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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 13, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Physical Therapy, DPT - Residential Program

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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 a career as a physical therapist in the United States. Upon successful completion of the curriculum, graduates of the program are eligible for the licensure examination (NPTE), which is required to practice as a practicing physical therapist. The goal of the DPT curriculum is to prepare students to become self-directed, self accountable 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. Graduates of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program 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. Students should note that the requirements for professional licensure could vary drastically by state as well as by country. Because such requirements can change frequently and often without notice, it is strongly encouraged, and is the responsibility of the student, to ensure the degree they earn will meet the requirements for licensure in the state or country in which they seek licensure. 

Contact Information

Kara L. Kobal, PT, DPT, DHSc, ATC
Board Certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist
Associate Professor
Program Director- DPT Residential Option
Department of Physical Therapy 
Bridgeside Point 1 
100 Technology Drive, 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 each year with the start of the Fall Term.  All applicants must apply to the program through the PT Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). This information is located on the Department website.  Within the PTCAS application, applicants will be required to select the specific program (Residential / Hybrid / Either) for which they wish to be considered for admission.

Admissions Requirements

Admission requirements and procedures listed below are for the DPT Residential and Hybrid program formats. Applicants, Residential and Hybrid, will select the University of Pittsburgh Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the PTCAS application portal. In the portal, applicants will be asked to select the specific program format (Residential or Hybrid) to which they wish to apply. 

Applicants who are interested in the dual degree Doctor of Physical Therapy/PhD in Bioengineering program must apply directly to that program in the PTCAS application portal. NOTE: There is a specific designation for the Pitt DPT/PhD dual degree program and at this time, the dual degree DPT/PhD program is only available to students participating in the DPT Residential option.

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
    Undergraduate degrees MUST be conferred and final transcripts received two months (July) prior to the start of the program
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 scale)
  • Minimum of three letters of recommendation
    • One letter MUST be from academic reference - a professor/instructor from a course(s) for which the applicant was enrolled.  The academic course must either be a pre-requisite for the DPT program OR a course associated with student’s major area of study.  The letter should include insights regarding the applicant’s potential for successful navigation through a graduate-level professional degree program and provide specific examples of observed characteristics that support such insights.
    • The additional two letters of recommendation may be completed by any of the following: physical therapist, professor/instructor, academic advisor, minister, employer/supervisor, life coach/mentor, research faculty, internship supervisor/faculty, or athletic coach. While it is preferred that the letters of recommendation be completed by individuals from a variety of settings, it is permissible to submit 2 letters from a similar source (i.e. two different physical therapists, or two different employers/supervisors, two different professors, etc…). 

  • 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; 40 hours of exposure required. It is preferable for applicants to show evidence of the willingness to work with a variety of patients in different physical therapy settings; we prefer to see the 40 hours completed in at least 2 different clinical settings. 
  • A ‘C’ grade or higher in all prerequiste coursework
  • Complete PTCAS Application
  • Application Fee
  • PTCAS Personal Statement 
  • University of Pittsburgh Essay Question (Included in PTCAS Application)
  • Official transcripts from every U.S. college and university attended
  • GRE not required
  • 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.

If applicable:

  • Enter all international (non-United States/foreign) institutions you have attended on your PTCAS application. Order a WES ICAP Course-by-Course evaluation from World Education Services (WES) through the PTCAS application.
  • Verification of English Language Proficiency is required unless the following apply:
    • the applicant is a citizen of a country whose official language is English
    • the applicant has completed a degree program at a regionally accredited institution in the U.S., or
    • the applicant is not a citizen of a country whose official language is English but has completed a degree program at an institution outside of the U.S. where the language of instruction is English and where the official national language of the country in which the institution is located is English.
  • If required, provide Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores in your PTCAS application, and request an official TOEFL scores report be sent to TOEFL code “5312” by the application deadline.

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 indicating that they meet the Technical Standards at the time of matriculation into the program.

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 criminal record you may not be able to become licensed to practice as a physical therapist after graduation. Should you have concerns regarding your eligibility, we recommend you contact your state licensing board for further clarification.

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 that 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.

While not required, faculty have found taking an undergraduate course in Exercise Physiology benefits students during their first term in the DPT program.  At the time of application no more than 4 courses can be outstanding or in progress. Any offer of admission will be contingent upon the successful completion of any remaining prerequisites by July 1 prior to the start of the DPT Program. Academic performance on outstanding coursework should not deviate from the performance reflected in the application materials. While not required, it is preferable that courses 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 catalog, 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.

Community Engagement & IPE Requirement

Prior to graduation, students in the DPT Program are required to engage in at least 3 Community Engagement activities, 3 Interprofessional Education experiences, and 2 “self-selected” activities in either of these categories - totaling 8 unique activities across the 7-term program. More information about this requirement can be found in the Student Handbook. 

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program is a 2.3 year (7 semester*) professional course of study including clinical internships.

*From an Academic Proposal approved in May 2021, the terms were reduced from 8 to 7. This change is effective beginning Fall 2021. 

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 42 weeks of full-time 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 conclude with two consecutive 15-week termal clinical education experiences. 


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