Can you become a physical therapist without a degree? If you’re asking this question, we have some bad news for you—but some good news too.
This applies to both physical therapy and physiotherapy, as both require the same education and licensure. You can read our explanation here if you’re curious about the difference between physical therapy and physiotherapy.
No, you can’t become a physical therapist without a degree. Physical therapists in the United States usually spend eight years in college and PT school.
However, you can definitely work in physical therapy settings with less education than that, and physical training is another career you could consider.
Can You Become a Physical Therapist Without a Degree?
As we shared earlier, the answer is a clear no. You can, however, become a physical therapist assistant with an associate’s degree (two years).
However, even this opportunity is phasing out, as many colleges are offering four-year bachelor’s programs for physical therapist assistants. Ouch.
As we wrote in this article, that’s not a great deal for the salary. Physical therapist assistants are also having some trouble finding jobs, even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated a 32% job growth rate over the next decade (source).
If college isn’t an option, you can also become a physical therapy tech (or aide) without a college degree! These jobs are also in high demand. In fact, physical therapy techs are one reason why physical therapist assistants are having more trouble finding jobs.
If you really want to work in physical therapy without a degree, becoming a tech or aide is the best option.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists must earn a doctor of physical therapy degree, which usually requires an undergraduate degree and then four years of physical therapy school. Ouch.
This is a fairly recent change, as physical therapists used to just have master’s degrees.
If you’re interested in becoming a physical therapist but eight years sounds daunting, you can also look into accelerated programs where you can combine the bachelor’s degree and doctoral degree into a 7-year program.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Physical Therapist?
To become a physical therapist, you have to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. As we mentioned, these are four-year programs after you earn a bachelor’s degree.
To become a physical therapist assistant, you can complete a 2-year associate’s degree that leads to certification. Be aware that many of these programs are transitioning to four-year bachelor’s degrees now.
There’s also lots of healthcare jobs you can get without a degree, so let’s take a look at those.
Healthcare Jobs You Can Get Without a Degree
This great article by Monster provides a great list of healthcare jobs that you can get without a bachelor’s degree, and we’ll just highlight some of the options you can get without even earning an associate’s degree.
Massage therapists, occupational therapy aides, and physical therapist aides don’t require an associate’s degree, and OT and PT aides don’t even require a certificate.
There are several other jobs in categories like laboratory services, medical devices, and patient care that only require a certificate. If you’re interested, we’d recommend checking out the charts in Monster’s article.
In summary, no, you definitely can’t become a physical therapist without a degree, but there are a lot of related jobs you can get with an associate’s degree, or even straight out of high school.
The most closely-related of these jobs is to become a physical therapist tech or aide. These entry-level jobs usually don’t require any higher education.
We hope you enjoyed this article, and we’ve got lots of other free resources for you to check out. Here’s one on work in physical therapy settings if you have tattoos.