Best Physical Therapy Schools in California

Updated on February 7, 2024

California has many excellent physical therapy schools to choose from. Here are 10 of the top ranked PT programs in the state.

University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 3%

Tuition: $59,260 per year

Avg Salary: $86,850

Website: https://pt.usc.edu/

The University of Southern California offers a top-ranked DPT program with excellent faculty and clinical opportunities through local hospitals and clinics. The curriculum focuses on evidence-based practice and hands-on learning. Graduates have a 100% ultimate pass rate on the NPTE licensure exam.

San Diego State University

Location: San Diego, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Tuition: $18,876 per year (in-state)

Avg Salary: $82,040

Website: https://ens.sdsu.edu/physicaltherapy

San Diego State University provides an affordable option for earning a DPT in Southern California. Small class sizes allow for individualized instruction and mentorship. Clinical rotations take place across the San Diego area including acute care hospitals, outpatient clinics, and specialty practices. Graduates consistently find employment soon after licensing.

Chapman University

Location: Irvine, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Tuition: $51,325 per year

Avg Salary: $85,500

Website: https://www.chapman.edu/crean/programs-and-degrees/doctor-physical-therapy/index.aspx

Chapman University’s College of Health and Human Services offers a rigorous but caring DPT program focused on developing clinicians prepared to improve mobility and wellness. The program partners with elite rehabilitation centers, community health organizations, sports medicine clinics, and hospitals to provide clinical education.

Loma Linda University

Location: Loma Linda, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Tuition: $51,284 per year

Avg Salary: $80,950

Website: https://llu.edu/wellness/pt/

The Loma Linda DPT curriculum emphasizes whole-person care and community service. Students gain clinical experience across the Inland Empire and participate in local health promotion events. Loma Linda partners with top rehab and sports clinics to place graduates into residencies and fellowships after licensing.

California State University, Northridge

Location: Northridge, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Tuition: $10,560 per year (in-state)

Avg Salary: $82,500

Website: https://www.csun.edu/health-human-development/physical-therapy

Cal State Northridge offers an affordable DPT program with a focus on serving vulnerable populations. The program partners with community health clinics, schools, and outpatient centers across Los Angeles to provide clinical education. Graduates praise the emphasis on social responsibility and cultural competency.

University of the Pacific

Location: Stockton, CA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Tuition: $51,346 per year

Avg Salary: $83,300

Website: https://www.pacific.edu/academics/schools-and-colleges/thomas-j-long-school-of-pharmacy-and-health-sciences/programs/physical-therapy.html

The University of Pacific’s DPT program focuses on developing real world clinical skills for practice in underserved communities. Small class sizes allow for individual mentoring and hands-on practice. Clinical rotations take place across Northern California with partnerships at hospitals, private practices, and healthcare startups.

Mount Saint Mary’s University

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 6/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Tuition: $44,350 per year

Avg Salary: $77,500

Website: https://www.msmu.edu/graduate-programs/physical-therapy/

Mount Saint Mary’s DPT program emphasizes evidence-based practice, manual therapy skills, and whole person care across the lifespan. Students complete clinical rotations at top LA facilities ranging from acute care hospitals to elite orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation centers. Small cohort sizes allow for individualized instruction.

Azusa Pacific University

Location: Azusa, CA

Rating: 6/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Tuition: $43,938 per year

Avg Salary: $75,800

Website: https://www.apu.edu/bas/physicaltherapy/

Azusa Pacific University provides rigorous DPT training focused on developing culturally competent clinicians for underserved communities. The program partners with community health clinics, schools, and outpatient centers to provide clinical education across Southern California. Graduates are known for their strong diagnostic and interpersonal skills.

Samuel Merritt University

Location: Oakland, CA

Rating: 6/10

Acceptance Rate: 3%

Tuition: $44,130 per year

Avg Salary: $78,300

Website: https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/physical_therapy

Samuel Merritt offers an accelerated DPT program preparing students for autonomous clinical practice. The curriculum focuses on critical reasoning, differential diagnosis, and evidence-based care. Clinical rotations take place across Northern California with an emphasis on medically complex patients. Graduates have excellent first-time pass rates on licensing exams.

West Coast University

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 5/10

Acceptance Rate: 2%

Tuition: $40,995 per year

Avg Salary: $75,500

Website: https://westcoastuniversity.edu/programs/doctor-physical-therapy

West Coast University provides an affordable three-year hybrid DPT program with blended online and in-person instruction. The curriculum focuses on business principles, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Clinical rotations emphasize outpatient orthopedics and neurorehabilitation. Graduates are prepared for autonomous practice or residency training.

See Other Best Physical Therapy Schools in the West

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the admission requirements for DPT programs?

Typical requirements include a bachelor’s degree, prerequisite science courses, minimum GPA (often 3.0+), GRE scores, letters of recommendation, healthcare experience, essay/personal statement, and interview. The process is highly competitive.

How long does it take to earn a DPT degree?

Most programs take 3 years of full-time study including classroom instruction and clinical rotations. A few schools offer accelerated options taking just 2-2.5 years.

What is the cost of DPT programs?

Tuition often ranges from $30,000-$60,000 per year for California residents at public and private universities. Costs are higher for out-of-state students.

What licensing is required after graduating from PT school?

You must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and meet state jurisprudence requirements to earn a physical therapist license allowing clinical practice.

What are typical physical therapist salaries?

The average salary for California physical therapists is around $90,000. Those working in hospitals or private practices often earn over $100,000.

What settings do PTs work in?

Common settings include hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, schools, fitness centers, home health agencies, and private practices.

What conditions do physical therapists treat?

PTs treat a wide range of neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, and other conditions such as back/neck pain, injuries, arthritis, stroke, and more.

What is the job outlook for physical therapy?

Employment of PTs is projected to grow 21% from 2020-2030, much faster than average across all occupations (8%). Demand is high in California.

Do I need an advanced residency or fellowship after PT school?

Residencies/fellowships provide extra training in specialty areas like sports, orthopedics, and neurology. They are optional but preferred for certain settings or leadership roles.

Are there DPT programs in California with evening/weekend options?

A few schools like West Coast University offer hybrid online/in-person curriculums accommodating those who work during traditional hours. But most programs require daytime instruction/clinical rotations.

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