Master's & Doctorate Programs in Physical Therapy

by Jana Sosnowski

Physical therapists work with patients who have injuries or illnesses that affect their physical movement or cause long-lasting pain. The physical therapist diagnoses problems with movement, helps the patient create goals for rehabilitation, uses exercises to improve mobility and evaluates patient progress. Practicing as a physical therapist requires certification and a post-graduate degree. While doctoral programs are more common, some schools offer a master's degree in physical therapy.

Master's Program Courses

Master of Science degree programs such as the one at Oakland University in Rochester, MI are designed to develop advanced knowledge in both the theory and practice of physical therapy. The program focuses on orthopedic, pediatric and adult neurological aspects of physical therapy, biomechanics and motor skills. Required courses for the master's degree in physical therapy include analysis and synthesis of human motion and measurement and evaluation of human motion. Students may also learn to use electrogoniometry, electromyography, dynamometry, and cinematography to measure and evaluate human movement. Additionally, courses in biomechanics and physiology are included along with research and statistics courses.

Master's Program Completion

The master's program may also require the completion of a research project or comprehensive examinations. The program at New York University Steinhardt focuses on research and design implementation. Research projects include mentoring by an adviser who chairs the approval committee for the research project's final presentation. In the program at Oakland University, the completed research is presented both orally and in written format before the committee. For students opting for the comprehensive examination, the focus is three topics chosen by the student and his adviser. Reading lists are provided for each topic, and passing a written examination is required for the degree.

Doctoral Program Requirements

Doctoral programs are generally three years long and include both academic courses and a clinical internship. Objectives of the doctoral program offered at Maryville University in St. Louis, MO include learning to assess joint motion, muscle strength and endurance, function of heart and lungs and performance of activities in daily living. This knowledge is the foundation for the clinical internship requirement of 40 weeks of work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation facilities and school.

Doctoral Program Courses

Courses for the doctoral degree may include pathophysiology, neurophysiology, functional anatomy, assessment procedures, modalities, rehabilitation diagnoses, neuroanatomy, kinesiology, exercise physiology, therapeutic exercises and physical restoration. Additional classes may include orthotics and prosthetics, musculoskeletal studies, cardiac rehabilitation, motor control, rehabilitation psychology, pharmacology and lifespan issues.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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