The Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy prepares physical therapists for leadership positions in academic and research settings. To accomplish this, students are required to complete coursework and structured experiences in “Teaching and Faculty Leadership” and “Research.”  Students develop expertise in a specific area of concentration under the guidance of their faculty mentor by developing an individual plan of study that may include both coursework and independent study and by completing their dissertation research.

Prior to admission to the PhD in Physical Therapy program, prospective students are required to identify a faculty member with research interests compatible with those of the applicant.  This faculty member must agree to mentor the potential student before the PhD Committee will make a decision to admit the applicant.  For applicants accepted to the program, the faculty member who agreed to mentor the student will serve as the Chair of the student’s Supervisory Committee.  The Supervisory Committee Chair and the student are responsible for creating an individualized plan of study for each student.  The plan of study includes mandatory coursework in: 

Preparation for Teaching and Faculty Leadership

  • PTS774 Role of Academic Faculty in PT (3 credits)
  • PTS777 Instructional Methods in Physical Therapy Education (3 credits)
  • PTS778 Teaching Practicum (3 credits)
  • PTS790 Theoretical Models in Physical Therapy (3 credits)

Preparation for Research

  • PTS795 Clinical Research Methods I (3 credits)
  • PTS796 Applied Statistics in Physical Therapy (3 credits)
  • PTS798 Research Practicum (3 credits)
  • PTS843 Measuring Health Outcomes (3 credits)
  • Two graduate level courses in statistics (6 credits)

Preparation in Individual Area of Concentration:

  • Students typically take 18 credits of coursework in this area. This may include coursework offered by the Department of Physical Therapy, coursework offered outside the Department, and Independent Study.

Qualifying Examination

Every PhD student must take a written qualifying examination at the time that the student and the Chair of the student’s Supervisory Committee deem appropriate. Students can sit for the qualifying examination when they have completed their research practicum and all courses with the exception of an elective. The student must have a 3.0 GPA for all courses taken in the PhD program. The qualifying examination includes questions in four content areas: 1) Area of Concentration, 2) Teaching and Leadership, 3) Research, 4) Dissertation Specific Content.


After passing the qualifying examination, students form a dissertation committee and enter candidacy.  The program requires PhD students to submit a written dissertation proposal and orally defend the proposal within 4 months of admission to candidacy.  Students are required to take a minimum of 15 Dissertation credits. The program requires students to submit at least one article from their dissertation research for publication in a peer reviewed journal prior to the final public oral defense of the dissertation.  Immediately following the public defense of the dissertation, the members of the dissertation committee excuse all non-committee members and further interrogate the candidate.  The committee then deliberates in private to determine whether the candidate has successfully defended the dissertation.  The typical time to complete a PhD in Physical Therapy is 5 years.

PhD in Physical Therapy Curriculum
Preparation for Teaching and Faculty Leadership
PTS 777Instructional Methods in Physical Therapy Education3
PTS 778Teaching Practicum1-3
PTS 790Models of Physical Therapy Practice3
PTS 774Role of Academic Faculty in Physical Therapy3
Preparation for Research
PTS 795Clinical Research Methods I3
PTS 843Measuring Health Outcomes3
PTS 796Applied Statistics in Physical Therapy3
PTS 798Research Practicum3
EPH 601Medical Biostatistics I4
EPH 602Biostatistics II3
EPS 703Applied Multivariate Statistics3
Physical Therapy Courses Available for Individual Area of Concentration
PTS 720Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement3
PTS 721Measurement of Impairment and Function in Human Movement3
PTS 722Pathobiology of Human Function I3
PTS 760Theories of Movement Science3
PTS 761Motor Learning3
PTS 766Rehabilitation of the Amputee3
PTS 767Prosthetic Technology and Amputee Rehabilitation3
PTS 769Seminars in Orthotics and Prosthetic Rehabilitation3
PTS 799Independent Study in Physical Therapy1-3
PTS 764Seminars in Neuroscience3
Outside Courses Available for Individual Area of Concentration
EPH 621Fundamentals of Epidemiology3
EPH 650Health Economics for Evaluation and Policy3
EPH 620Health Education and Behavior3
EPH 652Health Policy3
EPS 714Qualitative Methods I3
KIN 621Advanced Systemic Exercise Physiology3
PTS 830Pre-candidacy Dissertation.1-6
PTS 840Post-candidacy Dissertation.1-12
Total Credits from Required Courses30
Total Credits from Dissertation15
Total Credits from Individual Plan of Study15