The Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) is the entry-level professional degree for physical therapists. Based on the number of outstanding applicants, 40 students are annually enrolled in the D.P.T. program.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy requires a minimum of 104 s.h. and is completed in two and a half years. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Satisfactory completion of the professional program qualifies candidates to take the National Physical Therapy Examination for licensure to practice. The minimum passing score on the exam is the same in all jurisdictions.

Technical Standards for Graduation

Doctor of Physical Therapy graduates must possess and demonstrate the physical and cognitive skills and character attributes required to provide physical therapy services in a broad variety of clinical situations and environments. All D.P.T. candidates must perform, with or without reasonable accommodation, the following skills safely, effectively, efficiently, and in compliance with the legal and ethical standards set by the American Physical Therapy Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice:

  • communicate effectively through appropriate verbal, nonverbal, and written communication with patients, families, and others;
  • demonstrate ability to apply universal precautions;
  • utilize appropriate tests and measures in order to perform a physical therapy examination; examples include, but are not limited to, examination and evaluation of cognitive/mental status, vital signs, skin and vascular integrity, wound status, endurance, segmental length, girth, volume, sensation, strength, tone, reflexes, movement patterns, coordination, balance, developmental stage, soft tissue, joint motion/play, cranial and peripheral nerve function, posture, gait, functional abilities, assistive devices fit/use, psychosocial needs, and the pulmonary system;
  • demonstrate the ability to reach diagnostic and therapeutic judgments through analysis and synthesis of data gathered during patient/client examination in order to develop an appropriate plan of care;
  • perform fully, or in a reasonably independent manner, physical therapy interventions appropriate to the patient's status and desired goals;
  • apply teaching/learning theories and methods in health care and community environments;
  • accept criticism and respond by appropriate behavior modification; and
  • possess the perseverance, diligence, and consistency to complete the physical therapy curriculum and enter the practice of physical therapy.

Applicants with health conditions or disabilities who need accommodation to meet the technical standards for graduation should contact the University's Student Disability Services office.


The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree requires the following course work (total of 104 s.h.).

Plan of Study Grid
First SummerHours
PCP:3198 UIHC Compliance Training 0
PTRS:5101 Introduction to Physical Therapy Practice 2
PTRS:5102 Principles of Physical Therapy I 2
PTRS:5205 Health Promotion and Wellness 3
First Semester
PTRS:5100 Professional Issues and Ethics 1
PTRS:5103 Principles of Physical Therapy II 2
PTRS:5144 Interprofessional Education I: Team-Based Approach to Health Care 1
PTRS:5209 Surface Anatomy 1
PTRS:5210 Kinesiology and Pathomechanics 4
PTRS:5235 Case-Based Learning I 1
PTRS:5790 Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy I 1
ACB:5108 Human Anatomy 5
PATH:8133 Introduction to Human Pathology for Graduate Students 4
Second Semester
PTRS:5131 Therapeutic Physical Agents 2
PTRS:5201 Musculoskeletal Therapeutics I 3
PTRS:5206 Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics 3
PTRS:5215 Applied Clinical Medicine 2
PTRS:5236 Case-Based Learning II 1
PTRS:5791 Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy II 1
ACB:6252 Functional Neuroanatomy 4
Second Summer
PTRS:6120 Physical Therapy Management and Administration I 2
PTRS:6143 Selected Topics in Physical Therapy Practice 2
PTRS:6176 Pharmacology for Physical Therapists 3
PTRS:6793 Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy III 3
Third Semester
PTRS:6122 Psychosocial Aspects of Patient Care 1
PTRS:6134 Physical Therapy Management of Integumentary System 2
PTRS:6145 Interprofessional Education II: Teaching Neural and Musculoskeletal Evaluation Principles 1
PTRS:6170 Management of People with Prosthetic and Orthotic Needs 2
PTRS:6200 Pediatric Physical Therapy 2
PTRS:6202 Musculoskeletal Therapeutics II 3
PTRS:6224 Activity-Based Neural and Musculoskeletal Plasticity in Health Care 4
PTRS:6237 Service Learning I 1
PTRS:6250 Research in Physical Therapy 2
Fourth Semester
PTRS:6121 Physical Therapy Management and Administration II 1
PTRS:6133 Pain Mechanisms and Treatment 2
PTRS:6172 Radiology/Imaging for Physical Therapists 2
PTRS:6173 Differential Diagnosis in Physical Therapy 2
PTRS:6203 Musculoskeletal Therapeutics III 4
PTRS:6204 Progressive Functional Exercise 2
PTRS:6225 Neuromuscular Therapeutics 3
PTRS:6238 Service Learning II 1
PTRS:6251 Critical Inquiry in Physical Therapy I 2
PTRS:6792 Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy IV 1
Third Summer
PTRS:6794 Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy I 4
Fifth Semester
PTRS:6252 Critical Inquiry in Physical Therapy II 1
PTRS:6795 Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy II 4
PTRS:6796 Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy III 4
 Total Hours104

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College. They must have completed a baccalaureate degree and all prerequisite course work from an accredited institution in the United States, or anticipate completing the degree before enrolling in the D.P.T. program. They must have a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00 and must have completed the following prerequisite course work, preferably with a g.p.a. of at least 3.00. All science courses must include the appropriate laboratory instruction. The prerequisite courses must have been taken for a letter grade. Credit awarded through advanced placement testing may be applied only to the mathematics requirement.

Biological sciences: a complete introductory course in principles of general biology or zoology and advanced course work in biology or zoology (for which an introductory course is prerequisite) equivalent to 12 s.h.

Physics: a complete introductory course equivalent to 8 s.h.

Chemistry: a complete introductory course equivalent to 8 s.h.

Physiology: a systemic human physiology course equivalent to 3 s.h.

Psychology: courses equivalent to 6 s.h.

Mathematics: a college-level mathematics course, at the level of trigonometry or higher, equivalent to 3 s.h.

Statistics: a statistical methods course equivalent to 3 s.h.

All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. They must take the test early enough for their scores to be received prior to the application deadline.

Applications are submitted online through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). PTCAS allows applicants to use a single application and one set of materials to apply to multiple physical therapy programs. Once the application portfolio is complete, PTCAS forwards it to the University of Iowa.

Personal interviews are required of applicants selected for consideration by the admissions committee. Interviews are conducted at the University of Iowa. The physical therapy admissions committee selects applicants who appear to be best qualified for the study and practice of the profession. Some preference is given to Iowa residents.

Applications are accepted from July 1 to November 1 for entry the following summer. Prospective students should apply as early as possible.

Early Admission

The D.P.T. program offers an early admission plan for highly qualified applicants. Early admission applicants must have outstanding grade-point averages, generally 3.75 or higher. They also must have Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores at or above the 50th percentile for all sections. Application materials are the same as those for regular admission.

Application deadline for the early admission plan is August 1; applicants are notified of admission by December 1. Those who are interviewed but are not selected for early admission are automatically placed in the final general applicant pool. Contact the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science for more information.

Background Checks

Enrollment in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program is contingent on a successful criminal background check. Drug screening may be required for some clinical rotations.


Applicants admitted to the D.P.T. program must make an advance tuition payment which is forfeited if the applicant does not enroll. In addition to paying University tuition and fees, students are assessed laboratory fees for the human anatomy and neuroanatomy courses and are responsible for purchasing supplies, such as lab coats, patient evaluation kits, and course packets.

All students are required to comply with the pre-entry and periodic health screening program developed by Student Health & Wellness in cooperation with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. All costs incurred for the health screenings are the student's responsibility. Students are required to have health insurance.

The employment outlook for physical therapy graduates is strong. Opportunities exist for professional practice in inpatient, outpatient, and community-based organizations. These include general or specialized hospitals, programs for children with disabilities, private physical therapy clinics, extended care facilities, nursing homes, community and governmental agencies, rehabilitation centers, the armed forces, foreign service, home health agencies, school systems, fitness centers, and athletic facilities. Teaching and research positions also are available as well as options for successful self-employment.

Physical therapists report a very high level of job satisfaction, driven both by prevalent employment opportunities and social interaction.