2-year accelerated Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs are paving the way for pre-physical therapy students to realize their dreams of becoming a physical therapist faster than ever before.
I am specifically going to be talking about the pros and cons of a 2-yr accelerated DPT program and how you can benefit from this article as a potential student, a clinic owner looking to hire a new grad, or a current healthcare professional wanting to learn more.
What is it?
So, what exactly is a DPT accelerated program? In short, a DPT accelerated program is a doctoral level physical therapy school that enables students to complete their DPT degree in 24 months, or two years total. This includes clinical rotations and all licensure preparation to take the NPTE. The school is essentially half online, half lab, in half the time!
How Does it Work?
DPT accelerated programs use a blended online learning model with onsite activity. Typically, students will engage with their professors on an online platform for class and then meet quarterly for lab-immersion where the class material become clinical practice. The beauty of the program is the school’s collaboration with technology.
For example, South College’s DPT curriculum is powered by the EIM (Evidence in Motion) Learning Academy in what EIM calls “The Blended Classroom”. Most of your time is spent learning, at home, and online. Then, on scheduled weekends, you meet for lab immersion and hands-on practice.
The Evidence in Motion website says it best for why they want to bridge the gap between physical therapy education in a classroom setting and using a blended model. “It is EIM’s belief that the availability and proper use of technology reduces the need for heavy, slow moving infrastructure, thus speeding the pace of this knowledge exchange.”
What are the Pros to a Hybrid DPT Education?
The greatest, and most obvious, pro of entering an accelerated DPT program is you can graduate in 2 years! If you are looking to fast-track your career into the wonderful world of physical therapy, then this may be your golden ticket into finishing your degree faster and getting to serve the patients you want to serve.
What about the online classroom component? Is it really a pro? To be frank, that depends on the person and their learning style. I am happy to report from my subjective conversations with friends, who’ve talked to clinic owners that hired South College graduates, there is no difference in clinical skills whatsoever. I personally think it’s a breath of fresh air for the physical therapy learning environment to change, grow, and adapt to the rapidly advancing technology we see getting better every day.
Another pro is the access to resources that may benefit your physical therapy career after you graduate. For example, South College’s EIM platform is just one part to a larger network of post-professional DPT opportunities.
For example, on EIM’s website, they have a program called MSK Post-Professional DPT Full Track which offers physical therapists with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree to bridge the gap to a DPT degree in half the time. They also offer valuable post-professional certifications in sports therapy, manual therapy, and pelvic health.
What are the Cons to a Hybrid DPT Education?
To be honest it was hard to find a con. I have researched and heard nothing but good reports from this type of graduate school and learning style. If there is a con, which I address in the types of student’s section, it would be how adaptable you have to be in the hybrid learning model.
What student will this work well for?
Two-year DPT programs will work well for those who are very familiar and adaptable with online learning. Students who have a lot of prior experience taking many online courses would be better prepared to succeed in a doctoral level education that’s mostly online. But, don’t get me wrong, online DPT programs have no shortcuts! It’s basically taking 2 years-worth of online courses at an accelerated summer pace!
What type of student should not try this?
The type of student that wouldn’t perform well in an accelerated DPT program are those that have already taken most, if not all, of their prior education in a traditional school setting. For example, someone who was comfortable with the pacing and structure of a traditional four-year university education would have a rude awakening with a steroid boosted online accelerated DPT program.
I have talked to advisors from some of these schools and there is a distinct emphasis on the fast-paced nature of the workload. Basically, you will be working harder in a 2-year DPT program than you would in a traditional 3-year program. Another indicator you may not be a good fit for an accelerated DPT program is you’ve never taken any accelerated classes or summer courses in the past. If you have, how did you do in them? Did you like the pacing of summer classes in undergrad? Did you enjoy your professors courses entirely being online? Your answers to these questions may tell you.
“What hybrid programs like ours do is simply leverage technology to make these good teaching practices more accessible..”
I wanted to finish this article by sharing my own story about the first time I heard about the potential of a hybrid DPT education. I am a current Pre-PT student looking at different schools to apply for in the near future. The first time I heard about a physical therapy hybrid program was in 2017. I was in the Navy, in Japan, and sitting on a security guard post at work.
I was listening to the Pre-PT Grind Podcast. I just have to mention I would not be typing this today if it wasn’t for the Pre-PT Grind co-founders Casey Coleman and Joses Ngugi giving me encouragement and hope to pursue physical therapy after the Navy.
One of their podcasts was introducing South College’s, at that time, brand new blended hybrid program. At first, I couldn’t believe it. An entire DPT program mostly online? I got excited when I learned it was in Tennessee, my home state.
I remember being a little skeptical at first. I just remember it seemed a little too good to be true to get your DPT done in 2 years. Fast forward two years later in 2019. I was out of the Navy and going to Belmont University finishing my undergraduate degree.
I discovered their really is no difference in clinical skills with those who have graduated from a 2-year or 3-year program. As far as the program being online, in some ways, an online community fosters a closer, tight knit learning environment that traditional schooling just doesn’t foster anymore.
In the EIM blog, Hybrid Education is not Special by Kendra Gagnon, she advocates for the power of online learning by leveraging technology, especially in the physical therapy teaching community. She says, “Good teaching is good teaching” and “What hybrid programs like ours do is simply leverage technology to make these good teaching practices more accessible. It allows us to reach students in more geographic locations. To scale so we can reach more of them.”
I believe physical therapy hybrid programs are breaking new ground when it comes to teaching. However, in the end, as the student, its truly is what you believe will work best for you.
Doctor of Physical Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2019, from https://www.south.edu/programs/doctor-physical-therapy/.
Gagnon, K. (2018, May 25). Hybrid Education is not Special. Retrieved October 3, 2019, from https://www.evidenceinmotion.com/blog/2018/05/25/hybrid-education-is-not-special/.
The Blended Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2019, from https://www.evidenceinmotion.com/about/the-blended-classroom/.
Post-professional DPT (Transition) Archives. (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2019, from