Are Physical Therapists Doctors?

People frequently confuse a physical therapist with a medical doctor. “Are physical therapists not doctors?” they inquire. That shouldn’t be the case. As a result, we’ll try to explain the differences so you can make better decisions. You’ll know whether you need a therapist or a doctor this time. Physical therapy, according to Sochi, is the most effective treatment for physical pain. It has performed far better than painkillers. It has also improved human daily function as well as mobility. When most people experience pain, their first reaction is to seek medical help. 

Surprisingly, most of them have never heard of a chiropractor, owing to their lack of knowledge about the profession. So, we’ll help you distinguish between them.

Are Physical Therapists Doctors

What Is the Definition of Physical Therapy?

Any disability or injury that limits a person’s ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives is treated with physical therapy. To arrive at a diagnosis, this therapy is based on the individual’s history and physical examination. As a result, the diagnosis aids them in developing a management strategy. They can also include the results of laboratory and imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI findings. Certain activities are commonly managed in physical therapy. 

Prescription of or assistance with chosen exercises, manual therapy, and manipulation are among the activities. The goal of physical therapy is to help people avoid losing their mobility before it happens. They do so by creating fitness and wellness programs that encourage people to live healthier and more active lives. Physical therapy is a broad field with many subspecialties. Musculoskeletal, orthopedics, cardiopulmonary, neurology, endocrinology, wound care, and electromyography is some of them.

Are physical therapists medical professionals? Let’s investigate further.

What Are the Duties of Physical Therapists?

Physical therapists create programs to improve their patients’ physical fitness. These programs, which usually include exercises, are designed to help people gain physical strength and balance. They use mechanical devices to carry out some of their functions. Traction, education, electrophysical modalities (heat, cold, electricity, sound waves, radiation), assistive devices, prostheses, orthoses, and other interventions are just a few of them. Individuals who participate in sports will be eternally grateful to physical therapists for their contributions.

Physical Therapists Work Where?

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including private physical therapy clinics, outpatient clinics or offices, health and wellness clinics, and rehabilitation hospitals. The list goes on and on. Physical therapists also work in fields other than patient care, such as health policy, health insurance, health care administration, and health care executive management. Physical therapists work in the medical-legal field as expert witnesses, peer reviewers, and independent medical examiners. 

Physical therapists, as you can see, play an important role in the general health sector. So you’ll be prepared to answer the question, “Are physical therapists doctors?”

How Do I Go About Becoming a Physical Therapist?

It may not be as difficult to become a physical therapist as it is to become a doctor. “Are physical therapists doctors?” you might wonder. Due to their similarity, they have some validity. The steps below, on the other hand, show how anyone can become a physical therapist. These are the steps:

You must meet certain requirements before enrolling in a physical therapy doctoral degree program. Completing a bachelor’s degree program with a heavy dose of the following courses is usually one of them:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

We recommend that you check with the doctoral degree program for specific prerequisite requirements.

2. Finish a Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

To work as a physical therapist, you must first obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited 228 physical therapy programs as of 2014, with the majority of them lasting three years. Of course, applying for DPT programs through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service is usually required (PTCAS). Students in DPT programs must complete a clinical internship with supervised experience in an area such as acute or orthopedic care. As a result, coursework in the following subjects is required for these DPT programs:

  • Applied Physical Therapy
  • Functional Anatomy
  • Complex Conditions
  • Life Span Development
  • Pharmacotherapy

3. Comply with the State’s Licensing Requirements

PTs must be licensed in every state. Individual states set their own licensing requirements, but they all include passing the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy’s National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) (FSBPT). The NPTE is a multiple-choice computerized exam. In a 12-month period, applicants can take the exam three times. The FSBPT’s Practice Exam and Assessment Tool (PEAT) allows applicants to practice taking the test using an exam that is similar to the NPTE.

A law exam and a criminal background check may be required as part of the licensing process. Continuing education credits are required for most renewal programs. Check with your state’s licensing board for specific requirements.

4. Finish your residency (Optional)

You can also apply to a clinical residency program after earning your DPT degree to gain additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. The programs are usually one year long. After that, you can specialize even more by completing an advanced clinical fellowship.

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5. Become Board Certified (Optional)

Physical therapists can apply to become board-certified specialists in any clinical specialty area after working in the field. Physical therapists must complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical work or an APTA-accredited residency program in the specialty area and pass an exam to become board-certified.

What Exactly Is Medicine?

Medicine is the science and art of determining disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Medicine encompasses a wide range of healthcare practices aimed at restoring and maintaining health through illness treatment and prevention. To diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, modern medicine employs biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology. As a result, pharmaceuticals or surgery are used, as well as therapies. Medicine has existed for a long time, and for the most part, it was an art (a field of skill and knowledge) that was frequently linked to local culture’s religious and philosophical beliefs.

Since the advent of modern science, most medicine has evolved into a hybrid of art and science (both basic and applied, under the umbrella of medical science).

What Do Doctors Do for A Living?

Every Medical Doctor is primarily concerned with restoring their patient’s health to its best possible state. Doctors can carry out these duties by performing diagnostic tests, developing treatment plans, prescribing medication, and offering advice to patients. Before being allowed to practice medicine, every medical doctor undergoes extensive training. Doctors and other health workers have proven indispensable even during the “COVID-19” pandemic.

Where Do Doctors Practice Medicine?

Medical doctors work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, community health centers, and private or group physician practices. Most of the time, they practice in their own homes – though you can’t trust those doctors completely. If you want to see them, the Hospital is the best place to go. Due to an aging population and significant advances in science and technology, there is a growing demand for more doctors. So, if you want to be a doctor, you must go through a certain procedure.

How Do I Go About Becoming a Medical Doctor?

It is not difficult to become a medical doctor. You’ll notice the subtle differences and why physical therapists aren’t doctors. The following are the steps to becoming a medical doctor:

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Before applying to medical school, the majority of applicants complete a bachelor’s degree program. You can choose from a variety of undergraduate majors as a student. Students should, however, ensure that their course load includes a substantial amount of scientific studies. Students must also complete prerequisite coursework in social sciences, English, and mathematics.

2. Complete Medical School

It takes at least four years to complete medical school. Sometimes, more is required. Students take foundational coursework in medicine, bodily systems, and diseases during their first two years. During the last two years of medical school, students rotate through various hospital specialty departments, gaining experience inpatient care while being supervised by faculty. Finally, in their final year, students must pass a series of exams, which may include the Medical Licensing Examination.

3. Finish your residency

You can choose a residency program based on your career interests as a graduate. These programs typically last three to eight years and cover both general and specific medical principles. As a resident, you’ll be responsible for a variety of tasks, including physical exams, taking patient histories, attending conferences, and interpreting lab results.

4. Get your license

All doctors must obtain a license before they can fully practice medicine. You must graduate from an accredited medical school to be eligible for licensure. In addition, you must complete a residency program and pass the Medical Licensing Examination, which varies by country.

5. Obtain a Specialty Certification

Although obtaining a specialty certification is not required, it may increase job opportunities. Doctors who want to keep their certification must keep up with their education before taking the renewal exam. To summarize, if you want to be a doctor, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree and take as many science classes as possible. Then you must complete medical school, obtain a medical license, and possibly obtain specialty certification.

A Doctor of Physical Therapy Is, in Fact, a Doctor.

You’ll frequently hear the question, “Is a doctor of physical therapy a doctor?” due to a common misunderstanding about the difference between a physician and a medical professional with a doctorate. Instead of an MD, a physical therapist receives a DPT. This does not, however, imply that they are not doctors or that they lack the necessary training and credentials to safely and effectively practice their medical specialty. Quite the opposite.

Physicians were pushing back against other health care professionals with doctorates who used the term “doctor” in 2011, according to a New York Times article, citing that they did not have the same education and clinical experience as physicians. “In order to provide accurate information to consumers, the association provides clear guidelines for physical therapists regarding the use of the title ‘Doctor,'” the APTA responded. Physical therapists who hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) in all clinical settings must indicate that they are physical therapists when using the titles ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr,’ and must use the titles in accordance with jurisdictional law.”

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A Doctoral Degree Is It Necessary to Be a Physical Therapist?

As previously stated, the only way to become a physical therapist is to earn a doctorate, which is required before you can take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which all PTs must pass, and then your state licensure exam. Some physical therapists choose to be board certified as well.

Why Pursue a Physical Therapy Doctorate? Is One of The Best Healthcare Degrees Available?

Physical therapy is a rapidly expanding field with good pay, making it one of the best degrees in healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of PT jobs will grow 18 percent by 2029, four times faster than the overall job market. A physical therapist’s average salary was $91,010 in May 2020.

Physical Therapists’ Duties and Locations of Employment

Physical therapists, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, are “movement experts” who specialize in specific populations, such as children or older adults, or people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Overall, their work aids patients in “restoring functionality by improving movement and increasing motion range in specific body areas,” as well as managing pain and improving quality of life. Physical therapists work in the following areas:

  • Hospitals
  • Neurological centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Pediatrician offices
  • Private practices
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • School and university health centers
  • Sports facilities
  • Women’s health clinics

What Is a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT)?

All practicing physical therapists are required to complete a comprehensive, hands-on doctoral program. Over the course of two or three years, it includes clinical practice and rigorous coursework. The DPT program includes a comprehensive clinical education in addition to coursework. Students not only study hard in class, but they also put in a lot of observation and practice time. Students learn about the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic systems, as well as a variety of other health-related topics.

After graduation, DPT programs prepare students to take the National Physical Therapy Exam for licensure. Today’s top programs, on the other hand, go beyond the fundamental anatomical and clinical applications of physical therapy. For example, Alabama State University’s program prepares students to:

  • Recognize and comprehend the role of a physical therapist for all patients in a diverse healthcare setting.
  • Promote evidence-based practices to improve community health and wellness.
  • Train lifelong learners who will become clinicians who will change as PT science advances.


In a variety of specialties, DPT coursework covers everything from pediatric to geriatric care. Students begin with fundamental science courses before moving on to topics related to their chosen field. There are classes devoted to:

  • Acute injury
  • Anatomy
  • Assistive devices
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Gait training
  • Imaging
  • Kinesiology
  • Human disease
  • Neurological disorders
  • Patient care and management
  • Pharmacology

On-Campus versus Hybrid Learning

Many aspects of on-campus and hybrid physical therapy programs are similar. Both programs require a full-time schedule, 106 credits, and 42 weeks of clinical education at the University of Pittsburgh. Students in a hybrid program have access to the same courses as students in traditional programs, but they can complete many of them online using synchronous or asynchronous learning methods.

At Pitt, hybrid students visit campus twice for lab immersion during each of the first five semesters. This system allows students from outside the Pittsburgh metro area to participate in the program while still receiving the hands-on training that a DPT requires.

How Much Time Does It Take to Get A DPT?

The majority of DPT programs take two to three years to complete. A professional immersion is included in the last one or two semesters of your coursework to simulate the experience of working as a PT specialist. For example, students in the Pitt program must enroll for seven consecutive terms, the first of which begins in August.

Requirements for Admission

A master’s degree is no longer required to be considered for admission to a DPT program. The following are typical admissions requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a recognized university is required.
  • A personal statement or admissions essay
  • Experience in physical or occupational therapy
  • GRE results (depending on the program)
  • Recommendation letters
  • GPA requirement for undergraduates
  • Prerequisite science courses are required.

Career Options for Physical Therapists (DPTs).

Physical therapy has many different specializations. Graduates can specialize in specific areas of medicine, such as oncology or neurology, or they can choose to care for specific populations, such as children or the elderly. A list of some of the most common career options for physical therapists can be found below:

1. Acute care physical therapist

Patients in the hospital need a specialist by their side to regain basic mobility after a major injury or surgery. Acute physical therapists assist people with severe illnesses in regaining movement in affected areas of their bodies, transferring within their beds, and preparing for hospital discharge.

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2. Adult neurological physical therapist

A neurological physical therapist is needed to treat damage to the nervous system, such as from a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or a spinal cord injury. The doctor’s knowledge of the nervous system and the specific pathways to rehabilitation are the focus of the exercises.

3. Cardio and pulmonary physical therapist

Patients who have had their heart or lungs damaged work with cardio and pulmonary physical therapists to regain healthy movement and relieve pain. Asthma, lung cancer, and COPD are all common illnesses in this category (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

4. Geriatric physical therapist

Injury can occur when aging adults lose mobility, balance, and strength. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Post reported that older people lost a significant amount of range of motion. Older patients are requesting more physical therapy to regain their physical health and return to their daily routines.

5. Occupational physical therapist

While physical therapy improves mobility and pain-relieving activities in general, occupational therapists help patients regain the skills they need for daily activities like eating, self-care, and dressing.

6. Oncology physical therapist

Patients recovering from cancer and the side effects of cancer treatments are helped by these doctors. During a hospital or rehab stay, specialists can also provide exercises to keep patients active, calm, and pain-free.

7. Orthopedic physical therapist

An orthopedist, as the name implies, is knowledgeable about movement restrictions caused by bones, tendons, connective tissues, muscles, and joints. This specialist can handle everything from Lyme disease to plantar fasciitis.

8. Pediatric physical therapist

Pediatric physical therapy benefits children with developmental disabilities in addition to helping them with a variety of injuries and illnesses. PT, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery, can help children develop important motor skills, gain mobility at home and at school, and address communication issues (with the assistance of a speech pathologist).

9. Sports physical therapist

Sports PT helps athletes regain motion after an injury in a variety of settings, including fitness centers and outpatient rehab programs. Physical therapists may also recommend specific exercises to help prevent injury or alleviate pain.

10. Travel physical therapist

Individuals and businesses alike may require physical therapy services while on the road for a conference, medical leave, or competition. Physical therapists who travel work with a group or individual patient for several weeks or months away from home.

11. Vestibular rehabilitation physical therapist

Balance disorders, such as vertigo, gait issues, and inner-ear disorders, have a significant impact on a person’s ability to navigate the world safely and comfortably. A vestibular rehabilitation physical therapist receives specialized medical training in balance-related issues in order to assist a patient in regaining the ability to safely navigate their environment.

12. Women’s health physical therapist

These doctors focus on diseases and injuries that are more common in women’s bodies, ranging from musculoskeletal to reproductive health issues. Care may be provided after pregnancy, after cancer treatment, or after a diagnosis of bone density disease.

Doctors vs. Physical Therapists?

Despite the fact that physical therapists are not doctors, they follow many of the same procedures. It’s only natural, given that they’re both medical professionals. Patients’ physical and mental exercises are encouraged and created by physical therapists. These exercises aid in the restoration of their physical and mental well-being. Doctors, on the other hand, diagnose patients and prescribe chemical treatment, usually drugs. Doctors still refer patients to physical therapists, which is odd. We can all agree that they are both extremely important and play critical roles. 

Consider what athletes and sportsmen would go through if they didn’t have access to physical therapy. Consider what the world would be like if there were no medical doctors. Horrendous!.


As you can see, the value these two professionals provide is unquestionable. As a result, you can’t swap one for the other. If you’re still asking, “Are physical therapists doctors?” your misunderstanding must have been resolved. So, if you want to choose between these two professions, your decision should be guided by your desire to help others and your pursuit of that goal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are physical therapists considered physicians?

Physical therapists are frequently mistaken for doctors, but they are not.

Is a doctorate in physical therapy a doctorate degree?

DPT stands for Doctor of Physical Therapy. It’s the degree you’ll need to finish the program and work as a physical therapist.

What is the duration of a doctor of physical therapy program?

It usually takes three to four years to complete a doctor of physical therapy program.

Why are doctors called physical therapists?

Doctors are physical therapists who perform medical functions such as administration, diagnosis, and so on.

Is a DPT truly a physician?

A DPT, on the other hand, is a doctorate in physical therapy.

Is it difficult to get into physical therapy school?

No, getting into physical therapy school is not difficult.

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