In order to become a physiotherapist (physical therapist or PT) in Canada, you must complete a university-level entry-to-practice degree in physiotherapy. After completing a degree in physiotherapy, candidates must then successfully pass the Physiotherapy Competency Examination before a license may be issued (except for candidates graduating from a Quebec physiotherapy program). Individuals who have completed their PT education outside of Canada must also have their credentials assessed by the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR). How long it takes to be a physiotherapist in Canada depends heavily on the terminal degree you decide to pursue. There are 3 possible terminal physiotherapy degrees you can pursue in order to become a physiotherapist in Canada.
A Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy typically takes 4 years to complete. Individuals wishing to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy can apply after completing high school; however, some students also apply after completing a post-secondary degree. In Canada, there are only a handful of universities that offer a Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy, all of which are located in the province of Quebec. These programs are taught completely in French. As such, all applicants must be fluent in French.
This is the most common terminal degree for physiotherapists educated in Canada. In the late 1990s, 12 of the 15 PT programs in Canada transitioned from a Bachelor’s program in physical therapy to a Master’s program. The Master’s program typically takes 2 years to complete. Candidates applying to a Master’s program in physiotherapy must have completed an undergraduate degree and have completed the prerequisite courses required by the program they are applying to. Most undergraduate degrees take 4 years to complete; however, some programs require only 3 years and some students may fast track their undergraduate degrees by taking extra course work. Most students taking this route to become a PT will complete a total of 6 years of post-secondary education (4-year undergraduate degree + 2-year Master’s degree in physiotherapy).
Students graduating from American (and some Australian) physical therapy programs receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Despite the name, a DPT from the United States and Australia is an entry-level professional degree. Most DPT programs take 3 years to complete, while some hybrid DPT programs (online and in-person) can take 4 years to complete. Students must complete an undergraduate degree and have completed the prerequisite courses required by the program they are applying to. Most students taking this route to become a PT will complete a total of 7 years of post-secondary education (4-year undergraduate degree + minimum 3-year DPT degree). In Canada, the only accredited doctorate programs in physiotherapy offered by Canadian universities are post-professional PhD programs. A PhD is not required to practice physiotherapy in Canada.
The length of post-graduate education that is most common for physiotherapists educated in Canada is 6-years. This will include a 4-year undergraduate degree with the required prerequisite courses for PT school, followed by a 2-year Master’s degree in physiotherapy. For physiotherapists working in Canada who have completed their physiotherapy education internationally, the length of time to acquire their physiotherapy degree may take 4 to 7 years depending on the terminal degree in physiotherapy they complete.