There are all kinds of doctors. The differences between a doctor of physical therapy and a medical doctor are substantial. It’s important to understand the difference before beginning your PT career – or even scheduling an appointment with a doctor’s office.
When you hear the word “doctor,” what do you imagine? While some doctors are “Doctors of Medicine” (MDs), many are not. Some physicians with other types of degrees – such as as Doctor of Physical Therapy – are in fact, better qualified to treat certain conditions than an MD.
After earning their bachelor’s or master’s in physical therapy, an aspiring physical therapist can earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy. For a PT that is already practicing, and wants to return to the classroom to advance their knowledge, they will complete a post-professional DPT, which has different requirements.
Learn more about the differences between a PT and a DPT.
Yes. a DPT can still be referred to as “doctor.” But unlike MDs, a DPT cannot write prescriptions for medication or perform surgical procedures. Their focus is on movement and exercise programs for patients, often in a post-surgical or rehabilitation setting. However, DPT students study pharmacology, and have a strong understanding of how medication affects the human body. They will often confer with other healthcare professionals, including MDs, about treatment plans.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, a licensed PT must complete a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from an accredited program and pass the state licensing exam.
It generally takes two to three years to earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT). In general, the length of a program depends on the graduation requirements of the institution, and the way the coursework is delivered. Also, astudent’s enrollment status as a full-time or part-time student impacts the length of the program. Approximately 80% of a DPT student’s time will be spent in the classroom and in the lab, while 20% will be spent in clinical settings.
A licensed, practicing PT does not have to begin all over again to earn their DPT. A post-professional degree or advanced clinical doctorate degree is usually earned by someone who is already working in their field – a professional. The post-professional degree allows a licensed PT to fill in the gaps between their master’s education and the next level – a DPT – through advanced skills acquired in clinical specialization, residencies, fellowships, and other special studies.
Did you know you can earn a PhD in Physical Therapy? To become a qualified DPT or MD, one must have a higher degree that qualifies them to work with patients and earn a license. They commonly practice in clinical settings, working directly with patients.
This differs from a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), which focuses on scientific research, education, and producing original scholarly work. Both of these degrees entail mastering knowledge in a particular field of study – in this case, physical therapy.. The DPT degree is conferred by a professional PT program and is recognized as a clinical doctorate (i.e., like MD, DDS, EdD, PsyD, OD, DPM) – as evidence of the practitioner’s desire to integrate new knowledge and make clinical application of it.
You might. Earning a DPT degree will open up many more job options to you, including positions like: physical therapy director, clinical coordinator, occupational therapy director, or rehabilitation director. You may also have the option to work in professional sports settings or with disabled athletes. The median salary is higher for specialty careers that are available after obtaining a DPT.
Physical therapists, who are not medical doctors, receive the doctorate degree in physical therapy (DPT) from accredited universities. They have their own professional organization which sets standards for competency and ethical practice. While each university is different, common DPT programs require studies in:
You may also study professionalism and professional issues, plus courses in health promotion and wellness. And finally, an applied case-based analysis or capstone project.
Have you earned your PT or your DPT? Come join the team at Brooks Rehabilitation.
With more than 50 years of expertise, we deliver exceptional medical rehabilitation services to our patients. From stroke victims to multiple sclerosis patients, we’ve helped so many people improve their quality of life through state-of-the-art physical therapy programs. Apply here to start the process.