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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 22, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physical Therapy, DPT

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Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Degree

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program is the entry-level educational program which prepares students for careers as physical therapists. Upon successful completion of the curriculum, a student is eligible for the licensure examination, which is required to be a practicing physical therapist. The goal of the DPT curriculum is to prepare students to become self-directed, selfaccountable physical therapists who can function in a cost-effective manner in all settings, and with persons of all ages. Graduates of the program will be prepared to enhance human movement and function through the use of evidence-based practice principles. Physical therapy graduates will have a foundation on which to base further knowledge and skills in specialty areas and to contribute to development of the art and science of physical therapy.

Contact Information

M. Kathleen Kelly, PhD, PT
Vice Chair, DPT Program
Department of Physical Therapy
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Bridgeside Point 1, Suite 210
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-3130
Fax: 412-648-5970

Application Process

Admission to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program is only available on a full-time basis. The DPT program begins the first week of June each year. All applicants must apply to the program through the PT Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). This information is located on the Department website.

Admissions Requirements

To be eligible to apply to the DPT program, applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree, taken and successfully passed all prerequisite coursework, taken the Graduate Record Exam (GRE-general) within the last five years, and must demonstrate evidence of experience in a physical therapy setting in either a volunteer or paid capacity. 

  • Graduate Record Examination - (GRE -general). GRE scores must be sent to institution code 7754
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 scale)
  • 3 letters of recommendation: 1 from a licensed physical therapist (from applicant’s volunteer or work experience in a PT setting); 1 from a college level professor; 1 from either of the following: a licensed physical therapist or a supervisor/employer (preferably in a healthcare or related setting).
  • Demonstrated evidence of adequate exposure to the field of physical therapy and an appreciation of the breadth, depth, and scope of practice. This can be accomplished through either volunteer or paid work experience in a physical therapy setting; there is no minimum number of hours required. It is preferable for applicants to show evidence of the willingness to work with a variety of patients in different physical therapy settings
  • The Department faculty have outlined the Technical Standards deemed essential for successful completion of the DPT curriculum. Students admitted to the DPT program must review the Technical Standards and submit a signed form at the time of matriculation
  • Please note that many clinical sites will require a Child Abuse clearance (Act 33), Criminal Background check (Act 34), and a drug screen prior to participation in a clinical education experience. If you do not have a clean background check for either Act 33/34 clearance, or a clean drug screen you may not be able to participate in Clinical Education and therefore will not be able to meet the DPT requirements for graduation.

Additionally, in order to become licensed, many states will inquire as to whether the applicant has been convicted of a misdemeanor, a felony, or a felonious or illegal act and if you have a record you may not be able to become licensed to practice your profession after graduation.

Prerequisite Coursework (minimum credit hours listed is based on a semester system equivalent)

  • Chemistry I and II sequence with labs, 8 credit hours
  • Physics I and II sequence with labs, 8 credit hours
  • Biology I and II sequence with labs, 8 credit hours
  • Anatomy (human, vertebrate, comparative or anatomical kinesiology), 3 credit hours
  • Physiology (human physiology preferred), 3 credit hours
    *A two course sequence of anatomy/physiology may meet the anatomy and physiology requirements as long as there is a total of 6 credit hours
    **Science courses must be for science majors or pre-med majors. Introductory or remedial courses are not accepted as prerequisites.
  • Two courses in Psychology: should include a general psychology course and a specialized psychology course such as:  developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, psychology of disability, sports psychology - 6 credit hours
  • Statistics, 3 credit hours
  • English Writing (English composition or an upper-division writing course), 3 credit hours

At the time of application no more than 2 courses can be outstanding and must be completed prior to starting the program. Courses MUST BE completed within the past 5 years. 

Academic Standards

In addition to the University-wide academic rules and regulations as detailed in the General Academic Regulations section of this bulletin, the DPT program is regulated by the SHRS Academic Standards.

Statute of Limitations

All requirements of the DPT must be completed within three years. Extension of the statute of limitations may be granted if there are extenuating circumstances. Such requests, listing reasons for the extension and the amount of additional time needed, must be approved by the department chair.

Comprehensive Examinations

Students in the DPT program are required to pass a written comprehensive examination before the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree can be awarded. The written comprehensive examination is a cumulative examination covering the core clinical sciences and focusing on physical therapy practice.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program is a three-year (9 semester) professional course of study including clinical internships.

DPT Curriculum

Our rigorous curriculum is built around 4 key areas: basic science, clinical science, leadership & professional development, and critical inquiry. The DPT plan of study integrates the basic sciences and clinical practice, emphasizes evidence based practice and includes a comprehensive array of course offerings in musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, integumentary, cardiopulmonary, geriatric, and pediatric physical therapy, as well as course content related to leadership & professional development.

We want to make sure our graduates are well prepared to enter the workforce so we complement our didactic education program with a clinical program that includes more than 90 weeks of clinical internships. The curriculum is designed to emphasize early and intensive integration of our students into the clinical environment throughout their educational program. Our students begin their clinical affiliations during the 2nd semester in the program and have a 1 year internship at the end of their didactic phase of the plan of study.

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