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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 19, 2024
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physical Therapy/Bioengineering, DPT/PhD

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The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) - PhD in Bioengineering program combines the entry-level DPT leading to licensure as a physical therapist, with a PhD in Bioengineering that will prepare the student to become an independent researcher. The program will integrate clinical and research experiences, with students receiving mentorship from faculty in the departments of Physical Therapy and Bioengineering. Students should have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in engineering or engineering-related discipline, with a strong interest in physical therapy.

Contact Information

Patrick Sparto, PhD, PT
Co-Director, DPT-PhD Program
Department of Physical Therapy
Bridgeside Point 1, Suite 210
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-3130
Phone: 412-647-8069
Fax: 412-648-5970


Application Process

Applications will need to be submitted through the PT Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) by mid November for admission to the program the following June. The application is reviewed by faculty in both departments.

Admission Requirements

Students will need to meet the admission requirements of both programs. Applicants must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a field of engineering or closely related (e.g. physics, or applied mathematics, kinesiology). Applicants must demonstrate evidence of exposure to the field of PT through volunteer or work experience. Applicants must submit 4 letters of reference: one physical therapist with whom the student has volunteered or worked for, two academic advisors, and one work supervisor. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required but competitive applicants typically have a 3.5 GPA or greater. Applicants must take the GRE exam; typically, admitted students have GRE scores greater than the 50th percentile.

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.

Curriculum Overview

Students will follow the typical plan of study for DPT students for the initial eight terms (i.e. 2 2/3 years) of the program. Then students will follow the plan of study for PhD students in Bioengineering. Clinical internships and research experiences will be performed throughout the program. At a minimum, the program will take 6 years to complete. After completing the didactic and clinical requirements of the DPT program, the student will be allowed to take the licensing exam. Students are required to write and orally defend a dissertation to complete their PhD degree.

DPT Curriculum

The course requirements for the DPT include the following:

  • Basic Science (Anatomy, Neuroscience, Exercise Physiology, Pharmacology)-17 credits
  • Clinical Science (Kinesiology, Musculoskeletal PT, Neuromuscular PT, Cardiopulmonary PT, Patient Management, Human Disease, Geriatrics Growth and Development)-55 credits
  • Critical Inquiry (Research Methods, Evidence-Based Practice) -9 credits
  • Leadership and Professional Development-7 credits
  • Clinical Education-36 credits

Total number of credit hours: 124 credits. Students 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.


Courses Credits
Basic Science (Anatomy, Neuroscience, Exercise Physiology, Pharmacology) 17
Clinical Science (Kinesiology, Musculoskeletal PT, Neuromuscular PT, Cardiopulmonary PT, Patient Management, Human Disease, Geriatrics Growth and Development) 55
Critical Inquiry (Research Methods, Evidence-Based Practice) 9
Leadership and Professional Development 7
Clinical Education 36
Total: 124


PhD Requirements

The course requirements for the PhD in bioengineering for the combined program include the following:

  • Bioengineering Track Courses-9 credits
  • Graduate Electives-6 credits
  • Seminar-5 credits total-4 credits must be Bioengineering Seminar
  • Graduate Engineering Mathematics-3 credits
  • Statistics for Bioengineers-3 credits
  • Societal, Political, and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering-3 credits
  • Teaching Practicum-2 credits
  • Grant Writing in Bioengineering-1 credit
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research-40 credits

Total number of credit hours: 72 credits minimum (plus the credits associated with the remedial courses, as applicable.) Students typically take the PhD preliminary exam after their first year in the program, and PhD proposal (comprehensive examination) is presented generally at the end of the second year. A final public PhD defense is made by each PhD candidate based on the student’s research work.

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