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All US-educated physical therapists starting their entry-level degree on or after January 2016 are required to complete a doctorate in physical therapy and will possess the educational title of “doctor of physical therapy.”

The commonly used method of introduction for a physical therapist with a doctorate degree is “Hi, my name is Jane Doe, I am a doctor of physical therapy.”

Is Every Physical Therapist a Doctor of Physical Therapy?

No. Many physical therapists who graduated before 2016 possess a master’s degree in physical therapy and physical therapists who graduated before 2000 may possess a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy.

There are transitional programs that may advance the degree from master’s or bachelor’s to doctorate, but the programs are expensive and may be time-consuming for a physical therapist that is working in the clinic.

Every physical therapist does not automatically ascend to the title of doctor of physical therapy.

Does a Doctor of Physical Therapy Earn a Higher Salary?

In some cases yes, but in most cases no.

Since the doctorate degree is still an entry-level degree to practice physical therapy, many therapists with a bachelor’s or master’s degree have more experience and thereby earn a higher hourly rate.

Insurance Reimbursement

Insurance payers like Medicare and UnitedHealthcare do not pay different rates based on educational level or years of experience.

Institutional Employers

Hospitals and universities may pay a slightly higher starting salary to individuals with higher levels of education, but this is just one component of a compensation package.

Should You Call Yourself Doctor?

Calling yourself a “doctor” remains a hot-button topic even after so many years.

Therapists who have earned the title of doctor of physical therapy are mixed in their opinion.

Most will say it is best to use the term doctor when referring to educational level, but it is important to acknowledge using the term doctor in ways that may make a patient incorrectly believe that you are a medical doctor may be problematic.

Signing Your Name

APTA has published that the proper use of the initials PT and DPT are as follows:

The first designation is the profession PT or PTA
The second designation is the highest educational level achieved DPT, MPT, MSPT, BSPT

For example John Doe, PT, DPT or Dr. John Doe, PT, DPT

My personal opinion:

I am a licensed physical therapist and achieved the educational level of a Master’s degree. I have no problem with therapists who seek to leverage the respect and power of their doctorate degrees.

I am happy to hear therapists refer to themselves as “Dr. John Doe, doctor of physical therapy” when introducing themselves to patients and colleagues.

Is a Physical Therapist a Doctor When the Degree is a Ph.D.?

Yes, a PT Ph.D. is commonly referred to as a doctor. Especially in universities or other academic settings.

“In physical therapy, this is often called the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree; it differs from a PhD, where the focus is on research and the production of original scholarly work, and from a “post-professional doctorate” or “advanced practice doctorate,” which offers study in advanced or specialized clinical competencies to professionals who have graduated with another entry-level qualification, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.” – Source

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