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How Much PT School Costs and Ways of Paying for It

By LeeMarie Kennedy · May 31, 2022 · 7 minute read

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How Much PT School Costs and Ways of Paying for It

PT school costs in the U.S. can range between around $10,000 and $30,000 per year, depending on whether you live in the same state as the program you attend.

And when it comes to how to pay for PT school, there are several funding options for prospective students — from grants and scholarships to federal financial aid, work study programs, private student loans and more.

Keep reading to find out how much PT school costs and how to pay for physical therapy school.

Cost of Physical Therapy School

The cost of physical therapy school can vary vastly depending on the program you attend, your location, among other factors.

With that said, the average tuition and fees for PT programs in the U.S are $9,629 for in-state residents and $29,730 for out-of-state students for the academic year 2021-2022.

7 Ways to Pay for PT School

Now that you have an idea of how much PT school might cost, your next priority is likely figuring out how to pay for PT school once you’ve been accepted.

Below are seven different options you can look into to help cover the costs of attending PT school.

1. Grants

Physical therapists are in high demand these days, and there’s been a corresponding increase in the number of grants available to students who are pursuing a career in PT.

Grant funding that helps students with PT school costs is sponsored by a variety of sources, from the federal government to public and private colleges and universities, professional organizations and corporations.

It’s wise to kick off your search for grant funding with federally-backed programs that target PT majors. If you’re enrolled in a PT program from an accredited college or university, you may be eligible for the following federal grants.

The Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is available to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need. The amount of awarded funding maxes out at $6,895 for the 2022-23 school year. The amount awarded can change yearly and is based on the student’s level of financial need, attendance status (full time or part time), and the cost of the program itself.

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is available to eligible undergraduate students who have already qualified for a Pell Grant, still demonstrate financial need, and are enrolled in a participating college or university.

To apply for an FSEOG, you can work with your college’s financial aid office and learn if you’re eligible to receive anywhere from $100 – $4,000.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Aid

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services offers a variety of financial aid opportunities that are designed to assist students entering into the healthcare profession. One example is the The HRSA Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students , which is a campus-based grant program that provides financial assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Eligible recipients must be pursuing a degree in an approved healthcare field (PT being one of them) and the college or university the student is attending determines the eligibility and award amount.

Colleges and Universities

There are several campus-based grants and payment programs available to PT students to help cover PT school costs. Once you’ve whittled down a list of preferred PT programs, you can search for these grants and scholarships on the schools’ websites or speak to someone in their financial aid departments to get started.

Private Organizations

Private and professional organizations can be solid sources for grants, scholarships and fellowships that help aspiring physical therapists with how to pay for PT school.

In many cases, the funding is extended on a regional basis, so searching for state or local organizations is a great way to seek financial aid that’s relevant to PT in your particular area.

Here are a couple of examples of private and professional organizations that offer financial aid opportunities to physical therapy students. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) sponsors several grants and scholarships for PT students, including the Outstanding PT Student and PTA Student Awards or Orthopedic Section Outstanding PT/PTA Student Award, among others.

The Foundation for Physical Therapy (FTP) administers research grants for graduate level PT students in a variety of rehabilitation techniques, including pediatric and geriatric physical therapy. In addition, the FTP offers $5,000 in award funds from their Florence P. Kendall Doctoral Scholarship for high performing PTs and PT assistants pursuing doctoral studies at an accredited college or university.

2. Scholarships

When considering how to pay for physical therapy school with a scholarship, consider searching scholarship databases for “physical therapy” scholarships. Websites such as CollegeScholarships, Scholarships 360 or Scholarships.com all offer comprehensive lists of scholarships available specifically to students studying physical therapy.

In addition to course of study, factor in other talents or qualities that may help you qualify for a scholarship, such as where you grew up, your ethnicity, or gender.

Review the scholarships available at your specific school as well.

Recommended: Find Financial Aid Options for All 50 States

3. Federal Student Loans

To help physical therapy students offset their PT school costs, federal student loans are another prime way to secure financial aid.

Federal financial aid for physical therapy students can come in the form of various federal student loans . They cover the cost of attendance, living expenses, fees and more to help you pay for your physical therapy education.

On top of that, federal student loans offer specific perks and protections such as:

•   Deferment

•   Forbearance

•   Student Loan Forgiveness options

•   A six-month grace period for new grads

Most federal student loans (aside from PLUS loans), don’t require a credit check, so borrowers won’t need to add a cosigner to the loan. Undergraduate students may also qualify for Direct Subsidized Loans, which are awarded based on financial need. Students are not responsible for paying the interest that accrues on subsidized loans while they are actively enrolled or during qualifying periods of deferment, such as the grace period.

4. Private Student Loans

Private student loans can be obtained from private lenders like banks, credit unions or other financial institutions and can help bridge the gap when federal student loans aren’t enough to pay for physical therapy school. That said, it may be tricky for physical therapy students to qualify for private student loans without a cosigner, especially if they have a lower credit score or no credit at all.

In some cases, aspiring PT students may need to ask someone to cosign for a private student loan to help them obtain a lower interest rate and more favorable loan terms.

While private student loan borrowers aren’t afforded the same perks and protections as they are with federal student loans, there are still benefits to using private student loans to pay for PT school.

Here’s a guide to private student loans that can help you learn more about the available options.

5. Part-Time Work

Whether it’s a side-hustle or a sanctioned work-study program, there are other ways to pay for PT school that don’t involve a loan, grant or scholarship.

On Campus

An on-campus work-study program is typically offered by the college or university where a student is attending PT school.

In the case of the Federal Work-Study Program , students are eligible for part-time employment while enrolled in PT school if their college is a participating member of the program and the student meets the program’s eligibility requirements. Checking with the school’s financial aid office is the best way to determine whether or not they offer a Federal Work-Study Program.

Off Campus

The Federal Work-Study Program also offers off-campus employment for a private nonprofit organization or a public agency, typically for work that’s performed in the public interest.

That said, finding your own job on or off campus (that’s not tied to federal aid) is also a possibility. Whether it’s a part-time job at a local cafe, waiting tables at a restaurant, or becoming a nanny for a nearby family — there are other options for figuring out how to pay for physical therapy school.

6. FAFSA

If you’re thinking about using federal student aid to pay for PT school, the first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) .

The FAFSA is a free form that’s completed by current and prospective PT students to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid like some of the loans, scholarships and programs mentioned above.

Take a look at this FAFSA guide for more information about what the FAFSA is, which types of financial aid you may be eligible for, the criteria that can be expected in order to receive funds, and important dates to know.

7. PSLF

Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federally-backed program that forgives the remaining balance on a borrower’s Direct Loans after:

•   They’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments

•   Under a qualifying repayment plan

•   While working full-time for a qualifying employer

The requirements for receiving PSLF are strict, so if you are pursuing this option be sure to read all the program instructions and paperwork closely.

When deciding how to pay for PT school, this is one reason many prospective students turn first to federal financial aid.

It’s Student Loan Forgiveness programs like these that are among the many perks and protections of federal student loans that can’t be accessed through private student loans.

How Much Can Physical Therapists Make?

While PT school costs can seem a bit steep, the compensation for recent PT grads can potentially justify the price tag for today’s typical physical therapy program.

Data from PayScale, Inc. indicates that an entry-level physical therapist can expect to bring in $68,025 a year on average.

And, in 2020, physical therapists made a median salary of $91,010, with the best-paid 25% bringing in $106,060 and the lowest-paid 25% making $75,360.

The Takeaway

When it comes to how to pay for physical therapy school, there are several ways aspiring students can receive financial aid — including grants, scholarships, work study programs, federal student loans through FAFSA and private student loans.

If you’re looking for PT school funding that’s flexible and free from fees, SoFi’s private student loans may be a solution for you. You can easily check your rate online, find a payment plan that fits your budget, and even get exclusive benefits that can help you with your classwork — so you can focus on the PT program that works for you.

Find out more about SoFi’s private student loans.

FAQ

What is the average student debt for a physical therapist after graduating?

According to a 2020 survey from APTA, the average debt for physical therapists is $116,183.

How much can PTs expect to make after graduating?

An entry-level physical therapist can expect to make nearly $67,000 per year on average and the median salary among all physical therapists was around $91,000 in 2020.

Will the military pay for physical therapy school?

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has different programs and requirements for receiving financial assistance for physical therapy school. Visiting their individual websites is the best way to determine eligibility.


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