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How to pursue a job in academic PT

Interested in a career in academic physical therapy?

Below are suggestions for students and physical therapists who are interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy education.

Physical therapist education programs across the country need talented and passionate individuals to educate the next generation of physical therapists.  There is currently a shortage of qualified PT faculty and program chairs.  Career paths within PT academia are growing.

Pillars of academia

The academic environment is much different than the clinic and faculty have different roles and responsibilities in the areas of:

  • Teaching
  • Service
  • Scholarship  

The ACAPT Career Center has PT education job listings & ability to upload your resume.

Consider specialization or advanced degrees

Faculty hold different advanced credentials such as clinical specializations and doctoral degrees in various disciplines. Depending on your passion for a particular faculty role, you may wish to pursue a:

  • residency
  • fellowship
  • specialist certification,
  • or academic doctoral degree (e.g. PhD, Doctor of Science or Scd/DSc, EdD), which can provide you with advanced clinical experience, advanced research training and skills in education and leadership in a particular area of physical therapy practice or the skills to teach and conduct scholarship.

Depending on the program, some faculty residencies hire non-faculty, while others will enroll new faculty into their residency for formal training.  Higher education leadership fellowships are for existing faculty who are looking for their next career step - including becoming a DPT program director, chair or dean.  You can learn about different opportunities on the American Board of PT Residency & Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) site's online directory

Hear advice from the experts

Leverage and expand your network

Contact your local doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program director and different faculty to learn more about their specific roles and what drew them to academics. 

Find a DPT educational institution in your area here. Then talk to your network about opportunities to be a:

  • graduate assistant in teaching or research,
  • teaching assistant and/or lecturer in classroom and lab coursework,
  • part-time employee or volunteer with your local DPT program - including committees, community service, advisory councils, etc.  

Seek opportunities to develop your network, including attending American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) events like the Annual Physical Therapy Education Leadership Conference (ELC).

Become a clinical instructor

Clinical educators are the front-line educators using validated techniques to assess student comprehension in all domains of learning.  For those interested in leadership opportunities in the clinical setting, clinical education can be an excellent way to advance the PT profession.

Check out the Center for Excellence in Academic Physical Therapy


ACAPT welcomes ideas & solutions to help meet the needs of DPT programs. Submit your suggestions for continuing education, professional development, guidelines, tools, best practices and more.

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