Best Physical Therapy Programs in Tennessee

Updated on February 7, 2024

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of physical therapy programs in Tennessee. We examine the top programs available in the state, evaluating them on a variety of factors from tuition costs to average salaries after graduation. Whether you’re a prospective student or simply interested in the field, this guide provides valuable insights into the world of physical therapy education in Tennessee.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center (9/10)

Memphis, TN

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is the premier physical therapy program in Tennessee, with competitive admissions, top-ranked professors, and excellent career outcomes for graduates.

Acceptance Rate: 20% Tuition: $31,090 per year (in-state); $62,328 per year (out-of-state) Avg Salary: $78,000 Website: https://www.uthsc.edu Description: The DPT program at UTHSC focuses on evidence-based practice and hands-on clinical training at top-ranked hospitals and clinics in Memphis. Small class sizes ensure lots of individual attention and mentoring. The program takes 3 years to complete.

Belmont University (8.5/10)

Nashville, TN

Belmont University’s physical therapy program emphasizes service learning, interprofessional education, and learning through simulation. The program takes 3 years to complete.

Acceptance Rate: 60%
Avg SAT Score: 1160 Tuition: $40,000 per year Avg Salary: $72,500
Website: https://belmont.edu Description: Belmont’s DPT program utilizes the latest technology, including simulated patients and environments, to prepare students for clinical practice. Required service learning ensures students graduate with an appreciation for community health needs.

Tennessee State University (8/10)

Nashville, TN

Tennessee State offers an affordable pathway to becoming a physical therapist, with small classes led by expert faculty focused on evidence-based practice. The program takes 3 years to complete.

Acceptance Rate: 20% Tuition: $9,992 per year (in-state); $25,608 per year (out-of-state)
Avg Salary: $70,000 Website: http://www.tnstate.edu
Description: TSU’s program emphasizes cultural competence and meeting the rehab needs of underserved populations. The curriculum includes early clinical experiences paired with classroom instruction in anatomy, neuroscience, biomechanics and more.

Southwest Tennessee Community College (7.5/10)

Memphis, TN

Southwest Tennessee CC offers an associate degree program in physical therapist assisting, providing the clinical training and general ed courses needed to work under a licensed DPT.

Acceptance Rate: 85% Tuition: $4,956 per year (in-state); $18,084 per year (out-of-state) Avg Salary: $52,000
Website: https://www.southwest.tn.edu Description: This 2-year program prepare students to take the licensing exam and become physical therapist assistants. The curriculum combines classroom instruction with lab work and clinical rotations.

East Tennessee State University (7/10)

Johnson City, TN

ETSU’sEntry-level hybrid DPT program begins with 2 years of remote online learning, followed by a third year of intense clinical training.

Acceptance Rate: 40%
Avg SAT Score: 1170 Tuition: $22,554 per year Avg Salary: $70,500 Website: https://www.etsu.edu Description: ETSU designed its hybrid DPT to serve working adults and those in other areas of Appalachia looking to transition into PT. Online courses provide fundamental knowledge, while the final year builds hands-on abilities.

University of Tennessee of Chattanooga (6.5/10)

Chattanooga, TN

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UTC is fully accredited and takes 3 years to complete. Graduates have excellent first-time licensure exam pass rates.

Acceptance Rate: 60% Tuition: $12,668 per year (in-state); $27,996 per year (out-of-state) Avg Salary: $70,000 Website: https://www.utc.edu/physical-therapy/ Description: UTC’s curriculum emphasizes clinical reasoning and evidence-based rehab interventions. Students benefit from the school’s relationships with top regional healthcare providers for clinical affiliations.

Cumberland University (6/10)

Lebanon, TN

Cumberland University offers a traditional DPT program focusing on ethics, scholarship and autonomous practice delivered through lectures, labs and clinical rotations.

Acceptance Rate: 40% Tuition: $33,500 per year
Avg Salary: $69,000 Website: https://www.cumberland.edu/rehabilitation-sciences/doctor-physical-therapy-program Description: This 3-year program fosters leadership and professional advocacy skills. The flexible year-round schedule includes clinical experience integrated with coursework in anatomy, exercise physiology and more.

Lincoln Memorial University (5.5/10)

Harrogate, TN

LMU’s School of Medical Sciences offers an entry-level 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program emphasizing competence and compassion.

Acceptance Rate: 50%
Tuition: $33,150 per year Avg Salary: $68,500 Website: https://med.lmunet.edu
Description: LMU’s program includes an elective international mission trip supporting underserved global communities. Coursework covers the full range of PT practice areas, with an emphasis on professionalism and communication skills.

King University (5/10)

Bristol, TN

King University takes an interprofessional approach in its 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program, with students collaborating across healthcare fields.

Acceptance Rate: 60%
Tuition: $9,500 per year Avg Salary: $67,000 Website: https://www.king.edu Description: King’s DPT curriculum blends classroom learning with clinical training across community health settings. The program emphasizes ethical practice and communication skills for patient advocacy.

Milligan University (4.5/10)

Milligan College, TN

Milligan’s entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program emphasizes personal mentoring, professionalism and hands-on clinical experience over 3 years of study.

Acceptance Rate: 85%
Tuition: $37,830 per year Avg Salary: $65,500
Website: https://www.milligan.edu
Description: Milligan’s program operates on a year-round schedule, with clinical assignments integrated throughout the curriculum. Small class sizes ensure specialized faculty attention tailored to each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

See Other Best Physical Therapy Schools in the South

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a physical therapist?

Most DPT programs take 3 years to complete after finishing an undergraduate degree, leading many students to enter physical therapy graduate programs by their mid-20s. Physical therapist assistant programs generally take 2 years.

What undergraduate major is best for physical therapy school?

While no specific major is required, an undergraduate background emphasizing science courses such as biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry and physics builds a solid foundation for success in a graduate DPT program.

Which physical therapy programs are cheapest?

Public universities like Tennessee State University and University of Tennessee Chattanooga offer the most affordable in-state tuition rates under $15,000 per year. Private programs can cost over $30,000 annually.

What are typical admission requirements for physical therapy schools?

A minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA is typical, along with satisfactory GRE test scores. Observation or hands-on experience under a licensed PT is also required to demonstrate interest and aptitude.

What tasks do physical therapists perform?

PTs diagnose and treat mobility issues resulting from illness, injury, disability or aging. Their duties include developing treatment plans, performing exercises and hands-on joint/soft tissue mobilization, prescribing assistive devices, and educating patients.

How physically demanding is a physical therapy career?

PTs must be comfortable staying on their feet for long periods, safely lifting patients and equipment, crouching, bending, and supporting patients during therapeutic exercises and activities.

Do physical therapists prescribe medications?

No, prescribing medications and ordering imaging/labs are responsibilities outside the scope of PT practice. DPTs rely on referrals from physicians and collaboration within interprofessional healthcare teams.

Where do most physical therapists work?

Most are employed in ambulatory healthcare settings such as outpatient clinics and offices of occupational, physical and speech therapists. Hospitals, schools, home health agencies, and nursing homes also employ large numbers of PTs nationwide.

Do physical therapists specialize?

While licensed as generalists, many PTs pursue board certifications after several years to demonstrate advanced expertise in areas like sports rehab, neurology, pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics or women’s health.

What is the job outlook for physical therapists?

Faster than average growth is projected nationally, with 18% more PT jobs expected by 2030 due to factors like aging baby boomers and growing emphasis on non-surgical treatments and preventative care.

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Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.