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.

First Year, Summer Session
PTRS:5101Introduction to Physical Therapy Practice2
PTRS:5102Principles of Physical Therapy I2
PTRS:5205Health Promotion and Wellness3
First Year, Fall Semester
PTRS:5100Professional Issues and Ethics1
PTRS:5103Principles of Physical Therapy II2
PTRS:5144Interprofessional Education I: Team-Based Approach to Health Care1
PTRS:5209Surface Anatomy1
PTRS:5210Kinesiology and Pathomechanics4
PTRS:5235Case-Based Learning I1
PTRS:5790Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy I1
PTRS:8133Introduction to Human Pathology for Graduate Students4
ACB:5108Human Anatomy5
First Year, Spring Semester
PTRS:5131Therapeutic Physical Agents2
PTRS:5201Musculoskeletal Therapeutics I3
PTRS:5206Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics3
PTRS:5215Applied Clinical Medicine2
PTRS:5236Case-Based Learning II1
PTRS:5791Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy II1
PTRS:6253Functional Neuroanatomy4
Second Year, Summer Session
PTRS:6120Physical Therapy Management and Administration I2
PTRS:6143Selected Topics in Physical Therapy Practice2
PTRS:6176Pharmacology for Physical Therapists3
PTRS:6793Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy III3
Second Year, Fall Semester
PTRS:6122Psychosocial Aspects of Patient Care1
PTRS:6134Physical Therapy Management of Integumentary System2
PTRS:6145Interprofessional Education II: Teaching Neural and Musculoskeletal Evaluation Principles1
PTRS:6170Management of People with Prosthetic and Orthotic Needs2
PTRS:6200Pediatric Physical Therapy2
PTRS:6202Musculoskeletal Therapeutics II3
PTRS:6224Activity-Based Neural and Musculoskeletal Plasticity in Health Care4
PTRS:6237Service Learning I1
PTRS:6250Critical Inquiry I: Evidence-Based Practice2
Second Year, Spring Semester
PTRS:6121Physical Therapy Management and Administration II1
PTRS:6133Pain Mechanisms and Treatment2
PTRS:6172Radiology/Imaging for Physical Therapists2
PTRS:6173Differential Diagnosis in Physical Therapy2
PTRS:6203Musculoskeletal Therapeutics III4
PTRS:6204Progressive Functional Exercise2
PTRS:6225Neuromuscular Therapeutics3
PTRS:6238Service Learning II1
PTRS:6251Critical Inquiry II: Rehabilitation Research2
PTRS:6792Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy IV1
Third Year, Summer Session
PTRS:6794Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy I4
Third Year, Fall Semester
PTRS:6252Critical Inquiry III: Clinical Application1
PTRS:6795Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy II4
PTRS:6796Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy III4
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 series of courses 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.

Anatomy: human or comparative vertebrate anatomy, preferably with a lab component, equivalent to 3 s.h.

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

A two-course sequence of anatomy and physiology equivalent to 6 s.h., preferably with a lab component, can fulfill the physiology and anatomy prerequisites.

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

Chemistry: a complete introductory series equivalent to 8 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 with PTCAS, they will forward it to the University of Iowa.

The physical therapy admissions committee requires personal, on-campus interviews. Since the number of students admitted into each class is limited, not all who apply for admission are invited for an interview. Interviews are typically scheduled in October and November. Notification of acceptance is made by early January.

Applications are accepted July 1 for entry into the D.P.T. program the following summer. Applicants who apply early and by September 15 will be given priority status in the admissions process. It is to the applicant's benefit to apply as soon as possible after July 1 as the admissions committee will begin the application review process to select those for interviews starting in August. The final deadline to submit applications to PTCAS is October 1.

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 of Iowa 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. Students also are responsible for all costs associated with clinical experiences.

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 also 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.