Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

William H. Young, III, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Donald A. Dellow, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Edward Charles Fletcher, Jr., Ph.D.

Committee Member

John M. Ferron, Ph.D.


Student debt, physical therapy, academic physical therapy, Florida physical therapy, higher education finance


Despite the education, autonomy, and high demand for physical therapists both nationally and in Florida, recent graduates have seen steadily rising education costs with disproportionate changes in income once they have graduated and entered the workforce. The growing debt burden of physical therapists entering the workforce, coupled with the growth in projected need and stagnant wages, raises concern about where and how entry-level physical therapists will practice and if these choices will be affected by their debt burden. The purpose of this quantitative, cross-sectional survey study was to identify the debt profile of entry-level physical therapists and explore the relationship between the student debt and clinical practice choices of entry-level physical therapists. The results of this study provide important findings and additional questions to be considered with these growing concerns surrounding student debt in physical therapy. The results of this study suggest that practice setting choice may be affected by physical therapists’ student debt and that student debt may be a barrier overall to career choices in physical therapy. Additional research and support for innovative models that reduce debt burden in academic physical therapy should be considered.