Qualifications for Sports Physical Therapists

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists (PT's) are licensed health care professionals. Sports physical therapy specialists focus on prevention, evaluation, treatment, rehabilitation and performance enhancement of their physically active patients. Qualifications for sports therapists are mainly education-based with a high emphasis on residency or hands-on experience before final certification.


APTA states that the minimum education requirement for a PT is a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited education program. A master's degree is possible (MPT), but more and more colleges and universities are offering the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to its students. As of 2010, 199 colleges and universities nationwide supported 212 accredited professional therapist education programs. 96 percent offer the DPT, while the remaining programs are expected to also offer the DPT in the near future. Most programs require students to enter with an undergraduate degree, or some kind of undergraduate work. Some will also admit a few freshmen into the DPT program.

Licensing Exam

After graduation, candidates have to pass a state-administered national exam. There may also be other requirements necessary, but they vary from state to state. Contact your local state licensing board to find out if any additional testing is mandatory before you start practicing.


Sports Physical Therapists have to go through a specialist certification process sponsored by APTA. The certification exam tests their knowledge and advanced skills, specific to sports physical therapy.


Certification testing is possible only after completing an APTA-credentialed post professional clinical residency. The residency must have a curriculum plan reflective of the description of specialty practice: sports physical therapy (DSP). Another option in lieu of residency is 2,000 hours of direct patient care, specifically within sports physical therapy, within the last 10 years.

Governing Body

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) oversees the schools that offer PT degrees, like University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. This commission is mainly responsible for quality assurance when it comes to both the course load that the schools offer, and ensuring that the entry level therapists and therapist's assistants are adequately prepared to enter the work force and deal with the public.