT program?

  • exsciguide

    Becoming a PT now definitely takes time, commitment and motivation. Actually, a Doctoral level degree (DPT) is the “new” requirement as stated in the above article. Practicing PT’s currently holding a Master’s in PT will be encouraged to enroll in a transitional DPT program in the future.

  • exsciguide

    Hi Claudette, if you don’t mind me asking what program are you enrolled in? The reason being I’m not aware of any 5-year bachelor’s PT programs. There are a few DPT programs that you can get into after 3 years of bachelor’s education, but not familiar with a 5yr BS PT.

  • exsciguide

    Since it’s the APTA’s decision for all PT’s to eventually hold the DPT designation and the APTA is a U.S. organization, it doesn’t necessarily extend to other countries. It’s up to PT association’s/governing organization in a country to decide whether DPT will be required. The APTA’s move may influence a global transition to DPT.

    According to O*NET http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1123.00 currently 51% of practicing physical therapists hold a master’s, 27% DPT and 21% bachelor’s degree.

  • exsciguide

    Yes, all PT schools except for one now offer DPT programs according to the APTA http://www.apta.org/PTEducation/Overview/

  • Sequoyha

    After getting a bachelor’s, would you have to get a master’s and then the doctorate’s or could you just go for the doctorate degree??

  • exsciguide

    Hi Sequoyha. After earning your bachelor’s degree and completing other requirements you’ll be able to apply to a doctor of physical therapy program. You do not need to a master’s degree.

    Here is more information on how to prepare for application to a doctoral PT program:

    http://www.exercise-science-guide.com/blog/how-to-prepare-for-physical-therapy-school/

  • Sue

    Hello! I am just getting back into practice as PRN home health PT after staying home for a few years to raise my kids. Am I understanding this correctly? All current MPTs will no longer be able to practice unless they have a DPT? So, the expectation is to quit our jobs and enroll in a DPT program for how many more years? I appreciate the clarification!

  • exsciguide

    Hi Sue! Congrats on getting back into PT. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, but MPTs are STILL ABLE to practice. I went ahead and updated the article to make this more clear. Although there is some pressure from the APTA for MPTs to get the DPT, it’s really up to each individual state to regulate practice requirements. As far as I know, every state still allows for the practice of physical therapy by MPTs.

    This definitely can be a confusing area – even BLS.gov on their “How To Become a PT” page mistakenly states “Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.”
    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4

    According to O*NET, here’s the degree breakdown of PTs currently practicing in the U.S.

    MPT – 39%
    DPT – 37%
    BPT – 8%

    http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1123.00#Education

    Just make sure everything is squared away with you licensure status in your state. Best of luck!

  • Mishal

    Hi I recently finished my DPT degree from Pakistan.I want to know if i can apply for Phd now directly widout doing MS ?Also if you can mention any universities in USA offfering a Phd for students who have done DPT.Thanks.

  • exsciguide

    Hi Mishal,

    What area exactly are you looking to get your PhD in? Depending on the school/program there are some that accept applicants without a Master’s degree. Sometimes the Master’s is earned as part of the PhD program.

  • Doctorateshmockorate

    And, hello, PT’s with BS degrees are still out there providing guidance for those of you with doctorates